The 'Natural Foods' Dilemma
The term “natural foods” on packaging implies a minimally-processed product made from natural ingredients. However, this isn’t always the case and confusion arises when the word on the packaging doesn’t always mean what it says. In this country, manufacturers can label their food products as being natural when in fact it may be packed full of additives, flavour enhancers, preservatives, sugar substitutes and other chemical additions.
The one who is disadvantaged is, of course, the health-conscious shopper who instinctively thinks “natural” means exactly as it says. One glance around your local supermarket would see the description many times on packaging lining the shelves. Are the products made from 100 per cent natural ingredients? Or is the natural element just a small percentage of the product?
The lack of clarity is not just an Australian problem. A lack of clear food labelling means many food companies around the world can market their foods as being natural, when in fact they have been highly processed.
A look at processed foods
Processed foods have been linked in scientific studies with an explosion in obesity rates (and associated health problems). However, we need to be clear when we talk about processing. All foods are processed in some form or another: oranges picked from trees, for example, pulses stripped from legume plants, potatoes dug from the ground and transported to the market. It’s important to distinguish between mechanical and chemical processing.
Chemical processing is the controversial methods used to change the basic structure of natural foods or to — in many cases — completely alter them from their original states. Many chemical additives have been used to perform a range of tasks including preserving, enhancing flavour, adding sweetness, hiding odours and much more. Such is the extent of processing that reading an ingredients label for many processed foods is a bit like sitting a chemistry test! Unravelling the chemical additives though, is essential to knowing how heavily an item has been chemically processed.
More information on how to understand the additives in food can be found here.
After a lifetime of studying the food industry, Michael Pollan, US-based food writer, author and journalist says the answer is to keep it simple, eat only natural food. In his breakout book “In Defense of Food”, Pollan advises us to steer clear of processed foods. In other words, “don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,” he states succinctly.
Where we stand
The Syndian alternative is to put people and their health first. Our way is to provide our customers with the best quality foods for a vegan diet. We only sell non-GMO foods that are (as much as possible) organic in origin. One of the best ways to highlight our commitment to natural excellence is to examine the ingredients of a couple of our products.
Ingredients: Chickpea, Fava Bean, Potato, Rice Bran Oil, Fresh Coriander, Fresh Garlic, Cumin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Fresh Parsley, Salt, Cinnamon, Fenugreek.
Ingredients: Chickpea (65%), Sesame Seed Paste, Water, Fresh Garlic, Salt, Citric Acid (330).
At Syndian we mean it when we say natural. We believe in providing the very finest in food products for our customers. We start by sourcing the best quality GMO-free ingredients. To achieve this we reject the use of additives, supplements, enhancers, emulsifiers, flavourings, binders, preservatives colouring or boosters for flavour enhancement. We believe that it is important to rely on natural ingredients to create the flavour and natural processes to give texture and shape to our signature range of foods.
We consider that imitating flavour using chemical additives is wrong. Not only does it attempt to imitate the way nature puts flavour in our food but it is also unhealthy. Our bodies are not designed to digest chemicals. On the contrary, our whole ethos is driven by a determination to provide our customers with the finest natural foods, that is, as nature intended.
While all foods are processed to some extent, it is the minimal processing and handling that we look for as the basis of our products, now available throughout the world.
We mean it when we say our food is “natural”.