Packaged food manufacturers, whether they make conventional or “natural” products, have three universal concerns. How do you make packaged food that is palatable and safe? How do you keep the food from spoiling within a reasonable shelf-life? How do you make a profit while doing the first two?
Preserving food through packaging, by its very nature, affects taste, texture, smell, etc. Just because a food is “natural” doesn’t mean that it is particularly better tasting than food with “chemicals”, nor that it lasts any longer (probably quite the contrary). So both types of manufacturers face pretty much the same problems. Producers of natural foods simply choose a different strategy: To only include “natural-source” additives in order to achieve their objectives. For example, Vitamin-C (ascorbic acid) is a frequent additive to packaged natural foods…and seems to work quite well, although I’m not sure if it produces the same paleontological shelf-life as other chemicals. Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Locust Bean Gum, Anthocyanins, etc., are all either extracted, concentrated, or fermented products from plant sources. If you read the packaging on any food products in a health food store you will find a host of additives to just about everything – because, remember, they face exactly the same problems as the “greedy” commercial manufacturers – although these additives really are “naturally sourced”.
But here’s the kicker and something to think about. While all the additives in “natural foods” are natural….it isn’t necessarily natural to eat them in such concentrations! Guar Gum for example is extracted from the ground endosperm of Guar beans, and is an excellent thickening agent (8 times more potent than cornstarch). But you would have to eat substantial quantities of Guar beans to get the equivalent amount of Guar Gum found in a serving of a natural packaged food. Is this a bad thing? Is this a good thing? I don’t know and I’m not sure anyone does! Simply put, just because something is natural in origin, doesn’t mean you are consuming it in a natural way! If you ate the same quantities of bananas necessary to produce the “natural banana flavor” used to create natural yogurt…you’d probably have to eat several pounds of bananas at a sitting. I can virtually guarantee that if you ate that many bananas at a sitting…you would be sitting on the toilet-bowl for a very long time afterwards!
This doesn’t mean that I am endorsing eating chemically-laced “commercial” packaged foods because the natural ones may be just as bad. I am saying however, that we may all be better off consuming “real” food in as close to its natural state as possible, and devoid of any ingredients designed to make it look and feel like real food. Yesterday I went to the “organic” section of my grocery store to get some canned corn for a Shepherd’s Pie. Even the “natural and organic” canned corn contained sugar (although it was all-natural “cane” sugar – what a load of bullshit, excuse me!) and salt (for preservation). I put the cans back and went to the “normal” frozen section, where I bought the house-brand el-cheapo frozen corn with no additives whatsoever! True, the frozen corn probably comes from genetically-modified Frankenseeds….you can’t win!
Now to find organic frozen corn!