Not long ago I finished reading the book Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss. It's all about how the food industry, the processed food industry, uses these three simple ingredients along with tricky marketing to make people crave their products. Food products are scientifically, mathematically, and industrially engineered according to psychological and physiological responses in consumers. Not just for taste but for texture, shape, and color.
I am kind of a food snob who shops mainly at Whole Foods for mainly raw ingredients. I read labels and rarely drinks soda. Even snobby me was shocked by the trade secrets revealed in this book. Like the fact that just 1 1/2 Fig Newtons has the same amount of sugar as a can of Coke or a Twinkie. ("I eat Fig Newtons by the sleeve!")
Part of the story in this book is that food ingredients are always in flux...whatever the current health trend is the food scientists can reduce one ingredient "Now with less sugar!" When an industry is subsidized by the government (beef, cheese, corn) and tons of excess is created, food scientists create new products and ingredients to get rid of it (cheese stuffed crust 4-cheese pizza). The massive byproducts of the greek yogurt fad are the next challenge...
Really anything pre-made is processed. Because of time, pleasure, and in some cases money, I won't stop buying small amounts of processed foods (crackers, bread, some yogurt, ice cream)...but I've definitely become that much more cynical about ALL food in packages, especially from large companies. And I'm looking at labels that much more carefully. I know I'm getting a bit preachy here, but there's just so much going on behind the scenes that we regular folk are clueless about. And I'm sure secrets abound in the "healthy" food world too (have you read the label on a Clif Bar!?) There's a lot to talk about in this book. I'm not saying don't ever have a treat or grab a bag of chips with your sandwich (just like the chip people want you to!), I just think everyone should make informed decisions of their own free will. And I want my family and friends to be healthy.
Read this book! Be amazed!