Go to any standard grocery store and wander out of the produce isle. The seemingly diverse options for filling your cart and feeding your family can seem both exhilarating and daunting at the same time. With the exception of a few basics such as dried beans, rice and frozen vegetables it seems that the food industry is in a constant state of evolution toward making our lives so much easier by simply offering products that are as close as possible to their “set me on the table ” state. All in the name of adding value. But at what point does attempting to add value start to diminish the original ingredients value? Sometimes it has to do with the amount of processing and eliminating components of the original ingredients, like creating white flour from whole wheat. And in others it has to do with adding ingredients such as the ever ubiquitous corn syrup that appears on so many ingredient lists. It’s interesting that foods that tend to spoil quickly are often the most healthful but are also the most likely to be targeted for processing in order to increase their shelf lives or to add taste. And in the process they become less healthful. For example why pack peaches in heavy syrup? How much value does canning give a food such as beans or tuna? Certainly it increases the amount of time you can store the tuna, but what about the beans? In the instance of dry type beans such as black, pinto or kidney the life is probably not extended too much but it does admittedly eliminate a lengthy step for the cook by eliminating the need for soaking and cooking them. The problem is most people never think to rinse the beans before use, thus adding another source of salt into their diet.
Granted, there are many examples where processing a basic ingredient definitely adds value to the finished product. For example with wheat, we grind it in order for our bodies to get much more sustenance than if it were simply consumed as a seed. In the case of milk, we convert it into cheese. And like turning grapes to wine, in the process we add value in several ways. We not only transform food that would spoil quickly into something that can be stored for later use, we also create in essence something new that resembles its initial taste but in many ways surpasses it. The same could be said for fermenting cabbage into sauerkraut, though I’m sure plenty of people would say this is an awful example.
Will there come a day when all we eat is corn processed in myriad ways and combined with clever combinations of chemicals in such a way to make one think they are consuming a varied and interesting diet? I sure hope not! But the scary thing is we are sure trending that way in a hurry.
It just seems that the more appealing the marketplace attempts to make most foods, thus supposedly adding value, the less value you actually get in regards to your health. Are the food, health and pharmaceutical industries all working together in order maximize their profits at our expense? I really doubt it but things have sure panned out that way. How does one counteract this “value adding”? I think buying food in its most natural state that is practical is probably the simplest and least expensive alternative. Sure, you may end up in the kitchen for a lengthier time than you are used to; so pour up a glass of wine, turn on some good tunes and enjoy the wonderful aromas!