Ellen Degeneres’ fans are without a doubt the most enthusiastic and animated fans out there. They are beyond thrilled to be called upon for comical games and crowd-pleasing antics. Not only are we entertained by Ellen’s delightful sarcasm, we have found great pleasure in the audience members and TV viewers who love the show. One of the the show’s most enthusiastic audience members, Marisa, who starred in a live commercial for the Food Should Taste Good chips, was no exception to this exuberant joy. Although Ellen’s intent was to endorse the Food Should Taste Good chips and snacks, the underlying information behind the comedy was elemental in highlighting our knowledge of our mainstream food ingredients.
In Ellen’s clever in-show commercial, she dumped the most common chemical food additives (high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring, and artificial/natural flavors) over a man named Carl dressed as a conventional chip, revealing the pollution we experience on the insides of our bodies on the outside.
Food Additives in Our Food
Food additives, such as High Fructose Corn Syrup, Artificial Coloring, and Artificial/Natural Flavoring have been developed specifically to target our senses with tantalizing colors and flavors we are forced (biologically) to find irresistible. The accentuated (yet brief) imprints of these chemical copy-cats leave our bodies begging our brains for more. It is a complex composition of chemicals, sugars, and fats. Unfortunately, this ratio results in less and less consumption of real, whole foods.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup is an inexpensive sweetener, similar to sugar, but in liquid form. A simple Wikipedia definition outlines the process of “High Fructose Corn Syrup as a sweetener produced by milling corn to produce corn starch, then processing that starch to yield corn syrup, which is almost entirely glucose, and then adding enzymes that change most of the glucose into fructose.”
High Fructose Corn Syrup is extremely common in our packaged and processed foods. It is much easier to find products with this additive than it is to find them without, especially in your conventional grocery store. This particular additive is in almost every single aisle of the store. Just as we are to limit our “real” sugar intake, we also need to monitor our intake of this sugar substitute within our foods. Especially since it is in countless items (expected and unexpected).
On top of extensively sweetening our foods, we are also enticed through vibrant and attractive colors. Colors not found in nature, but produced in a lab (Green 1, Green 2, Red 1, Red 2, Red 3 (still used in food, but no longer in cosmetics or external drugs), Red 4, and Violet 1).
Petroleum is a crude oil product. Common uses for petroleum include gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt, and tar (to name a few). An additional and unexpected use includes artificial food coloring. If these petroleum-based chemicals were not hidden beneath the shield of a bright red M&M or in the crust of our Saturday night pizza you certainly would not consume them. One argument made regarding the safety of these chemical additives in our food is that the amount is minuscule in comparison to that of non-consumable products like gasoline, diesel fuel, and asphalt (clearly). However, it is important to draw attention to our levels of consumption.
The FDA has approved each product individually to contain the appropriate levels of food coloring. If we are consuming multiple products at all different quantities (internally and externally), how can we be sure of what the appropriate consumption level would be for each individual product (which is all that is approved by the FDA)? The answer is that we cannot. There are simply too many variables.
In nature our bodies know what berry to choose and what prey is poisonous. In our modern world of artificial ingredients, “poisonous” (chemical) elements are hidden under the cover of frosting, crackers, and even bread and pizza crusts. It would be expected to see food coloring in brightly colored icing. However, artificial coloring is being added to much more than our neon colored birthday cake. If we were to base our exposure on our sense of sight alone, we would unintentionally expose our bodies to these chemicals at a much higher level than we would anticipate.
“…artificial colors and flavors and synthetic sweeteners and novel fats confound the senses we rely on to assess new foods and prepare our bodies to deal with them. Foods that lie leave us with little choice but to eat by the numbers, consulting labels rather than our senses.” (In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, 2008).
Natural and Artificial Flavoring
When we see or think of the word “natural,” we are filled with thoughts and images of health and well-being. Unfortunately, the marketing term “natural” is truly rendered meaningless, as the FDA does not regulate this term. According to the FDA:
“From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth.”
The natural and artificial chemicals that flavor a myriad of foods are contributing to the same biological confusion artificial food coloring produce. Similar to artificial food coloring, artificial flavoring is also developed with petroleum-based chemicals and numerous other “regulated” chemicals. Each flavor is developed with the intent to create an essence of a particular food, smell, and/or taste. Your body (and your brain) is fooled into needing more of the full experience, rather than the incomplete concentration of single flavor.
How is This Affecting Us?
It is clear we are attracted to the “neon lights” (if you will) of highly processed food. Instead of eating fresh, whole foods like fruits, whole grains, and vegetables, America is eating processed cheese product, sugary punches, and processed boxed dinners, all containing food additives derived from petroleum-based chemicals. Our bodies are being fooled into thinking these products are ok to eat because they are atheistically pleasing. It is now imperative to use our eyes to investigate the food labels we are consuming.
Simply stated, food should taste good. Yes, this is a brand of chips and snacks. No, I am not endorsing this particular brand as Ellen did in her impromptu commercial. Not only should our food taste good, but more importantly it should also be good for us. Eating nutritious, healthful foods does not need to come with a sacrifice of taste and flavor. Our best option in seeking optimal nutrition is to eat fresh, whole foods, like fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and wholesome grains.
We should not dump on our bodies with artificial chemical additives — just ask Carl.
This amazing report from 60 Minutes showcases much of what I discuss above — it really will leave you in disbelief how food is flavored.
Pollan, Micahel. (2008). In Defense of Food. New York: Yje Penguin Press.
Photos via: Google
The personal views expressed in this post are the writers’ own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Minnesota Connected or its sponsors.