Food Company’s Best Trick: “Natural Flavor”

chpOn my way to my dietetic internship rotation, I was listening to a very interesting podcast(I do this every morning). The podcast was interviewing the author of a book called the “The Dorito Effect”, his name is Mark Schatzker. (click here for podcast)

The main topic of the interview was the history of flavors in food, how they changed over the years in real food, and how they manipulate/create flavors using real fruits and veggies to make process foods more palatable; but also how modern agriculture has striped foods such as fruits, veggies, and animal protein of their flavor over the years.

There is another aspect of Nutrition & Dietetics that most people are unaware of…Food Chemistry. The people involved in that area do not deal with patients in a clinical setting, nor clients in a private/counseling, or work in community settings with kids or families. Their “patients” are food, and their office is a lab with beakers and test tubes. They create flavors that are similar or exactly like what we taste from real food; they extract volatile natural flavor compounds from food, mix them, increase the “intensity”, and create flavor profiles that are then injected into processed foods; hence a Doritos chip tastes like a taco…or close enough. And minus any of the essential nutrients found in the real thing!

The main issue with this should be obvious…but maybe not. Food companies are creating a high palatability issue where they are over saturating taste buds with intense flavors, causing the population to eat more food then required. The second half to this is that kids, and adults are craving these “intense” flavors, that they lose taste and appeal for the real natural flavors of fruits and vegetables, and protein sources of food. Yet another issue is modern agriculture that has destroyed the taste of whole foods (aka not processed #notinbox). Examples would be a tomato, which in the past was very tasty, and could literally be eaten like a apple; but now has a very bland cardboard taste. Reason? Along the way, in the 70’s, food agriculture was pushed in the direction of growing food bigger, faster, and cheaper…the sacrifice? TASTE. Chicken is another example; chicken is probably the blandest animal protein source because chickens are “mass produced” in barns to grow to adult size in a few short weeks using selective breeding practices, and high calorie feed that make hens big and plump to increase the yield; taste again is sacrificed where common practice is to spice rub chicken, batter it in buttermilk, then panco bread it, and deep fry to get any flavor into it.

High palatabililty processed foods causing the population to crave the “intense” flavors, that they lose taste and appeal for the real natural flavors of fruits and vegetables, and protein sources of food

The solution to all of this? Heirloom produce such as tomatoes, or grassfed beef, and free range chickens that are feed plant based feed not highly processed GMO grains. Food should satisfy the flavor/taste buds where eating a piece of chicken is filling, not from a macro carb, protein, or fat prospective, but simply off the flavor creating a sense of “that was great, I feel good, my appetite has been met”. Not being able to stop eating because the food consist of a overly addictive flavor is not ideal, or to stop eating because the food is overly sweet and its too much to handle. Clearly a middle ground has to meet for what food is, enjoyment!