Summertime has arrived, and it is a great time to indulge on a scoop or two of ice cream and maybe some fizzy soda to your liking. There is something inherently satisfying about consuming these food delectables that it is second nature to want more. Undoubtedly, food manufacturers have employed a level of science to hone in on the art of addicting us to their delicious selection of products. I challenge you to have one bite from anything, whether it be a bag of chips, a chocolate bar, or a donut.
With 10 food and beverage companies such as Coco-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, and Unilever owning several other food brands and realizing revenue in several billions of dollars, these corporations have exceptional reach and influence to what consumers buy (Business Insider, 2016). It is time to think about what goes into your shopping basket on the next trip to the grocery store. But then how can the consumer have the choice when grocery stores depend on the Big Food giants for inventory?
This question brings us to the question of whether the responsibility rests on the food industry in offering healthier options or the consumers in making healthy choices. A 2017 article by the American Journal of Public Health indicates the need for a more shared responsibility where the government may also need to be involved in implementing regulations to increase accountability to population health. Public policies aside, consumers have more power than they think when considering that the act of making the purchase is similar to voting for a food product with dollars. When food producers see their products selling, of course it is the case that they should continually manufacture more to satisfy their bottom line. Shoppers buy, and we see both parties perpetuating this consumer-producer cycle.
So the next time you visit the local grocery store for some food staple items, have a look at the nutrition facts labeling and ingredients listing. The number of calories is usually the biggest font of the labeling, but also focus in on the servings per container. If it’s greater than one, this is not a one-time meal. You will be consuming multiple amounts of the listed total fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, and protein if you consume more than one serving or the entire package.
Do a little quick math on how much calories you should have in a day. Try to stay under the number of calories you burn a day through physical activity and metabolism (the resting energy, or basal metabolic rate, needed to keep your body functioning). Go to the Statistics tab within the Health Data section in the DrugLyst app and obtain your Basal Metabolic Rate (your height, weight, age, and gender are required for this number).
As for product ingredients, the more hard-to-pronounce words you find on the list, the more you should consider putting the item back on the shelf. Also, pay attention to the sugars the food product contains, no matter the kind. A 2018 Nutrients article suggests fructose, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and glucose can contribute to subclinical inflammation that lacks signs and symptoms, with not one type of sugar having more of an impact than another. Naturally, when the body has to clear the bloodstream of sugar, it has to work harder such that the process causes inflammation. When this happens over time, this is similar to a very slow progression of damage to the internal organs, including the cardiovascular system, pancreas, liver, and kidney function.
The amount of it that should be limited per day and its alternatives is another topic of discussion for a later time (stay tuned), but recognize that while sugar is sweet, there is a dark side to it when consumed in excessive amounts.
Business Insider, (2016). These 10 companies control everything you buy. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/10-companies-control-the-food-industry-2016-9
Della Corte, K. W., Perrar, I., Penczynski, K. J., Schwingshackl, L., Herder, C., & Buyken, A. E. (2018). Effect of Dietary Sugar Intake on Biomarkers of Subclinical Inflammation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Intervention Studies. Nutrients, 10(5), 606. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/5/606
Tempels, T., Verweij, M., & Blok, V. (2017). Big Food’s Ambivalence: Seeking Profit and Responsibility for Health. American Journal of Public Health, 107(3), 402–406. https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303601