Last night at work I was casually reading the label of the Dannon Light and Fit yogurt I was eating. Ordinarily not my particular choice of yogurt, but it’s the brand that my hospital just happens to get for our patients.
I’m guilty of reading nutrition labels of products not because it really affects whether I’ll eat it, but just with the casual interest of someone who reads the back of a cereal box while eating breakfast, or the back of a shampoo bottle while in the shower. Just for the sheer reason of having something to do.
As I’m reading, I stumble over the warning I’ve seen so many times:
Phenylketonurics: contains phenylalanine.
It made me think.
Our culture has demonized the things that naturally come in food. Calories, fat, protein, carbs, sugars, sodium. There are products that are specifically made to be zero calorie. Does it make anyone else wonder? If you’re eating something that’s zero calorie/zero fat/zero whatever else–if it’s not calories you’re ingesting. . .what exactly is it?
We have demonized the things that we need for our bodies.
Calories are not evil. Calories, in their most simple definition, are energy. You NEED energy to get through your day.
Fat is not evil. You need fat in your diet for brain development, to absorb nutrients, to cover your organs.
Carbs are not evil. You NEED carbs in your diet for fuel.
Sodium is not evil. Having too little sodium in your body can kill you.
Far be it from me to police what anyone puts in their bodies, but the fact that things that are literally necessary for basic human functions are looked down upon in so many ads, so many products, it really rubs me the wrong way. Especially how so many of the products are labeled as ‘guilt free.’ (Likewise, when something is ‘bad’ for you, it’s often described as ‘sinful’ or ‘decadent’.) You shouldn’t feel guilty for putting food in your mouth. Ever, ever, ever.
And hell, things that are made with real, legitimate ingredients instead of chemicals and aspartame just taste better. And having food that tastes good is also something that should never make you feel like you’re being ‘sinful’ or ‘decadent’.
I don’t want a 60 calorie yogurt. When I’m at work and I grab a snack, I grab it because I’m running around all night and I need energy to be alert and effective. The difference between a 60 calorie ‘light and fit’ yogurt and the 100 calories it would be normally, it doesn’t really make a difference in the grand scheme of things.
But really, I’m more concerned about what we’re replacing these things our body needs with. Phenylalanine? Okay, so it’s an essential amino acid, but to replace other things with it is so unnecessary. In fact, according to wikipedia, large quantaties of phenylalanine interferes with the production of serotonin, a chemical that allows you to feel happy. So in a twist of fate, consuming too much phenylalanine actually harms your well being!
The things that we replace our calories, carbs, sodium with ends up being more harmful than what they’re cutting out.
The things that are naturally in food are not the enemy.