5 Ways That Technology Is Ruining Our Food

Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on October 15, 2009 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Blog

These days everyone is trying to eat right by eating presumably healthier foods. In an attempt to get the most nutrients out of our food, we have allowed technology to dictate how we should be preparing and saving our food. But is the way in which our food is prepared really that much healthier for us?

1. Irradiation

This technology has been around since the beginning of the 20th century, when scientists were awarded a patent to use radiation to kill bacteria hiding in food. Now it is a widely used preservation process and currently the FDA has approved it for use on iceberg lettuce and spinach in an effort to prevent E. coli.

Using irradiation to preserve food is a cheap way to prevent spoilage whilst also allowing the produce to travel longer distances. It uses electron radiation, similar to that created by X-ray machines, just at a more powerful strength. However, when our food is exposed to this radiation, any insects, viruses, microbes and other pathogens are immediately destroyed, whilst the actual food itself remains non-radioactive.

Although most food companies are claiming that the irradiation is safe, the Center for Food Safety, has conducted research that indicates otherwise: Irradiation decreases the nutritional content of foods, such as 80% of Vitamin A found in Eggs and 95% of Lutein found in Green Beans.

The Organic Consumers Association has found that new compounds, such as carcinogens like benzene and toluene, are being created in foods that have been preserved via irradiation. These destroy healthy cells and have been known to cause gene mutations.

Currently, only whole, unprocessed foods are labeled that they have been processed via irradiation. However, proposed regulations are in the works to demand that all “materially changed” foods be labeled; and labels should state “cold pasteurized” or “electronically pasteurized” rather than the use of the word irradiation.

2. Microwave

Every household in the USA has a microwave because it is a simple and quick way to heat up leftovers or to cook food in as well. Microwaves work by using fast moving particles to radiate the water contained inside the food to boiling point. However, microwaving food is not that great!

A study, conducted by Spanish researchers and published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, discovered that microwaving food actually destroys the nutrients in vegetables. For example, when microwaved, Broccoli lost 97% of its flavonoids, 74% of its sinapics and 87% of its caffeoyl-quinic derivatives – all three are antioxidants that protect us from cancer. Steamed Broccoli, on the other hand, only lost 11%, 0% and 8% of these antioxidants respectively.

When microwaving, opt for the lowest setting to heat up foods or use a toaster oven instead.

3. Freezing Food

The main element in fresh food is water, which makes up about 50 to 90% of the food’s total weight. In order to maintain this water level, and temporarily halt the grown of potentially harmful bacteria and microorganisms, the food is frozen.

Whilst the actual process of freezing is not harmful to the food, it is best done right after harvesting. Fruits and vegetables start to lose their nutritional value soon after being picked, especially when they are kept at room temperature or above.

Another negative side effect of freezing is that food that has been frozen and is stored for long periods of time will eventually start to lose its vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins B and C. When storing frozen food, always write the date of storage on the label and through it out if it is too old.

4. Dried Food

Drying food entails removing the water content and dehydrating it. When drying fruits there are certain vitamins and that are easily destroyed, such as Vitamin C. Therefore it is best to eat fresh fruit than dried fruit.

Even though eating dried food still has its nutritional benefit, you will actually eat more dried food than you would if you were eating its fresh counterpart, e.g. instead of eating a whole apple, you may eat 7 to 8 pieces of the dried fruit instead.

5. Organic

Whilst organic foods may seem expensive now, think about how much nutritional content you are losing by purchasing and eating cheaper, commercially produced foods, as organically grown foods have a higher percentage of antioxidants. Commercially grown foods have pesticides sprayed on them that have been linked to certain cancers.

Apples, bell peppers, carrots, celery, cherries, imported grapes, kale, lettuce, nectarines, peaches, pears, and strawberries have all tested the worst for pesticides, so purchase organic instead.

Those produce items that have the least amount of pesticides are avocados, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples, sweet corn, sweet peas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and watermelon.

Photo Credit: Mike Licht,

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Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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