When I was first married, my lovely bride suggested we try eating some bulgur. She was in her back-to-the-land phase, and, as a dutiful husband, I went along with the idea. I soon discovered there is a reason the grain has a name that rhymes with vulgar – I thought it was. Today people still make many food choices based on their health benefits, real or imagined. For some, taste is a secondary consideration.
Fad diets have become a big part of food choices in the past few decades. Usually based on some nutrition fact, the diet either has you eliminate certain food groups totally or eat other food groups exclusively. These high profile plans, which generate a lot of publicity and revenue for their promoters, can have a big impact on farmers. For example, when a well known diet plan recommended people stop eating potatoes, potato consumption fell sharply, depressing the market for spuds.
While these fad diets are still around, research indicates that people are opting for a different approach. Research conducted by the Center for Food Integrity indicates that consumers are focusing on an overall healthy approach to diets. “The public’s interest in the relationship between diet and health continues to intensify,” according to Roxi Beck with CFI. “Whether it’s among moms, millennials, foodies, or other influencer audiences, the shift is away from simply wanting access to affordable food to wanting healthy, affordable food – a phenomenon playing out in the clean eating movement and increased demand for ‘free-from’ foods.”
Food makers are responding by eliminating ingredients from their products and listing what is not in the product on the packaging. This is more than just a move toward organic, since organic products can have just as many chemicals and processed items in them as regular food products. This is a desire by consumer to eliminate what they see as “un-natural” things in their food. There is the perception that, if mother nature did not put it there, then somehow it is bad. While is not accurate or scientific, nevertheless, perception is reality.
Unfortunately, when some of these un-natural ingredients are removed, something else goes with them: taste. Let’s face it, if something does not taste good, eating it just because you think it is good for you is silly. One thing the slow food movement got right was that food should be enjoyed. Taste plays a large part in that enjoyment factor.
The move away from fad diets and toward an overall healthy approach to food is a step in the right direction. Yet, the obsession with natural still shows a lack of nutritional understanding by the general public. Just because an item is “all natural” does not mean it is safe, nutritious, or tastes good. Today you will not find any bulgur in my house. What you will find are foods that are nutritious and taste good, regardless of what is or is not in them. You will also find a few things that have very little nutritional value, but whose taste I have a weakness for. Somehow they just jump off the shelf into my cart every now and then.
By Gary Truitt