When I was younger, I once walked into a Whole Foods store. As soon as I stepped inside, I could tell I was in way over my head. The store had bright lighting, open spaces, and most of all, food labeled “wholesome”. I had yet to experience the wholesome food movement first hand, so to see all these seemingly foreign foods I couldn’t help but wonder what the difference was between this food and the food one could pick up at the 5 Guys fast food joint down the street. Ultimately, after reading several different nutritional packets for different foods, I gave up and ended up going to eat down at the burger place where at least I could recognize the food I was eating, unhealthy though it may be.
In his article How Junk Food Can End Obesity, David Freedman appeared to have the same thought process. As a study for his writings, he had gone around and ate at restaurants who broadcasted their ingredients as wholesome and compared them to what fast food restaurants serve. In his research, he found that what foods are considered “wholesome” are, in fact, just as bad or even worse than the junk fast food serves. To prove his findings, Freedman states that, “[…] many of the dishes glorified by the wholesome-food movement are, in any case, as caloric and obesogenic as anything served in a Burger King” (511). Another way of researching, not just by eating at restaurants, was going to wholesome food stores themselves and checking out the food there. What he found, was that the foods being presented as “non processed” contained at least double the amount of fat, and quadruple the amount of sodium to be found in an average McDonald’s Big Mac (Freedman 512). Consumers who buy these products are often swayed by labels such as the aforementioned, but very little do they actually check and understand the nutritional value.
Ultimately, most foods coming from airtight packages are going to have chemicals and extra fat with hidden sodium. Freedman writes that “Some wholesome foodies openly celebrate fat and problem carbs, insisting that the lack of processing magically renders them healthy” (515). Due to the nature of the human body, that is not the case. The brain can be more easily fooled than the digestive tract.
Freedman is right that foods labeled “wholesome” are chalk full of fats and sodium, but he seems to be on more dubious ground when he states that “chemically synthesized” foods are not claimed to be bad to consume (519). I disagree with that fact. Certainly something made in a science lab is going to have an effect on the human body, perhaps we’ve just been eating processed foods for so long that our internal structures are changed from our predecessors. However, his claim that there is no credible evidence that any aspect of food poisoning makes it unhealthy, rests upon the questionable assumption that processed foods may not harm you (Freedman 518). I beg to differ with this statement.
A few years back, Taco Bell was giving out free breakfast crunchwraps in association with its partnership with the MLB network. My siblings and I decided not to turn down a free breakfast and to check it out. We’d gotten our food and were happily enjoying the greasy combination of eggs and bacon, wrapped in a tortilla, but as soon as I took the last bite the food seemed to just sink like a stone in my stomach. I had stomach cramps for hours after that meal, and since then haven’t gone back to frequent Taco Bell. Perhaps the food affected me differently than it would’ve somebody else, but even so, the feeling of that experience can’t be good for one’s health, especially if a person continues to eat such a diet. In that simple breakfast item alone, lied half of the amount of sodium regulated to be good for a person. According to the Taco Bell website, the total sodium in the crunchwrap equaled 1,300 mg (tacobell.com). While the average person only needs about 2,400 milligrams (fda.gov).
Mentioned in Freedman’s article, is the lack of evidence to conclude that processed food makes it unhealthy, yet at the same time there are correlations between processed foods and personality traits. For example, when my cousin was little and would consume large quantities of red dye in the processed food, he would become a hyperactive spazz, unlike his normal child energy. After my aunt had it checked out and changed his diet to cut out as much red dye as possible, he became a much better child.
Not only does processed food have the ability to alter body chemistry to attain such difference, it also loses the nutrients and fibers needed to digest the food. That in turn makes it harder for the human body to be cleansed of such improper dietary substitute (wholelifenutrition.net). One such example of the hardship of digesting processed foods lies in my sister. Before she got checked out by a food specialist, she would get continuous stomach cramps, headaches, and tiredness after eating food highly processed. Once she was diagnosed as being allergic to wheat and soy, both major ingredients in processed foods, she decided to change the way she ate, to cut as much of the bad food out of her diet as possible. After this, the digesting of meals no longer bothered her and she is even healthier from it.
Freedman’s study about the wholesome and the processed food movement opened speculation about a person’s diet and even raised questions as to what is considered healthy. But if Americans truly wanted to try and end their dietary habits, then more of an effort would go towards buying unprocessed fruits or vegetables instead of canned, and finding the freshest cut of meat available to them instead of going to the packaged meat, high in sodium. There are ways of changing a diet, other than “wholesome”, we as a people just need to find them.
Freedman, David H.“How Junk Food Can End Obesity.” They Say, I Say with readings 3rd ed, edited by Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, Russel Durst, WWNorton & Company, 2017, pp. 506-537.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
Taco Bell, Corporation, Taco Bell Nutrition, June 2017.
Malterre, Tom “Processed Foods: How do they affect your body?” Whole Life Nutrition,