Here in the new year, millions of Americans will try to cut back on sugar or drop it altogether. It’s a noble effort because sugar is devoid of nutrients, except for calories, which it has in spades.
Quick fact: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports each of us consumes 31 five-pound bags of sugar a year. That’s 267,840 empty calories from sugar alone. Still, people will be jonesing for something sweet to eat. Enter: monk fruit.
Traditionally, people used zero-calorie sweeteners to satisfy their sugar cravings at no caloric cost. Synthetic sugar substitutes, including aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda) and others, are added at the table but are mostly taken as carbonated diet drinks and low calorie foods. But consumption of those foods has taken a nosedive as of late as health conscious consumers flock to natural sweeteners. Stevia, the zero-calorie herb extract, is gaining appeal, but monk fruit is the real one to watch. (more…)
We have a lot of drama surrounding our food more so now than ever before. The news is littered with talk of pink slime, GMOs, organic, hormone-free, and local. And this is just the start of all the details we get caught up in regarding what we eat.
While these are serious issues to consider, a little perspective makes me happy that these are my most common food concerns. In China, people deal with so many issues of contamination and unsanitary cooking conditions that they have gone so far as to raise McDonald’s on a pedestal. In fact, the Chinese see McDonald’s as a trusted, safe and healthy food option.
Shaun Rein is the founder of China Market Research, and recently spoke to NPR about this perspective contrast. In America, McDonald’s really gets a bad rap. We blame them on contributing to childhood and adult obesity. We accuse them of using highly processed “nearly meat” products. All around, Americans tend to believe McDonald’s is unhealthy. But that’s not the case in China; not at all. The Chinese trust the American and Western brands far more than their own and feel that they are safest. (more…)
Processed foods have been taken to an entirely new level in the Chinese town of Taiyuan. It seems that a mad scientist-like blend of potatoes and plastic resin is being used to create a synthetic rice. The fake rice is created by forming potatoes and sweet potatoes into the shape of a grain of rice and then covering it in industrial resins. Very Vietnam says, “eating three bowls of this fake rice would be like eating one plastic bag.” Just a few of the words that come to mind: inhumane, unjust, intolerable.
An investigation of the companies suspected of producing the fake rice is expected but until then, their profit margins are climbing higher and higher. Consumption of the fake rice may have highly dangerous effects but the cost is so tremendously low that it continues to sell.
Despite a burgeoning economy, food safety problems continue to plague Chinese markets. Dairy products, wine, bean curd, rice noodles, mushrooms and cooking oil have all recently presented problems, leading more and more Chinese consumers to join and start collective organic farms. These farms operate under the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model we are familiar with in the states, regularly delivering members fresh, seasonal produce.
Although the Chinese government has promised more transparency, better inspections and harsher penalties for violations, 70 percent of citizens still feel insecure about food safety. Even some government agencies have turned to growing their own food to avoid problems.