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Column: What is your food telling you?

I saw a commercial on TV the other day. Maybe you’ve seen it. It was the one with a mother and son in the supermarket. The son asks the mom if he can have a treat. He says, “pleeeeeeeeease” down all the aisles until finally they reach the “Fruit Snack” aisle where the mom sees a box of fruit roll-ups that are “fruit-flavored” and “made with real fruit.” She gives the box to her son and he stops whining. OK, there are so many things that can be looked at in this commercial but I will just focus on the food part.

This commercial got me thinking about how packaged foods “speak” to us in so many ways. Usually, they’re shouting about how healthy and good for us they are. Fruit-flavored and made with real fruit are somehow supposed to make us feel good about choosing this product to feed to our children (and ourselves).

As a society, we have become so far removed from real food that we unquestioningly give these non-foods to our family and tell ourselves that they are good for us; after all, it says so right on the package. Real food, like fruits, veggies, eggs, milk, butter, meats, they’re very quiet. Have you noticed? Maybe you haven’t because they’re so quiet.

You know what this is really all about? It’s about selling the product. In other words, advertising. This is not about your health or mine. It is about making money for the manufacturers of these product and they are mighty good at their jobs. The Processed Food Industry is a multi-billion dollar industry.

We are so disconnected from real food that we don’t think twice about choosing a fruit-flavored product over actual fruit. How did this happen, when did this happen? Well, it was in the first half of the 20th century that the supermarket as we know it today came into being. Real food will eventually rot, decay or ferment. That is the natural life cycle of anything living. The folks selling these foods in the new supermarkets realized that they were losing money if products didn’t sell quickly enough, so enter preservatives. Now those foods could stay on the shelves longer and it didn’t matter if the consumer didn’t buy them right away. The harmful effects of these preservatives did not factor into getting them and keeping them on supermarket shelves.

Today, there is a big (and hugely important) movement to eat organic foods. Think about this, all food was organic until it wasn’t. When the job description of “food scientist” came into being, food (that is, from nature) suddenly had a powerful rival. Processed products were being packaged to look and taste like foods, but they are not actually food. All of the health epidemics today are proving over and over in myriad ways that fake food cannot be properly digested (if any of it can be digested at all), assimilated or used by the body and therefore wreaks havoc in our bodies, causing degeneration and disease. Our modern-day diseases coincide directly with our modern-day “food” supply. These products are cheap to make, have a long shelf-life (to keep inventory costs down) and can taste however the chemists want them to taste.

OK, back to the product in the commercial. Let’s break down the ingredients list on these fruit-flavored fruit roll-ups made with real fruit and see what’s going on here.

Ingredients:

Pears from concentrate, corn syrup, dried corn syrup, sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil. Contains 2 percent or less of: citric acid, sodium citrate, acetylated monoglycerides, fruit pectin, dextrose, malic Acid, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), natural flavor, color (red 40, yellows 5 and 6, blue 1).

· Pears from concentrate. (Weird, this is a strawberry flavored product; note the absence of the word strawberry.)

· Corn syrup, dried corn syrup, sugar. (That’s three forms of sugar in the top four ingredients, but wait, there’s a fourth, Dextrose, further down the list.)

· Partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil. (This is a rancid, trans fat.)

· Everything in the “contains 2 percent or less of” category is man- made, factory processed, full of artificial toxins — even those “natural flavors,” which is code for, “We don’t have to tell you.”

Still want to eat this product?

Let’s compare the cost to the consumer for this fruit-flavored fruit roll-ups made with “real fruit” product to that of actual fruit. For the sake of comparison, I’m choosing apples since they come in a bag of multiple servings, too. This product at a local chain supermarket costs $3.99 for a package of eight servings. Meanwhile, over in the produce aisle, a very quiet and nondescript, 3 pound bag of organic apples costs $5.99 and there are 11 servings (i.e. 11 apples) in the bag that I picked up.

Doing the math, the fruit-flavored fruit roll-ups came to $0.498 per serving. The apples came to $.54 per serving. The only real food in the packaged product was the pear, but it long ago became a processed food that somehow turned into a strawberry-tasting product. Those humble apples were, are and always will be, well, apples. I want to point out that a bag of conventional apples (that is, not organic) were $4.99 for a bag of about 11, so the cost of those would be $0.45 per apple. I chose organic apples because all fruits and veggies are sprayed with a great many chemicals that are harmful to ingest and apples are at the very top of the list of fruits that get the most harmful sprays. When it is an option, I always choose organic foods.

To be fair, I should include the list of ingredients in the bag of apples: Apples.

So, the next time you see a commercial for a food-like product, question it. If it comes in a box that tells you how healthy and good it is, don’t believe it. And in parting, remember that the longer the shelf-life of a food, the shorter your health life.

Here is a very simple recipe for truly real fruit roll-ups made with real fruit.

Real fruit roll-ups:

3 cups roughly chopped fruit of your choice (fresh or frozen, not canned)

Honey to taste, about a tablespoon or two (optional)

Directions:

If the fruit has skin/big seeds/pits, remove

Roughly chop 3 cups worth

Place in blender or food processor to puree. Add honey if necessary (most fruits are sweet enough without and remember that the flavor intensifies when it dries)

Place on lined baking sheet (a Silpat liner works well.)

Bake for 6 to 8 hours at the lowest temp to which your oven will set (around 140 to 170F).

6. You’ll know it’s done when you touch the center and it doesn’t stick to your finger, and it doesn’t make a dent.

7. Cool to room temp, then cut into strips and roll.

8. Keep in an airtight container and enjoy.

This is something you can start in the morning and it will be ready by the time school is out, or you can start it and before you go to bed, and it will be ready in the morning. If you don’t like the idea of the oven on at night, turn the oven off then restart it in the morning for a few more hours.

Jeni Hall of Dublin is a board certified nutritional therapist practicing in the Monadnock region. Her mission is to empower you to heal your own body and keep it healthy. See www.jenihall.com, for more information.

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