How many hoops will the food industry enthusiastically jump through in order to get to our purse ...

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How many hoops will the food industry enthusiastically jump through in order to get to our purse ...

I decided it was time to induct myself on the truth of what I was ingesting. I’d become hooked on some new health food treats so I figured maybe some research into the key constituents and the reality behind the labelling would bring me to my senses if I found something truly unpleasant. What I discovered was quite enlightening.

It turned out that agave – a favourite of mine under the sugar alternative ‘health food’ banner – is a succulent, looking every bit a cross between a yukka and aloe vera. So, no freshly picked piece of fruit in sight. It’s often used to make paper, thatch, thread and cord. Yum.

To derive a viscous matter called agave nectar, it’s processed to the hilt. The large stems are boiled, condensed, sieved, concentrated and processed, resembling a product that looks for all the world like cane syrup once finished.

At this point the parallel, the similarity with sugar cane processing fell into place. One site suggested that agave is:

  • "About 1.5 times sweeter than sugar and comes from the same plant that's used to make tequila."
  • That, "Much like high-fructose corn syrup, it's highly processed."
  • And that, "It has about 60 calories per tablespoon, compared to 40 calories for the same amount of table sugar."

In an era where it’s difficult to determine web fact from fiction, I took all this with a pinch of salt, but I also trusted my inner knowing

Whether the information was truly accurate or not, I knew that I had been duped by yet another marketing story of healthy alternatives, wrapped up in a strong high-end brand of supposed integrity – that a huge processing industry lay behind a boardroom strategy to leverage the ever-increasing negative health publicity about sugar, by touting a product with similar features.

But let’s face it, sugar is sweet, no matter what name we give it.

Surely anything that has us craving another mouthful has to be a type of food that harms rather than heals? I mean, you’d never eat a whole head of broccoli and move onto a second, would you? You don’t think, "Ooh, I’ll just munch my way through this entire chicken!"

My electronic exploration into the world of soya was just as eye-opening.

A globally traded commodity, alongside the likes of gold and coffee, said to have a massive ‘invisible’ market comprising animal feed, baby food, most fast food chains and 70% of all supermarket products, as well as a standing in its own right as milk, yogurt and the rest.

Much controversy and many research studies with repeated claims that soya reduces fertility in men, because of its female hormone-mimicking phyto-oestrogens, can create several different types of cancer and has a deleterious effect on the thyroid over time. I stopped reading. Enough food for thought for one evening.

What stood out for me in all this was just how many hoops the food industry will enthusiastically jump through in order to get to our purse.

  • Products heavily processed, used purely for financial gain and nothing to do with global health
  • Products specifically shaped, designed and marketed as healthy alternatives to manipulate and leverage a paradoxically health-conscious but comfort-food-seeking market segment, when the question remains unanswered as to whether they’re really fit for human consumption or not.

Where is the product responsibility and integrity in that?

What’s also perturbing is that most health food stores actively promote the illusion created in a product’s marketed benefits without doing any separate due diligence or taking their duty of care for their consumers to its full meaning.

My research was enough to motivate me to consider an even deeper level of responsibility for what I choose to eat ... and my cravings for these foods ceased overnight.

I don’t blindly believe all that I read but I decided not to be short-sighted about the suggestions, facts and unanswered conundrums I found.

We are all different and our bodies are all different, so what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all. Indeed some products may be entirely suitable for some people, some of the time.

With free will and the ability to choose what we want to consume, it’s definitely a case of each to his own, but never losing sight of the deeper commitment to read the signs and our bodies’ reactions to all that makes its way to the digestive tract.

Because at the end of the day, we’re the only ones responsible for what’s on the end of our cutlery

Filed under

NutritionHealthy livingSugar alternativesMediaFood industry

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    By Cathy Hackett