As I sit down to a fine dinner at Rancho La Puerta's organic farm kitchen, I'm about to enjoy several varieties of kale sautéed in olive oil by chef Denise Roa (above). I appreciate that the leaves were attached only minutes ago to complete, healthy plants growing in the soil near the kitchen. Actually, this has been the case for thousands of dinners I’ve eaten at the fitness resort I co-founded in Baja California, Mexico.
After that quick trip from garden to kitchen, the kale leaves’ “aliveness” still seems palpable. I know I’m receiving nearly the maximum nutritional benefit from this dish. I would call the kale rather “natural,” wouldn’t you? Of course. So why is the definition of “natural” such a hot topic lately?
Just this month the FDA is requesting comments on the use of the term on food labeling. Here is the FDA’s own “request for information and comments:”
Because of the changing landscape of food ingredients and production, and in direct response to consumers who have requested that the FDA explore the use of the term “natural,” the agency is asking the public to provide information and comments on the use of this term in the labeling of human food products.
What does “natural” mean to me? I think of a natural living force in plants—especially when it’s time to choose the source of my plant-based diet. Aristotle (384-322BC) referred to the living force of all living things as the “soul,” but not in the way theology often tries to reassure us of some form of immortality or essence. To Aristotle, the living force (or soul)...
...gives form to the “matter” of living creatures, and it exists only in relation to them. Whatever it is, Aristotle realized that it is restricted to what is alive and that its form varies with the complexity of the organism.”(“Science as a Way of Knowing: The Foundations of Modern Biology,” by John Alexander Moore, 1993, Harvard University Press.)
The key phrase here is “...restricted to what is alive,” or, in the case of plants, as close to alive as possible by being fresh-picked, unprocessed, quickly eaten.
I doubt whether the living force survives very long, or at all, in food that has been processed and manufactured in factories via machines, combined with numerous organic and inorganic agents, vacuum-sealed...whichever of the tens of thousands of ways ingenious mankind has come up with to destroy the aliveness in food in the pursuit of convenience, long-term storage, defying the seasons, and shipping it globally.
Next week Wellness Warrior will launch an easy way for YOU to comment on the FDA’s request for help in defining the term “natural.” I’ll draft a letter and ask you to sign on (or use it to write your own—we’ll make it easy). I have my own opinion, of course, and to sum it all up: if it has a label with more than one ingredient listed, then it ain’t natural!
In the meantime, here’s a humorous video that spoofs the whole “UN-natural” way labels help sell foods today. Enjoy