The American supermarket: a true marvel of modern industry. Walking through those automatic doors into a climate controlled wonder of food and flowers and sometimes you can even have your espresso made for you on your way in. Aisles upon aisles of any kind of food you could possibly imagine. Craving Jambalaya? There’s a box right on the shelf. Want white chocolate macadamia nut cookies? You’ll be able to choose from six varieties. And we can’t forget about two solid aisles of frozen foods where any type of cuisine or dish is already made and packaged up for you to re-heat. No need to cook anymore. Who has the time? Anything you want can be found packaged, boxed, or canned. So what exactly is the price of all this convenience? Your health!
Food n. Material, usually of plant or animal origin, that contains or consists of essential body nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals, and is ingested and assimilated by an organism to produce energy, stimulate growth, and maintain life.
How many items in the grocery store fit this definition? Do the nacho flavored chips provide essential nutrients and maintain life? Does the cream-filled coffee cake provide essential vitamins or minerals? At least 75% of the items in a standard grocery store cannot hold up to this definition. They are heavily processed with sugar, food preservatives, dyes, and chemicals all to make the production cheaper and the shelf life longer. Then once all the natural vitamins, healthy fats, and natural fiber have been processed out, they replace them with cheaper, artificial forms (that, by the way, cannot be utilized or absorbed by the body as easily). Food is a business, just like any other industry. If the manufacturers can make it cheaper, make it taste good, and it doesn’t make you immediately sick then that’s what they will do. They try to convince you that their candy bar is actually healthy because it has 50% of your daily fiber in it, but don’t look at the ingredient list! Those light flavored yogurts are only 100 calories and it’s been drilled into our heads for decades that they are good for us; yet turn that little cup around and find out how much sugar, artificial flavorings, and dyes they have added to it. Or that a chocolate flavored, sugar coated wheat cereal will help your child focus in school. Many food manufacturers lure us with promises of health, weight loss, a lower grocery bill, a combo of fat and sugar that only makes us crave it more, and probably the worst promise of all: that what we are consuming qualifies as food.
But, you might be saying to yourself, that’s not the supermarkets fault. It’s just supply and demand. True. We, as Americans, need to start educating ourselves and our friends and family. We need to become detectives when grocery shopping. We need to demand that our stores carry items that are whole foods and free of chemicals. The dollar is the most powerful vote we have. If you spend money on something, that is a vote to keep that item on the shelf. Yet, that is where the other problem with the American supermarket comes in. Prices of the healthier foods seem to always be more. How is it that the produce in the supermarket costs more than the small local market down the street? Or that a 4-pack of veggie burgers at the supermarket cost over $5.00, yet at Trader Joe’s the same brand only costs $3.29.? Don’t these big chains have more buying power and therefore can get food at a lower price? If you’re on a budget and there’s only one choice to shop where you live, you become almost forced to buy the processed, cheap food.
If you’ve ever wondered why as a country over 60% of us are overweight, look no further than your local supermarket. A plethora of cheap “food” that only leads to weight gain, food addiction, malnutrition and depression. Next time you’re in the supermarket, take a look in your cart. How many items are you about to buy that contain added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil, artificial sweeteners, food dyes, or an ingredient that you cannot pronounce or identify?