healthy eating

Healthy Eating and Value Added Food

Remember kids, healthy eating starts with Froot Loops and Wonder Bread.

The American industrial food system is heavily based on government subsidies. In the years between 1995 and 2006 the government paid out just over 177 billion dollars in subsidies to farmers to encourage and enable them to grow specific crops. These crops are generally grains.

For example, of those 177 billion taxpayer dollars, 56 billion of it was for corn. 22 billion of it was for wheat. This is to encourage maximal production of these specific commodities, even when the market is overloaded and supply and demand causes the price to freefall.

In October of 2005, the price of a bushel of corn was $1.45 while it cost at least $2.50 to produce it. The only way a farmer can produce something that is worth less than the effort he puts into it is via subsidies. The catch is that this rock-bottom grain price isn’t really passed on to you, the dear consumer. It’s passed on to food processing corporations who then “add value” to the grain through processing before passing it on to the consumer at a substantially higher price.

Of the considerable amount of corn produced in the United States, nearly all of it is purchased by only two companies: Cargill and ADM. This chain of distribution is similar for the other main crops as well, such as wheat, rice and soybeans.

Conveniently, these billion-dollar corporations have substantial lobbying power with the federal government. This plays a major role in the supportive relationship between government subsidies for cheap grain and government-based programs advocating the maximal consumption of it.

The mountain of cheap grains produced in the U.S., subsidized by tax payers and purchased by a small handful of major corporations, has resulted in an odd over-consumption of this food group. Next time you’re out grocery shopping, try picking out only products that haven’t been “value added” with fractions of corn or soybeans. Why is there high-fructose corn syrup in your ketchup and soybean oil in your “Italian” pesto? Because that is the absolute cheapest material available. The fact that it is harmful to your body is of no concern to the people making and selling these products.

The scientists who design processed food products are constantly racing to find ways of improving a company’s bottom line by cheapening their material costs. Using a natural sweetener, for example, costs a few pennies more than high fructose corn syrup, so HFCS is now a staple an increasingly dizzying list of foods. In 1985, the average American consumed forty-five pounds of HFCS. Today, that number has increased to sixty-six pounds per person.

Corn and soy, in particular, can be processed into a plethora of other products or “fractions.” Corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate, dextrin, corn starch, xantham gum, most artificial colorings and flavorings, soy and corn oil, soy protein, soy flour, soy milk, soy lecithin are all examples. Don’t forget the majority of industrial farm animals that are raised on diets of corn and soy and whose bodies-thus the meat we get from them-resultantly take on altered molecular and nutritional characteristics.

This is dangerous. Diets centered on corn fractions and soy can wreak havoc on one’s health.

A study first highlighted in the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma conducted by Todd Dawson at the university of Berkeley used a mass spectrometer distinguish the carbon isotopes specific to corn within food products. He analyzed a meal from McDonalds and found each ingredient to be anywhere from 100% (the milkshake) to 23% corn (the fries). Even the chicken nuggets and cheeseburger were 56% and 52% corn, respectively.

This isn’t limited exclusively to fast food.

Processing a food is almost never for the benefit of the consumer. It is for the purpose of producing a food at a cheaper cost and inducing people to pay more money for it. By using clever packaging and marketing campaigns, people can be duped into buying and eating foods that sometimes are little more than skillfully transformed corn and soybeans.

The way to avoid this, safeguard your health, have a better looking body, spend less money at the grocery store and consume fewer empty calories is to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Read the labels. The longer the ingredient list, the more fractions of corn, soy and other garbage the food is likely to contain. Better yet, stay out of the center of the grocery store and stick to the foods on the perimeter, which don’t even need labels to identify their origins. You don’t need a mass spectrometer to tell you that carrots are made out of carrots.


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