How Flavor Drives Nutrition

Photo credit:Wall Street Journal

Have you ever bit into a tomato just picked from the garden that was red, ripe, juicy and bursting with flavor? Can you remember eating a slice of tomato in a pre-packaged sandwich that was pinkish and plastic looking and devoid of flavor and taste?

Mark Schatzker in his book “The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor” laments what has happened to commercial produce in recent decades. He points out: “As flavor diminishes, so does nutrition.”

Consider today’s tomatoes: Schatzker cites a Journal of the American College of Nutrition study which found they have “half as much calcium and vitamin A as they did in the 1950s.” Schatzker adds: “And in the modern food system’s most disturbing twist, we now take the very flavors that are disappearing on the farm and produce them in factories, sprinkling them on potato chips or fizzing them into soft drinks. Today’s junk-food aisle is overflowing with the very flavors– cherry, blueberry, tomato, strawberry– that have gone missing in the produce aisle.”

And as Schatzker goes on to explain, a yogurt that contains artificial strawberry flavoring “doesn’t carry anything close to the payload of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in a real strawberry.” Yet over 600 million pounds of artificial flavoring are consumed in the U.S. each year, according to market research firm Euromonitor International.

Schatzker emphasizes why real flavor matters. It’s what draws humans and animals alike to nutritious food.

Interestingly Schatzker reports on a study done back in the 1930’s in which toddlers were presented with a wide variety of flavorful foods including fruits, vegetables, milk and meats and allowed free rein to select what they ate. Invariably, they picked the foods that had the nutrients their bodies most needed at the time.

Today, more Americans are flocking to farmer’s markets looking for fresh locally picked food that tastes good—like a tomato or strawberry should—and packed with nutrients. And hopefully what it doesn’t contain are hormones, antibiotics, artificial flavors, colors, genetically modified organisms or any pesticide residue.

Check out the farmer’s market in your area. Use our Farmer’s Market Finder and let us know about your best finds.

Wall Street Journal, 4/9/15

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