What’s in a label?

I ran across a series of posts about the “ingredients”of natural products. The idea behind it is simple: If our natural foods had ingredients labels, what would they look like?

Here are two products we typically think of as primal:

If you went to the store and picked up a carton of eggs with that long list of unpronounceable ingredients on the label, would you buy them? Probable not if you follow the standard paleo/primal advice of buying things with only pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all.

That great series of infographics linked above shows what is wrong with that conventional wisdom. All foods, whether natural, processed, or genetically modified, are made up of chemicals.  The question is: Are these chemicals helpful or harmful to our health? You probably need a degree in organic chemistry and molecular biology to make sense of those labels above. Yet, these foods are 100% natural and pretty beneficial to our bodies.

I don’t happen to know very much about o-chem or molecular biology, and I don’t expect you to, either. So here is how I sort out what should and shouldn’t eat without reading the Wikipedia entry for every item on a food label: Try it. If it doesn’t help you achieve your goals (feeling well, losing weight, increasing your mental focus), then stop eating it.

Yes, what I just wrote is overly simplistic. It is just a guide, not a hard rule. Use some common sense, because even one dose of arsenic will kill you. If it doesn’t look like food, don’t eat it. If you aren’t sure whether it is poisonous or not, don’t take a chance. If you have allergies, make sure you check the labels for the things you are allergic to.

I know from experience that gluten, oats, excessive sugar, and excessive potatoes make me feel awful, so I avoid those things. But a small amount of rice or potatoes, a drink of whisky, black beans, and cheese are usually fine on my body if I have them in moderation. (If I’m trying to lose weight, it is another story. Going full keto is usually what works the best for me.) My wife, on the other hand, can tolerate potatoes, rice, etc, a lot better than I can. But if she tries to eat as much fat as I usually eat or more than a small handful of almonds every day, she doesn’t feel very well.

TL;DR: Don’t stress out over the ingredients labels. Listen to your body.


About Chuck Grimmett

Web consultant, photographer, and problem solver. I also cook a lot and am learning to make data visualizations.
This entry was posted in education, Food, the science behind it. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What’s in a label?

  1. Bob Ewing says:

    Excellent post Chuck. I hadn’t seen those infographic labels before and they got me. You converted me, I was in the labels camp for sure, but your argument is spot on. Vitamins often have chemistry names too. Common sense and listening to our bodies are key, agreed!

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