This morning the New York Times featured an article about supplementation in foods: Superfood or Monster From the Deep?. As you may know, public health campaigns (!) to supplement food were effective in fighting goiter and rickets. The author of the article points out that this supplementation occurred after rigorous scientific testing proved the effectiveness of fortifying specific foods with specific nutrients. However, today the food industry has much leeway when it comes to supplementing one food into another and claiming the benefits of both. Additives in everything from orange juice to waffles that supposedly boost the food's nutritional value are called "nutraceuticals."
For instance, the author described a chocolate bar that contains 30 fruits and vegetables, such as "broccoli, cranberries, nectarines, parsley, pomegranates, and watermelon," in powdered form. Personally, I love broccoli and kale. Of course, I know my mom will read that and think, "Sure you do. NOW." As a formerly picky eater, I understand that not everyone is fond of green vegetables and other healthy foods. But is a chocolate bar with powered vegetables really the answer? What's the exchange rate? One serving of vegetables for a load of sugar and fat? And do vegetables in this powdered form really maintain their nutritional value?
I know food industries are out to make money, but it's pretty sad that we, the consumers, eat this stuff up (pun intended). After all, the FDA does not strictly regulate the claims of nutriceutical foods. Instead of relying on these supplemented foods, why not just eat the supplement in its original form? Don't hope enjoy the benefits of plant phytols and antioxidants from candy or cereal; just eat fruits and vegetables.
Ideas like nutraceuticals make me rant because they only drive us further from real nutrition. These products thrive because we are aware of our nutritional deficiencies. But in a country where obesity proportions seem to be increasing every day and heart disease is the number one cause of death, we need to focus on bigger nutrition and lifestyle changes than fortified ketchup.
How did I learn to cook healthy, vegan food? On the internet. If you think you don't like a certain healthy food, try preparing it in a new way. I once sat at the table for over two hours as a teenager refusing to eat eggplant. Now I love it. However, it took some trial and error. When I learned how to cook eggplant, I realized that I like it really mushy. Maybe not the healthiest way to cook it, but better than not eating it at all.
It takes more effort to learn to cook the foods you don't currently incorporate into your diet than to pick up a bottle of orange juice or a box of cereal at the grocery store, but the nutritional benefits are far greater.
Mark Bittman put it best: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly fruits and vegetables.