It’s enough already with people freaking about “chemicals” in our food. Granted, there are some “chemicals” that I do worry about, like certain pesticides sprayed on crops that cause birth defects in the babies of tomato pickers (one of the reasons I am behind organic farming). But there are plenty that I don’t worry about, and you know why? Because everything is a chemical. This short video from Asap Science really explains it well, but in short, a banana is made of more “chemicals” than a candy heart. The presence of one or more “chemicals” do not define the health or lack thereof of a food. Take apple seeds. Raw apples are arguably one of the most natural foods you can eat, but their seeds are toxic.
Yeah, maybe some artificial sweetener possibly maybe had an association with cancer in rats at doses so high it would be virtually impossible for any human to absorb that much through any food product. But anything in a high enough dose is toxic, even substances critical to our survival. Too much Vitamin A, your liver fails. You can even be poisoned by too much oxygen. Any substance that is going to be added to the food supply should be thoroughly tested for safety, but have some faith in the scientific consensus, folks (notice I said consensus, not any one cherry-picked study). And don’t even get me started on GMOs.
We could argue about this all day, you could probably convince me that I’m totally wrong, but either way this whole debate about chemicals is missing the point. Whether or not azodicarbonamide is in Subway’s sandwich breads and whether or not it is safe for human consumption, you could nourish your body with much more nutritious foods than highly processed Subway sandwich bread. Whether or not aspartame is a carcinogen in doses 3000 times what anyone actually consumes, diet soda is not food. Neither is regular soda, for that matter (this article makes the case for why diet soda is actually a healthier option than regular soda).
If I advise you from a nutritional standpoint to look for foods with as few ingredients as possible (preferably one ingredient foods) it is not to single out any particular additive or even the group of them as the bad guy — I advise that because the number of ingredients is usually a good proxy for how processed the food is, which is damningly associated with health outcomes. And you know how I know that? SCIENCE. The same science that tells us that whole fruits and vegetables are good for us also tells us that cigarettes are horrible and that vaccines don’t cause autism and that we really do not have to worry about a little bit of azodicarbonamide.
We don’t need to fear science, but the reality is that we don’t need any of these additives in our food regardless of their safety, especially when the healthiest people are the ones that eat the most whole, plant-based foods.