Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Industrial scale food production and distribution is likely to be inevitable in order to feed the majority of people who live in cities, but most cheap processed foods encourage over-consumption and have damaging biological effects. Are processed foods bad per se or are the ingredients in most processed foods the problem? Can the ingredients in processed foods be changed to create therapeutic foods that can fit the challenge of “Food as Medicine”? No question modern packaged processed foods made from various combinations of sugar, starch, fat, salt, additives and preservatives are detrimental.
Is it the processing or are the functional aspects of the ingredients the problem? Refined sugars and starches make up the bulk of processed foods and are dirt cheap commodities hence their universal use. However, take the processing further these commodities are used for the industrial production of low carb zero calorie sweetener “erythritol” while wheat starch can be processed to create resistant starch and resistant maltodextrins, both proven prebiotics. The best-known prebiotic, inulin is processed from chicory root. Galacto-oligosaccharides are now added to infant formula to better simulate the high concentration of prebiotics in human breast milk and the use of all sorts of industrially produced vitamins and nutraceutical supplements would be best judged on merit rather than on being "processed".
Hopefully, within a few years food will be judged on its biological fate as well as its enjoyment. Some say all we need to do is “Just Eat Real Food” but this doesn’t stand a chance against vested interests and advertising power of a $4 trillion a year food industry. Anyway, convenience, established food cultures, temptation and the tempo of modern life make “JERF” impractical for those who need to change the most. Human ingenuity is better than that and by providing therapeutic functional food supermarkets, bakeries, fast foods, restaurants, and food manufacturers can become the solution rather than the seemingly insurmountable problem they are now.