What’s All the Fortify About?
Do you ever read the packaging of the food you buy and see that it’s ‘enriched’ with various vitamins? Do you then, as a result, believe you’re getting a bonus daily dose of goodness from buying that product? If so, listen up, because clever advertising may have fooled you.
Consider that if packaging were honest, it would read more like: “We processed this food to the point of destroying ALL natural nutritional value and created a thing your body will not recognise as nourishment. We then used cheap, artificial versions of those nutrients and fortified it with vitamins A, C and D. Of course, as they’re synthetic and isolated they only vaguely replicate the actions of their natural counterparts. Please buy our product, we want to make huge profits from your ignorance.” Sounds rough, doesn’t it? Yet, this is the reality of fortified foods.
Are you still putting that product in your trolley? I hope not. Stated above is the underlying message of that promising little phrase ‘Fortified with vitamins and minerals’. Food manufacturers take amazing food and send it through processing factories to be ripped apart, crushed, cooked to within an inch of existence, pressed, stretched, squashed and dried. At the point at which it no longer resembles in any way the plant it once was, we fork over our hard-earned cash for the pleasure of what amounts to chewing on cardboard. All of these processes damage the cellular structure and nutrient content. It strips the piece of corn, or grain of wheat, as it may be, of everything that once made it, well, a piece of corn or grain of wheat. Food companies then sell to us a cheaper, synthesised version, after adding an assortment of unpronounceable chemicals in an attempt to make it taste good again.
‘Food’ or Real Food?
The problem is that what started out as an incredible piece of food (or real food, I should say) is now not food. A basic biological fact easily overlooked every time we sit down to a meal is that we eat to gain the vital nutrients we need to survive. To reiterate: eating is a matter of survival. Cell renewal and our overall health rely on us feeding the body the building blocks required to keep us in tip-top condition. That’s what food is, and the role it has. If we are eating things that are not fulfilling those needs, then we are not eating food. We are eating substances that have no benefit to us other than the fleeting triggering of the pleasure centres of the brain – a result of very calculated manufacturing. Worse still, many of these substances actually cause harm.
Walk down the aisles of the supermarket, and notice the abundance of labels screaming to you about the health proponents of the product inside. More often than not ‘fortified’ is in there, especially regarding cereals, flours and bread. Knowledge is empowerment, so know this: food manufacturers do not have our health at the forefront of their production decisions, no matter how much they might claim it to be so. Much of what is emblazoned across the front of your cereal, while technically correct, amounts to selectively portrayed information in a ploy to improve sales and cash-in on a more health-aware market.
The People-Plant Relationship.
Plants in their natural state have all the vitamins and minerals we need to be healthy and thrive. We have been through a several-million-year process of co-evolution that has refined to absolute precision the interplay between our species and the things we eat. Everything we need to survive must come from the food we have evolved to eat. It cannot be any other way. For hundreds of thousands of years, we not only survived in this way, but we also developed into the most adaptable, robust, efficient, creative species with the largest brain-to-body ratio of any animal on Earth. Then, we started messing around with the food that fuelled our success. In the space of a hundred years, we have unravelled a million years of evolution. We’ve regressed into a species whereby the majority of the population doesn’t know how to eat in a way that provides optimal health, and many of them are far from thriving – they are barely surviving.
The health repercussions are now visible everywhere, most notably in the ‘western’ world where the general population has outsourced the most basic of survival skills, feeding themselves, to giant corporations. So how does this relate to those fortified loaves of bread making it into your shopping basket? The level of which food manufacturers are currently playing around with that which is supposed to nourish us means ingredients, such as the wheat that goes into your daily loaf, are completely stripped of natural beneficial vitamins and minerals. And the daily loaf now lasts a worrying two weeks in the cupboard, so devoid of nutritional value and so loaded with preservatives that even the usual culprits of decomposition don’t want to dine on it.
Finding Your Way Through the Fog.
The health industry is growing at an exponential rate, which means big bucks for companies able to utilise the trend as a marketing tool. Food manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon and are fooling the masses into thinking they are eating healthily – if they market their product as being such, it puts more dollars in their bank accounts. So next time you’re lured in by the promise of a healthy product, take what the box says with a pinch of salt (though there’ll be more than enough of that in there already, I’m sure). Read the ingredients, and think to yourself: are they recognisable as coming from nature? What level of processing is involved in getting them into this state? If I were to make this myself at home, how many of these ingredients would I use? If the ingredient list is complicated, or the process from plant to product so baffling that you don’t know how it was achieved, steer well clear.
The best way to shop is to stick to the fruit and veg aisle. Buy your ingredients there and create dishes at home. Of course, there’ll be times when that’s not practical – on those occasions, get curious. Put on your detective’s cap and investigate what smart marketing is truly selling to you. The way in which we choose to spend our money dictates the direction of the market. If we stop buying the products that are causing us all ill-health, manufacturers will have to change how they produce food to stay in business. They will be forced to consider ways to serve better those eating it (us) rather than their bank accounts. It’s time to take a stand for your wellbeing, and for that of your friends and family. Hoorah!