My sister recently told me about a friend of hers who was traumatized by a recipe that included a packet of dry Italian dressing seasoning because it contained “chemicals”.  There seems to be a societal trend for prejudice against chemicals.  I find it a bit strange that people have this rose-colored view of what the world would be like without chemicals (and without technology which they also perceive as uniformly bad —but that’s another story).  I realize that some chemicals are toxic in large doses and maybe if I had young children with developing brains I would be a little more careful about washing off the trace amounts of pesticides from their apples and pears ( ).  But for me, trace toxins are not a big deal, I certainly prefer toxins to worms!  I have been eating fruits and vegetables with trace amounts of pesticides my whole life and I seem to have turned out ok.  I looked at the ingredients in the offending Italian dressing packet and the only two ingredients that weren’t herbs/salt were maltodextrin (sugar/ food stabilizer/enhancer) and xanthan gum (emulsifier and stabilizer) .  These are extremely common food additives and most food additives are completely non-toxic.  Of course there are some food additives that it would probably good to avoid

The thing that worries me is that highly educated people have this misguided notion that anything natural is good for you and that anything man-made is bad.  The reality is that how a chemical was synthesized has nothing to do with its potential toxicity except perhaps that natural vitamins and foods are not pure and therefore are more likely to contain unknown chemicals mixed in with the known chemicals.  I remember learning in a toxicology class that when you grow vegetables without pesticides, natural selection helps them to build up their own natural toxins to ward off pests.  It you want to avoid chemicals in your diet, it seems to me that it would be a good idea to do a little research and learn which ones are toxic and which ones are not.  Most of the nastiest toxins known to man are created by nature.

A friend of mine who happens to be a chemist made a comment about milk that was even more bizarre than the comment made by the person who was traumatized by the Italian dressing packet.  She said that she avoids milk because it’s acidic (as she sipped her wine).  I’ve heard this concept of avoiding acidic foods before and I’d love to know who started this whole ‘acidic foods are bad’ idea.  I looked up the acidity (pH) of milk and it was something like 6.8, which is pretty darn close to neutral (7).  If you’re worried about acids, don’t drink orange juice and lemonade, but milk?  Better yet, go ahead and drink the orange juice.  Then, if you think you might get indigestion, take an antacid.  The irony to me is that the pH of our stomachs is extremely acidic, so when you add something less acidic than your stomach (even orange juice, lemons and vinegar are less acidic than your stomach) you are essentially making your stomach less acidic than it already is.  Besides our stomach and kidneys work very well together to regulate the acidity of our bodies extremely efficiently.  You would really have to do something drastic like eat a handful of aspirin or vomit for 3 days in order to alter the pH of your body.  Why people make up reasons to avoid a food or drink that doesn’t cause them any problems is a mystery to me.  My theory is that they make excuses for foods they don’t like and then completely ignore potential toxins in foods that they do like.  I have another friend who insists that milk is bad for you because 60% (I don’t remember her exact number) of the world is lactose intolerant.  Why would I care if you’re lactose intolerant?  I’m not lactose intolerant.  I like milk and milk likes me.  If milk doesn’t like you, feel free to avoid it but leave me alone.

I think a food scientist and a toxicologist should get together and start a blog about the benefits and dangers of both natural and man-made “chemicals” in food.  Maybe they could help people get over their irrational food phobias.

Comment:  I included the links because they seemed reasonably informative, I didn’t really look at them carefully enough to decide how accurate they might be.


Toby and Tiger

Toby’s having trouble sleeping, she’s tossing and turning and making it difficult for Tiger to fall asleep.  Finally, to Tigers relief, she leaves the bedroom to read on the couch for a while.  Now Tiger is finding it difficult to sleep with Toby gone.  Finally, several hours later, Toby returns to the bedroom.  Just a few minutes later, Tiger is finally able to doze off…

Toby:  What was in that second bedroom on Maple Avenue? (Toby’s house as a child— Tiger was there once, maybe twice or so to pick up Toby for a date, this was more than 50 years ago)

Tiger:  I don’t know, probably nothing.  pause.  You know you don’t have to share every thought that comes into your head.

Silence.  One, maybe two minutes later when Tiger is finally starting to drift off again…

Toby:  You could share every thought you have and still have nothing to say.

Did I get this about right Toby?