Thursday, September 18, 2008

Opposite directions?

After some pretty boring weeks, the New York Times food pages this Wednesday actually contained several articles of national interest.

Two in particular caught my attention.

One talked about the growing trend in nutraceuticals. (I'm not sure how to spell that, and I'm not sure blog spot's spell checker will either.) These are also called functional foods. Which would make ordinary, unadulterated food dysfunctional, I guess. But I digress. The trend is to add things that are unrelated to packaged foods. So it wasn't enough to add more strains of bacteria to our yogurt, a mild digression, but now we have to have secret fiber and maybe secret omega 3's. The source of omega 3's are sardines and anchovies. So you can fore go fish and maybe get them in your breakfast cereal - not from plant sources, like flax meal, but from marine bycatch.

Scientists and nutritionists are saying it's a leap from simple fortified foods to these nutraceuticals. The article reports that they are also saying we don't know enough about how the good for you elements in various foods work together with other components in those foods. Seems like vitamins in isolation don't pack the punch they do when they are an integral part of a fruit or vegetable or animal source.

I'm sure there are people who not only choose individual foods because they've heard of their benefits - blueberries, say, or tofu - but who subsist on these new synthetic foods, on medications and vitamin pills thinly veiled as food. It's the food of the future. Ah - and I remember when tang, the beverage of the astronauts, was all we needed.

But the counter trend is that more people are choosing diets of whole, seasonal foods. More people are returning to cooking. And fewer people are on diets! There are significant decreases in the number of folks on reducing diets, and some growing evidence that people who add more fruits and vegetables to their diets and do their own cooking are slimmer - without dieting. Hey - this is like the trend we experienced around Lent - don't give something up, take on a positive discipline for 40 days and 40 nights. On a more somber note, surely the number of people purchasing whole food and doing their own cooking is going to increase as incomes and wealth continue to decrease. Maybe we'll rediscover that happy meals and functional food begin at home.

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