The Key Take Aways Of This Article
#1 – Scientists have been hard at work to confirm that the many thousands of Secondary Plant Compounds found in plants (and animals which eat plants) that bring nutritional, antioxidant and wellness value to Humans and Animals, also give out irresistible Flavours and Aromas!
#2 – Moreover, it is also observed that almost all substances we can consume are toxic to our bodies when we ‘overdose’, including water, sugar, antioxidants, many minerals and vitamins.
#3 – Then there is the myth about us being Calorie Zombies – that Human’s are solely in the pursuit of maximum caloric intake to feed our expensive brain and metabolism. Many regions and demographics unequivocally prove that we are driven by Taste and Nutrition first and foremost, and that when Flavour AND Nutritional Value of foods match, we have an effective On-Off switch.
This 🕒 15-minute article helps open up this discussion a little further, and could quite possibly be a penny dropping moment for you, once the linkage to Nutrition and Flavour is better understood. ▪️
Humans & Animals Evolved To Identify Essential Nutrients In Food
It’s kinda hard to imagine, but we’ve only recently as a species understood and been able to quantify nutritional values in foods, and what optimal intake levels should be to remain healthy.
It’s been an even shorter time that the average person has been informed of these nutrients and where to find them, accompanied with Apps such as MyFitnessPal and MyNetDiary that track calories and nutritional value of our foods.
So how on earth did we survive without all this information and tooling to manage our nutritional needs?! Well, one thing is clear – we did survive! Actually, we did more than survive, we’ve thrived to become the most advanced and dominant species on the planet over the course of millions of years.
It turns out the minerals, vitamins, caloric density, protein, antioxidants and toxins in natural foods are paired with Flavours and Aroma’s. That’s in addition to associated gut reactions that we have learnt (and now unlearning) to inform both what we forage and hunt for, what we consume, how much to consume, and when to stop.
In a fascinating read, Mark Shatzker describes all the research over the decades performed by esteemed scientists across the globe regarding the correlation to Nutrition, Flavour & Aroma in his best-selling Book The Dorito Effect.
In effect, Flavour & Smell are the labels on natural whole foods that we (and almost all animals) have used for millions of years to guide us to sufficient nutrition. And it’s the same Secondary Plant Compounds that give off the flavour in addition to creating (or being) the valuable nutrient.
However, Engineered Foods Have Messed With This Beautiful System
A wow moment right? But, as quickly as we can let this sink in as yet another example of the beauty and elegance of nature, our minds race on to think of MANY other foods that taste amazing, but we know aren’t great for you.
Herein lies the modern day Big Food problem. Over the last 100 years, we’ve been increasing our curiosity and capability to describe and manufacture tastes and smells, that take inspiration from natural foods, but are anything but natural.
Increased Sales is the name of the game in the Big Food Industry. Make food as irresistible as possible, so we convert people to users, that then convert to regular users, who then convert to heavy users. Pretty obvious really, and seems fair if your goal is to increase the success of business.
What tools do Big Food companies have at their disposal?
- Natural Products – Plants and Animal Meat. Problem is both are getting more and more bland (see next section)
- A Cocktail of Salt, Sugar & Fat – You can turn any inedible and nutritionally empty food thing into something appetising if you can get the Sugar, Fat and Salt blend just right. This is a BIG deal for food companies.
- Umami – The flavour profile associated with things like Soy Sauce and meats. Rich bodies foods. Something we relish. MSG delivers Umami in the bucketload at a global scale.
- Wheat, Maize, Soy & Dairy – There is pretty much an unlimited supply of all these, based on current farm output levels. Cheap ways to pack in the calories, volume and/or fat
- Engineered Flavours – There are huge global Flavour companies that create 100’s of thousands of synthetic flavours from various natural or petrochemical processes.
- Engineered Aromas – Closely linked to flavour, there are millions of catalogued and reproducible aromas we can now make synthetically in tubes, to help create the desired taste experience.
- Herbs & Spices – Leverage the abundance of plants that offer distinct and vast combination of flavour profiles.
Through the decades, food scientists have made huge leaps forward with technology and processes to isolate natural flavours and smells and understand the chemical makeup. In doing so, and as production has become more sophisticated and scaled, Food companies now have at their disposal a catalogue of millions of flavour and smell combinations to choose from.
And what is Flavour and Smell really? It’s FEELINGS. So in essence, Big Food companies are in the game of manufacturing feelings, by precisely combining ingredients and engineered compounds together. They can make you feel energised, enthusiastic, positive, comforted, calm, courageous, loved and any other feeling… by controlling the mix of stuff that makes up that fizzy drink, takeaway burger, pizza or piece of candy.
Sounds cool right? Well, there is a MAJOR PROBLEM with this innovation and abuse of power. Flavour & Aroma, the guides to nutrition in our food, has now been isolated and SEPARATED from nutrition. In many cases, you get amazing flavours, with next to no nutritional value – other than lots of calories.
With Engineered & Processed Foods, Flavour & Aroma have been Separated from their natural pairing with Nutritional Value. This is a BIG PROBLEM
Our Need For Speed Has Come At A Cost
In addition to the rise of Engineered & Processed Foods hijacking our palates, we’ve also been plagued with an ever increasing decline in taste of natural foods.
In the 1950’s, as the necessity to feed more mouths around the world grew, we’ve been obsessed with increasing volume and speed of food production, combined with minimising costs. And for good reason.
But in the pursuit for speed and volume, profits and margins have become the primary focus on modern day Big Food production and distribution, that have led us to hack the system in any which way possible.
We’ve found ways to increase the yield from farmland ten fold or more across grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts and fruits. We’ve accelerated the maturation of Chickens and Ruminants to such a degree that a ‘factory’ chicken is ready to eat within 6 weeks of birth (down from 16), and with less than half the food volume. These breakneck speeds of growth and increase yield has come at a cost…
The cost is Taste & Nutrition.
The thing is, the same Secondary Plant Compounds that produce both the flavour, fragrance and nutrients in plants have been declining, as we’ve been breeding for speed and volume, as opposed to flavour. This is basic evolution – farmers pick species, cross-breed and hand pick top performing plants to rapidly evolve the ability to produce faster results and more yield per plant.
It’s pretty incredible that we’ve been able to advance our agriculture and livestock evolution so rapidly via careful human selection through many generations. But as we’ve done so, we’ve not been breeding for Taste and Nutrition. We’ve dropped the ball here – as the industry does not pay farmers for taste. Only volume, speed and efficiency.
Reflect on your own experience of tastes for a sec. General supermarket-bought Chicken is so bland these days – hence the rubs, marinades, spices and deep frying. So are the value ranges of Tomatoes, Lettuce, Strawberries, Blueberries and Beef. Whilst I’m too young (haha) to know much different, older generations will reminisce on just how more flavourful Tomatoes, Fruit, Chicken and Beef used to taste like – back in the day.
The reason for modern Chicken and Beef becoming less and less flavourful is for the same reason. Not only are they being bred and reared to get fat super quickly, but they are being fed foods and engineered blends that are hyper palatable, calorific and NOT the natural foods they have evolved to eat.
The meat of animals absorb the Secondary Plant Compounds of their food – which can be toxins to detract predators, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and their associated aromas and flavours. What this means is that our Pork, Beef and Chicken meat is losing it’s nutritional density, increasing it’s fat content, and losing it’s heritage flavour as they become diluted with engineered food designed to get them big quickly.
Food or Toxin – It’s All In The Dose
Here’s another MIND BLOWING concept that is easy to grasp once you let it set in.
They way things have been designed in nature is to motivate animals to consume or avoid plants and other animals, based on what they need generally, what they may need in the moment, or to swerve harmful substances.
Everything we can consume as Humans is a Toxin, when the dose is too high.
Here are some examples:
- Oxygen – Pure Oxygen is actually a toxin, hence it’s dilution and elimination. Oxidative Stress is when there are too many Free Radicals roaming in our bodies, and hence the need for us to mop them up with Antioxidants.
- Water – If you over hydrate yourself you can dilute the blood to such an extent and this can be fatal.
- Sugar – Glucose, the primary energy source for our body and Brain is also a harmful toxin that can cause incredible damage to our blood vessels and organs. Hence the need for Insulin to transport it out of the bloodstream and into Muscles, Liver, Brain and Visceral Fat
- All Herbs & Spices – Whilst almost all have lots of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, too much can cause toxicity and a slew of symptoms and digestive upset.
- Plants’ Natural Pesticides – The majority of Secondary Plant Compounds are actually there to detract predators. We are a predator. We have however evolved to tolerate and get value out of small doses.
- Fats, Sugars, Carbs & Calories – In time, it’s these things that become hugely toxic, as our body is riddled with fat, cholesterol, inflammation and disease if we chronically over consume.
Crazy huh. You know the old adage “Everything in moderation”. Well, whilst not strictly helpful and specific enough, the idea has a lot of merit.
The reality is that all plants have a Toxic Load. Think about Nicotine, Cocaine and LSD – all derived from plants and all create intoxication. But the same is true for Onions, Oregano, Coffee and Coconut Oil. Too much of these, or ANY food, can cause a Toxic Overload.
But here’s the magic Nature built in. It’s this natural Toxic Load in natural foods that helps regulate our consumption. Our bodies know when enough is enough when eating Beans, Broccoli or Leeks (assuming no engineered ingredients are added). It’s called our Toxicty Threshold – I.e. we get the signal to stop prior to overdosing.
WOW. Incredible huh?
And for things such as Herbs and Spices, we already do the right thing. We Micro-Dose. You wouldn’t knock back a whole tub of basil, or cumin. You have just a light sprinkling, to balance flavour, nutrition and toxicity.
And think about Medicine. It’s the same thing. There’s a beneficial prescribed dose, and then there’s a harmful potentially fatal overdose. It’s exactly the same with natural foods.
So Toxicity is NOT a bad thing, as it’s actually nature’s Natural Regulator when it comes to Controlling Consumption
Natural Foods Provide Deep Satisfaction
The natural extension to understanding Toxicity Threshold when consuming natural food, is to think about HOW this happens.
Why, if Natural foods are so nutritious and have lots of flavour, do we not binge on them to extend the experience, and how do we stop when it’s so enjoyable?
The answer is Deep Satisfaction.
We get an intense enjoyment from the compounds that produce the flavour, aroma and nutrient density, especially when natural foods are well-combined for a complete flavour and nutritional profile. We feel good when consuming not only the macro nutrients but also the antioxidants and the calories.
It’s a multi layer chemical experience of satisfying our Flavour, Macro, Micro, Calories needs, and Neurological needs. This deep satisfaction, combined with nearing our toxicity threshold is what prevents us from gorging on natural foods like we do with sweets, bread, pasta, cakes and other engineered flavour bombs.
The Nutrition MATCHES the taste, and Toxicity helps pull the plug when the bodies needs are met
Back To the Problems With Engineered Foods…
Ok. So we now understand that Engineered, Processed and Packaged foods have by and large separated nature’s guide to nutritional content – aka flavour and aroma, from nutrition itself.
This Has Created Mass Confusion
What Food Industry has done is a classic Bait-and-Switch on our bodies.
Their foods promise all the goodness associated to the distinct flavour and taste components in their products, but ‘the holiday does not match the brochure’.
Those expected Micro Nutrients, Antioxidants, Toxins and other Secondary Plant Compounds are not there! In many cases not at all, or at least nowhere near as expected.
For example, many fruit-flavoured drinks or fruit-flavoured yoghurts contain ZERO fruits. Yep, that Strawberry Yoghurt tube has no real Strawberries. Check the label.
Your body is expecting to receive a certain dose of specific nutrients – nutrients linked to that flavour and smell profile. Nutrients essential to sustaining life. But they are not there.
Your Body is expecting to have a presence of toxins in the food, that will help regulate consumption. They are not there.
The only expectation of your body, that is not only met, but far exceeded – is the presence of Calories, Carbs and Fats. These food get an A+ in this regard.
And Mass Confusion Leads to Over Consumption
The real reason we can binge eat on Junk Food is surprisingly not because it tastes so good. Here’s what’s going on:
- The First Bite Is The Best – It’s in those first couple bites that we get drawn in. But as the synthetic flavour bomb wears off of the Dorito, Wotsit or other snack, you’re actually left with something that’s pretty bland. As in, the experience quickly tails off. So, we go in again to get that short-lived first bite.
- Attempting to Satisfy The Nutritional Expectation – Unlike natural foods, the nutrition does not match the flavour. So we keep shovelling it in, waiting to receive that signal of Deep Satisfaction and satiation… that never comes. Palate fatigue, feeling sick, upset tummy, regret or an empty bag are the likely signals that stop the feast, if we’ve not been mindfully controlling our portion size.
- There is Too Little Immediate Toxicity Threshold! – I know this sounds crazy, but engineered and junk foods whilst are toxic to our bodies in the long term, do not come with enough toxicity as found in nature’s Secondary Plant Compounds. That means our Toxicity Threshold is difficult to meet, and we do not get that regulating warning shot to stop.
Don’t be Fooled by Their ‘Natural Flavourings’ and Fortification
Three other aspects of Engineered Foods that you should be mindful of:
#1 – Natural Flavourings are NOT Natural
Unfortunately, this is one of many tricks of the trade to suggest the nutritional goodness of processed and engineered foods. When you hear ‘Natural’, you assume that there must be some proportion of natural foods that are used to make up the flavour. NOPE
‘Natural Flavouring’ simply means that non- petrochemical processes were used in the creation of the compound, such as fermentation or other natural biological or enzymatic processes. The molecules you end up with in the beaker are usually exactly the same as those labeled as ‘Artificial Flavours’.
#2 – Fortifying Calorie Dense Foods Promotes Greater Consumption
When a product, such as Milk, Flour or Cereal is fortified, it means the producer has added extra synthetically produced nutrients into the food either due to government regulation to control modern dietary deficiency or to market a ‘healthier’ product.
The problem with fortification, is that it promotes – socially and within our bodies, to eat more of these calorie dense foods in order to meet some of our nutrient needs. This in turn turns off our instinct to eat nutritious natural foods to source said nutrients, which come with a multitude of other complimentary and synergistic Secondary Plant Compounds.
For example – Fortifying / Cutting pharmaceutical-grade Cocaine with Turmeric would enable an honest description of being ‘Healthier’ and ‘with added Nutrients’, but that does not make Cocaine healthy or good for you. Think about Fortification of foods in similar light. Why do they NEED to fortify in the first place?
#3 – Check The Labels
If you’re buying a product for it’s health benefits, whether it be Natural (synonymous with healthy) or is Fruit flavoured, it’s always worth checking the label to see if it actually contains the suggested ingredients.
If a product is purporting the benefits of Oranges or Strawberries, make sure they feature. You’ll be surprised how often they don’t!
Moreover, understand that Food Labelling regulation demands the producer to put the ingredients in order of most used. So, if the healthy ingredients is listed at the bottom of a list 40 ingredients, then they is VERY little of that natural food.
Unluckily for the consumer, food producers do not need to declare what their food flavouring are. All you will see is ‘Natural’ or ‘Artificial’ flavourings – basically Synthetic Flavours. And trust me, if there are Natural Foods in the product, they will WANT to list it.
We’re being programmed to eat the wrong foods. We’ve been turned into Calorie ZombiesMark Schatzker, The Dorito Effect
Hijacking & Numbing Our Senses
And here’s the upsetting truth.
As natural foods get diluted, and the Engineered Foods get more and more ‘Engineered’ for irresistible mass consumption, the motivation to ditch the processed and junk food and eat whole foods will continue to decline.
How can a diluted Strawberry or Blueberry, bred for speed, size and yield, compete with the ever more hyper palatable processed foods that have hundreds of millions of dollars invested in their success?
It’s difficult problem. Especially as Humans are FLAVOUR SEEKERS. Nature over millions of years has created this intimate connection between flavour and nutrition, and we cannot expect to sever that connection in just over half a century. Nor should we want to…
But it is a problem that can be addressed – with consciousness, consumer demand and care for our bodies.
The Problem Is Complex, But The Solution Is Simple
Here’s another thought provoking concept. It could well be, that bland things are inherently unhealthy for us. And at their core, processed and engineered foods are bland and unhealthy – think about the Dorito or Cheeto once that powdered flavouring is sucked off…
Processed food is just great at disguising that blandness with a bomb of added flavours and synthetic compounds.
The answer to this problem of Modern & Big Food Trends is simple. Some actions are immediate and within your control, whilst others require the slow moving power of consumer demand to course correct the Food Industry.
Things You can do Today:
- Eat Natural Whole Foods – Use a 80-90% rule, where the super majority of the food you consume is natural and whole. This means pulling back from the packaged processed foods.
- Use the IIFYM+ Thrive Dieting Approach – Or perhaps check out Paleo or Mediterranean. The point here, is to help guide your food choices with a set of nutritional principles for optimal health.
- Increase Kitchen IQ & Inspiration – The AdapNation Food Diary and AdapNation Butler tool are great resources to create tasty, easy, quick and accessible meals that are cooked from scratch and designed to support optimal wellness*
- Change Your Food Environment – As difficult as it might be, have a junk food and processed food cull at home. Yeah, you’ll be wasting some money, but you’ll be putting trash in the trash, versus using your body as the bin.
- Wait A Couple Weeks – It’s anecdotally and scientifically proven that abstaining from highly-processed and high-sugar foods for just two weeks dramatically reduces the addictive pull and cravings. You just need to hang in there.
- Where Possible, Source Organic, Local, Pastured – If you have the opportunity, and your finances can support it, sourcing products from local farms or at least products listed as grass-fed, grass-finished, organic and free range will come with more flavour, more nutrition, greater enjoyment, and will create more consumer pressure.
- Herbs & Spices – Nature’s flavours. Instead of relying on some factory and scientist in a white jacket to determine how your food is going to taste, take matters into your own hands. Having a stocked Herb and Spice rack enables you to have almost unlimited flavour combinations. Experiment. It’s so much fun, it’s cheap, they come with anti-oxidants, and next to no calories.
Most importantly, above all else, Stop and Enjoy The Experience!
Flavour is there for us to fuel our body with what it needs. We ARE Flavour Seekers. So, when you have good natural products, stop and enjoy the moment. Be mindful, be in the moment, put the phone down and REALLY taste the food.
Smell the aroma, chew and savour the taste. Let your body catch up with the sensation in your mouth and your brain. The bond will increase, you will stop when you are satisfied from a nutritional standpoint, and you will have less regret and digestive issues.
Let’s Demand More Flavour WITH Greater Nutrition
If you can set in motion a change in your household to prioritise natural whole foods from plants to fish, meat and poultry above packaged factory-processed foods, you will be joining an ever increasing global army.
Wellness is grass-roots movement.
The food industry has pivoted fairly significantly over the last decade, as the demand for healthier, more natural and less harmful products continues to grow year on year.
There is still a LONG WAY to go, but the tide is changing. The challenge for the Big Food industry is to pivot to meet consumer demand whilst maximising their profits and revenues. And currently, these are conflicting priorities.
You can’t patent a Strawberry. You can’t have a proprietary blend of Sweet Potato (unless you genetically modify of course). This means traditional marketing and food engineering tactics designed to create addictions and heavy users cannot be deployed to the same effect.
But hey, you evolve or die. That is the dilemma Big Food has right now. Evolve and innovate around whole, natural and moderate consumption, or die. They have a moral, ethical and business duty to meet consumers where they need to be – healthier, happier, less fat and thriving.
The rallying call is not to make a huge song and dance. It is not to set up marches and pickets. It is not to be dogmatic and judgemental of those who are yet to be enlightened about the damage of modern day processed food.
Instead, make the changes you can regarding how YOU select, buy, cook and consume food. Extend those ideas and insights to your immediate family.
Perhaps share articles like this to others you care about, to help them make informed decisions, within their mental and financial capacity.
Follow this and other topic areas in our longer-form Articles series as they unfold, as well as the AdapNation Food Diary for healthy meal inspiration and AdapNation’s #HyperWorkouts for free training plans. Comment if you have questions or ideas.