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7 Surprising Food Facts You Don’t Know!

By Peter Zhou / July 1, 2017

Thousands of years ago, natural foods were hunted, picked, gathered, and farmed. In modern times, with the advancement of technology and the thirst for higher profit margins, food manufacturers are developing creative ways to manufacture, market, and distribute a variety of foods as cheaply as possible. Some of these methods are ingenious, but they also may have deleterious health effects and unintended consequences.

The following food facts are not meant to scare you into avoiding certain foods, but to create awareness for how some food is made and distributed. The more aware and knowledgeable we are, the more we can make informed decisions about the foods we eat, which fundamentally affects our health and well-being. While not always feasible, supporting organic and locally farmed foods may be ideal for optimal nutrition.

Fact #1: One Beef Patty Can Be Made From Over 1,000 Cows

Originally, burger patties were made from leftover scraps of one cow – slaughtered locally, ground up, then distributed. However, due to an increase in demand, huge slaughterhouses became the primary source of ground beef; they produced ground beef from an amalgam of different cuts from different animals. 1 One tiny patty can have anywhere from fifty-five to over thousand cattle from five different countries.

Fact #2: Orange Juice is Flavored Using Flavor Packs Produced by Fragrance Companies

Most people know that OJ is produced by extracting juice from oranges. What they don’t know is that this juice is then pasteurized and stripped of oxygen, causing it to lose its original flavor, but allowing it to be stored for up to a year. When the juice is ready to be sold, flavor packs are used to give the orange juice back its flavor. 2 These flavor packs are a mix of chemicals that are derived from the oranges. Each company has its own specific chemical mix, explaining why orange juice from one company tastes the same no matter what bottle you open.

Fact #3: Due to Selective Breeding, Chickens Reach Slaughter Size in Half the Time

Contrary to popular belief, it is illegal to give chickens any growth hormones meaning that all chickens and eggs are actually hormone-free.3 However, they’re not exactly all-natural: broilers (chickens raised specifically for meat production) grow to slaughter size in about 6 weeks because they’ve been selectively bred to have very fast growth rates/ high feed conversion ratios (feed consumed/body mass gained). Compared to poultry in the 1950s, the slaughter houses can obtain double the meat in half the time. To give you an idea of this original timeframe, free range or organic chickens take about 12 to 16 weeks to reach slaughter size.4

Fact #4: Soy Was Not Consumed, But Used As Fertilizer In China

Often touted as a health food, this term actually applies only to fermented soy. Originally, the soybean was used as fertilizer in China.5 The Chinese did not consume soy until fermentation techniques were developed and foods such as soy sauce and tempeh were produced. Soybeans are high in phytic acid, which binds to important minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc, preventing the body from absorbing them. Soy also contains goitrogens, substances that reduce thyroid function by interfering with iodine absorption. Furthermore, soybeans contain isoflavones, which are chemicals that are estrogen-like in nature. As if that wasn’t enough, soy is one of the most allergenic foods.6

Fact #5: Whole Corn Consumed By People Is Less Than 1% of All Corn Grown

Corn that we don’t consume is used a feed for livestock (which usually isn’t good for the livestock and the nutritional profile of the meat that is produced) and processed into ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Like HFCS, many ingredients processed from soy are also found in the foods we eat, from condiments to peanut butter even to tuna 7 (check the labels on your tuna cans). Done by analyzing a form of carbon that is found in corn, we’re actually able to determine how much corn is in our diets by testing a strand of our hair. The typical American diet will have 69 percent of the carbon coming from corn! 8

Fact #6: Many Baked Goods Claiming to Contain Fruit Don’t Have Any

Many baked goods and cereals that are believed to contain fruit such as blueberries and pomegranate may not contain any real fruit. People buy these products thinking they are getting the health benefits of consuming the high anti-oxidant fruits when in reality they are only consuming a mixture of corn syrup and food coloring made to resemble the fruits. 9 Manufacturers try to cover this up by listing ingredients such as “blueberry flavored crunchies.” Some products enhance their small amount of actual fruit by adding the concoction of corn syrup and food coloring, which is still far from what they claim to include.

Fact #7: Wood Pulp Has Become A Popular Additive to Foods

Added to many foods as a thickening agent, cellulose gives texture, boosts fiber content, and reduces the need for more expensive ingredients like flour and oil.10 While the cellulose comes from wood, it is the same structure as the cellulose found in foods like celery and just like the cellulose found in vegetables, it serves as a source of dietary fiber.

What do you think of these food facts? Any others you would like to mention that were not included?

Show 10 References

  1. Schlosser, E. Fast Food Nation. New York: Harper Perennial. 2005.
  2. Hamilton, A. Squeezed. Yale University Press. 2009.
  3. Havenstein, G. B., Ferket, P. R., & Qureshi, M. A. Carcass Composition and Yield of 1957 Versus 2001. 2003. Broilers. Poultry Science, 1509-1518.
  4. Poultry Industry Frequently Asked Questions . U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. 2012.
  5. Farr, D. G. Why You Should Avoid Soy . Become Healthy Now. 2004.
  6. Food Allergies . Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. 2009.
  7. Follmer, M. Infographic: 9 Shocking Facts About the Food Industry . 2012.
  8. Gupta, D. S. If we are what we eat, Americans are corn and soy . CNN: PM:HEALTH. 2007.
  9. Roan, S. Fake blueberries abound in food products . LA Times: 2011.
  10. Nassauer, S. > Why Wood Pulp Makes Ice Cream Creamier . The Wall Street Journal. 2007.

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38 Comments

  • Caleb says:

    I just have a question on the soy been article. In lots of protein bars and powders it is common to see soy listed, if it has estrogen like properties why is it in there? Is it different and should I look for a non soy protein powder ?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Caleb - The idea is that soy is in A LOT of products, from fast food burgers to protein bars. Soy is used so widely because it's relatively cheap to produce. I don't think all soy is evil, but over-consumption is probably not a great idea. I learned recently of an interesting fact about how The Israeli health ministry issued an advisory that babies should not get soy formula and that children under 18 should eat soy no more than once a day, three times a week. Adults should exercise caution due to the adverse effects on fertility and increased breast cancer risk. This advisory was created because several babies had life threatening issues with beriberi and brain damage from soy infant formula that was deficient in vitamin B1. We will certainly tackle these specific debates in more detail on certain foods, but for now you can check out this Scientific American article on soy. My guess is the Israeli recommendation on soy consumption is sensible.

  • Lisa says:

    Thanks for sharing this information. I knew all of them but the wood cellulose!! Doesn't surprise me. The unfortunate thing is we as consumers vote with our dollars and the general population continues to put their money into food-like substances....NOT real food. I go to the farmers markets every week...I buy organic or from pesticide/herbicide free farms. When you talk to the farmers you get a feel for what they really believe in. I'm not a vegetarian so only buy certified, grass finished beef and organic...run-around-the-farm chicken. I do buy canned tuna and salmon but buy from Vital Choice who only practice sustainable farming. I don't spend money on "things" but I spend money on good, real food.

    @Julian - For the last 30 years, the citrus industry has used flavor packs to process what the FDA calls "pasteurized" orange juice. That includes top brands such as Tropicana, Minute Maid, Simply Orange and Florida Natural, among others.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Lisa - I agree 100%. I think your comment "we vote with our dollars" is extremely powerful. When I first heard that line said by the CEO of Stonefield in the Food Inc. documentary, it really stuck with me. In my opinion, that's the only real solution to large scale change of the food industry if there is a massive economic shift to more quality, natural foods. Right now, processed foods are cheap and easy to access and money will continue to flow into them. And thanks for helping out Julian with his question!

  • Luke says:

    I'm interested in the one about orange juice as well - especially considering orange juice where the ingredients simply state "orange juice." Do they really all follow the practice you describe?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Luke- Please see my comment to Julian as well as Lisa's comment. The answer appears to be "Yes".

  • Jason says:

    Is Food Fact #3 pointing to a potential health issue or simply a fact to consider? I don't really see any dangers of eating a chicken that was the result of selective breeding.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Jason - It was pointing to a fact to consider.

  • Dr smita parikh says:

    Hi Mark, I learnt about you first from your Dad, who is my colleague . I have enjoyed reading your emails. On a serious note, my 17 year old son is a real "health food freak" but I do not think he eats a balanced diet. He is athletic. works out in gym and plays intense tennis. He is 5'10", weighs 144 ibs. He has lost weight in the last three years as he has reduced carb intake . I wish I could get him in touch with you so you can guide him . He buys some canned protein puddings [30 gms of proteins] , protein bars, etc to give you an idea, for his protein intake.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Dr. smita parikh - thanks for participating and being a newsletter subscriber! I certainly went through a phase when I had protein everything such as protein pudding and certainly protein shakes sometimes 2-3x per day. I think there is a lot of marketing towards these young guys from supplement companies which leads them astray unfortunately. When I go to fitness conferences, all these top models are hired by supplement companies to pitch their products. I guess it's an interesting article topic for another time. I do hope he considers the importance of veggies and also starchy carbs like potatoes as an active adult.

  • Vanessa says:

    So does this mean that you should not drink soy milk if you don't have to?

    I'm not lactose intolerant, but I dislike the taste of skim milk, so have been drinking soy for years as an middle ground substitute between skim/low fat milk and full cream.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Vanessa - After replying to several comments about Soy, it sounds like soy is a quite polarizing topic! As I stated in my question to John and also in response to Calab, in my mind some soy is likely fine, and you can consider almond milk, or coconut milk as a dairy alternative as well.

  • Don Pillay says:

    Hey Marc, this was most educational as always. My family and I have over the years, tried to move away from processed foods etc, but what I am most concerned about is the soy bean facts. I must admit this was the first detailed article I read on this matter, and we do consume a fair amount of soya products, especially on certain days when we are not allowed to consume meat products due to reliogious reasons. My question is, can you or anyone out there recommend natural, vegetarian sources of protein. We have transitioned to legumes, beans, chick peas etc, any other suggestions? Thanks Don

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Don Pillay - I would consider adding Quinoa and nuts/seeds to your list of vegetarian sources of protein. If you are concerned with your protein intake, I've heard Sun Warrior Protein is a pretty solid all natural vegetarian protein powder supplement. I'm not a major fan of protein powders, but thought I would mention it.

  • Ginsling says:

    I suggest if you are interested in the soy 'facts' that are presented here in this article, first read the reference, which is actually a cut and paste of another article (but posted to the website cited here as the reference and without acknowledgement at that website of the source) which does not list its references.

    These supposed 'facts' regarding soy have been debunked at some point in time or another - and the original source of these so-called facts is none other than a meat-industry sponsored organisation. No, I"m not going to name it here because I have no desire to drive traffic to its website.

    Please review Pub-Med for articles on soy nutrition, and please check who has paid for the research to be done.

    Disclaimer - long term vegan/vegetarian elite athlete who eats generous quantities of soy, as well as other legumes, in non-fermented forms. I also lived in a number of countries in Asia for many years and can attest to the quantities of soy, and smaller quantities of meat that constitute the traditional diets of Asian people.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Ginsling - Peter did not "cut and paste" from the article, and the only part of the article he referenced was the fact about soy consumption in China, which is accurate. Check out the Wikipedia reference on Soybean right here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soybean which corroborates the information Peter included in the article. Finally, one of the research studies that Wikipedia references states the following, which is in line with it's history of being utilized as a fertilizer:

      "For human consumption, soybeans must be cooked with "wet" heat to destroy the trypsin inhibitors (serine protease inhibitors). Raw soybeans, including the immature green form, are toxic to humans, swine, chickens, and in fact, all monogastric animals." - Circle, Sidney Joseph; Smith, Allan H. (1972). Soybeans: Chemistry and Technology. Westport, CT: Avi Publishing. pp. 104, 163. ISBN 0-87055-111-6.

      This is all this article was stating, that soybeans ideally should be fermented to be considered a health food. The issue is really over-consumption of soy, which may lead to problems. I think it's worth exploring the topic of soy in another article to offer both sides of the story in a balanced way.

  • Victoria Navarro says:

    Great article! I've come across a good portion of the info through personal research. However, your content is always so well put together and concise that it's a pleasure reading about new facts and refreshing on the old. Thank you!

    Please keep up the good work. You guys are the best weekly subscription by far!

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Victoria Navarro - Thanks! That means A LOT! We are working VERY hard to continue bringing you helpful articles and videos!

  • Marc Drake says:

    Fantastic article, my sister send this to me and I was completely blown away. I really appreciate the information that you shared.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Thanks, Marc for the kind words!

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