I read a good article in The Wall Street Journal a few days ago: How Flavor Drives Nutrition
For nearly a half century, America has been on a witch hunt to find the ingredient that is making us fat. In the 1980s, the culprit was fat itself. Next it was carbs. Today, sugar is the enemy—unless you’re caught up in the war on gluten.
And none of it has worked. Obesity is now closing in on smoking as our No. 1 preventable cause of death. The U.S. has rarely failed at anything the way it has failed at weight loss.
Perhaps that is because we’re missing a crucial piece of the food puzzle. Oddly enough, all those diet gurus and bureaucrats hardly ever ask the simplest question: How does it taste? We’ve fixated on what food does inside the body, but we’ve almost totally ignored why it gets there in the first place. Even a child knows: We eat because food is delicious.
Yes! And the makers of fast foods and snack foods know this. Did you know they employ crave consultants—chemists whose job is to create the perfect blend of sugar, fat and salt to make a food irresistible?
Related post: Got a craving?
The author argues that these artificial flavors pervert our bodies’ instincts to seek out good tasting food that contains the nutrients we need.
In the 18th century, sailors ravaged by scurvy were gripped by intense longings for fruits and vegetables. Pregnant women are nauseated by foods that their bodies perceive as toxic.
But perhaps the most striking proof of such nutritional wisdom comes from a 1939 study in which a group of toddlers were put in charge of feeding themselves…The results were astonishing. Instead of binging on the sweetest foods, the toddlers were drawn to the foods that best nourished them.
I don’t think organic fruits and vegetables are necessarily healthier. However, they often taste better because they come from small, sustainable farms. The growers give more thought to enriching the soil, and sell their produce when it is ripe and flavorful, rather than hard and tasteless.
Related post: “Farmacology”
For more than 50 years, the food that we grow has been getting blander. As our crops and livestock become more productive, affordable and disease-resistant, they keep losing flavor. As any grandparent can tell you, tomatoes, strawberries, chicken—all taste like cardboard these days.
As flavor diminishes, so does nutrition. According to a 2004 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, modern tomatoes have half as much calcium and vitamin A as they did in the 1950s. We compound the nutritional insult by drowning bland food in the only things that can make it taste good—ranch dressing, whipped cream, ketchup or barbecue sauce.
And if fruits and vegetables taste better, we are more likely to eat more of them, and not drown them in high-calorie butter, cream or salad dressings.
I’m a big fan of Community Supported Agriculture. Look for one in your area and sign up to receive a weekly box or bag of seasonable produce that is guaranteed fresh and delicious. The farmers will include recipes, too, which is especially helpful if you are unfamiliar with one or more of the vegetables.
According to the CSA website, the consumer advantages of this program are:
- They get to eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits.
- They get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking.
- They usuallyt get to visit the farm at least once a season.
- Parents find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm—even veggies they’ve never been known to eat.
- They may develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown.
Spring is a great time to take advantage of the huge variety of early crops. Enjoy!