The high incidence of obesity and its related health risks has increased interest in diet, nutrition, “knowing your food”, and reducing the intake of processed food. While some entrepreneurs have been busy researching the perfect nutritional replacement for food others have been capitalizing on the recent food trends using the terms ‘organic’, or ‘natural’ in order to push their products (even though these labels can be meaningless). While it’s great that more people are paying attention to their diet and better monitoring their health, it’s not great that many companies are cashing in and contributing to the anti-science sentiment in food.
Science is not the enemy of food! Do you honestly think Chobani just leaves milk out to rot while waiting for the right bacteria to settle in to form yogurt? Of course not! Specific microbes are inoculated into pasteurized milk and allowed to incubate at a specific temperature range, because otherwise the product would turn out pretty darn gross. Science plays an important role in separating fact from fiction when it comes to food, nutrition, and health. So it is really silly to think that anything ‘scientific’ is the opposite of ‘natural’, considering science began with the observation of nature. What’s even sillier is how “all natural” has somehow become synonymous with “healthier” or “safer.” Would you drink “all natural” water from a slow moving creek and enjoy the health benefits of catching giardiasis or cholera or would you rather drink from your bottle of treated water?
If you insist on buying certain brands from specific food companies, do it because the brand/company has sustainability and social responsibility built into its supply chain, or because its locally produced, and do verify to be sure it’s not just green-washed. DON’T do it simply because it’s “all natural”, or “chemical-free.” Do these companies even understand what “chemical-free” means? Nothing! No elements, no atoms, nothing! Chemistry is a scientific discipline that studies the composition, structure, properties and changes of matter.
It’s great that people want to connect more with their food, but that’s not a reason to bash science. We need to consider situations outside of our own. Yes, a complete nutritional replacement for food may not be necessary where food is so ridiculously pervasive, but consider the fact that food is not pervasively available EVERYWHERE. There are people living in devastating poverty where highly processed, carefully designed Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTFs) help keep debilitating malnutrition at bay. It’s not the solution for poverty-associated malnutrition (the solution is to end poverty), but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use it until a better solution is found. Hopefully some researchers will find a way to improve the existing RUTFs to include colonizing gut flora gut microbes play a critical role in nutrient absorption. Because getting all these microbes at once by the “all natural” way (ie- eating poop) is just plain gross (no offense to the poop-eating baby rabbits trying to get nutrition and gut microbes from their parents).
And for those of us that enjoy gardening, aquaponics, and growing your own food…let’s acknowledge that science allows us to appreciate these hobbies/lifestyles/etc. even more. Soil chemistry is awesome and allows us to test our soil pH and ensure the blueberry bushes get the acidic conditions they love. Microbes, as we already know, are awesome