New parents might be shocked by blog posts and magazine articles they read about feeding their babies organic food: “A friend of mine is giving her children non-organic juice drinks; how should I confront her?” These days, the whole food movement might make parents feel like criminals if they don’t stock their kitchens with natural, locally grown (expensive) food. That being said, it makes sense for parents to know exactly what they’re eating when they pick up a gallon of milk or a pound of hamburger. Below are three facts about food and science that may surprise you.
Not all food chemistry is bad
Professor Cesar Fraga, featured in the above article, thinks you need to eat more fruits and vegetables—he even recommends throwing some chocolate into your diet, too. But he’s not a nutritionist: Fraga holds a biological chemistry degree with a focus on using plant-derived polyphenolic compounds against degenerative disorders. In other words, he’s discovering which foods could actually help us live longer. He researches antioxidants and focuses his studies on the way food functions in our bodies, so he can make better guidelines for healthy eating, especially for individuals who are affected by heart disease or cancer.
You’re taking your medicine — whether you like it or not
It’s common knowledge that taking a high level of antibiotics can lead to more resistant strains of bacteria—and it’s best not to take them unless you really need them. But, you know who doesn’t feel that way? Cows. More than 70 percent of the antibiotics produced in this country go to livestock—and that means Americans get a little medication with every bite of red meat they be absorbed by growing vegetables. Even vegans are affected: medications can enter the water supply, get into tap water and absorbed into veggies. So unless a family grows their own vegetables, indoors, with bottled water and moon dirt, chemicals are probably affecting them and the food they eat.
Mad cow isn’t over
The mad cow scares of the past decade frightened millions of Americans. Many people stayed away from hamburger for a while because it seemed like an immediate health risk. But the latest outbreak may leave meat-eaters worried about both health safety and government bureaucracy. The infected beef responsible for the latest incident of mad cow disease definitely went to either a landfill or a restaurant in San Francisco. Infected cows weren’t tracked, so they could have been sick for a long period of time and may have given birth to infected calves. Yet government officials insist that things are probably fine, in keeping with the new “hands-off” food inspection policy.
Throughout the decades, science has made incredible strides toward food safety. But instead of making all-terrain robot dogs, scientists should devote a little of this brainpower to figuring out how to keep our food safe, plentiful and nutritious. It’s not only chemists that can make a difference—engineers can come up with efficient way to check livestock for disease while biologists can figure out how to clean out our polluted water sources. Let’s stand up for better eating through science, or we better get used to eating science’s trash.