A recent article by celebrity chef and author Mark Bittman claims processed foods have taken over and left most consumers “lost in the supermarket” without a map to navigate the maze of enticing but potentially destructive choices. He cites the work of journalist Melanie Warner who asks an essential question that food manufactures, as well as the USDA, neglect when allowing new “foods” into the the market:

“The big question is this: ‘What happens when you manipulate food, take it apart and put it back together again, all the while adding new or altered ingredients?’”

The decisions to introduce high fructose corn syrup and palm oil into the United States food system in the 1970’s were political and economic. No one asked, “How will this impact metabolic functioning? Will the human body recognize and process these effectively? Is there any potential harm?” We now know that the consumption of these two products have played a major role in our nation’s health crisis.

Investigations into Warner’s question indicate that our bodies don’t metabolize processed foods the same way as whole foods. They also play a role in activating chronic inflammation in the body which is the root cause of many diseases.

The solution for the lost in the supermarket haze is to shop the perimeters where whole foods are sold. Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid is an excellent visual resource to post on your refrigerator and pack with you when you go shopping.

Rather than focusing on what not to eat, or what foods to avoid, use the pyramid to begin adding in new veggies and fruits. Start small. Try one new food item at a time. If it needs to be cooked, look up a recipe before you go shopping and plan ahead for when you will cook it.

This week I’m experimenting with the fava beans from our garden. I tried a few recipes with last year’s harvest but wasn’t impressed. But with the internet I have hundreds of options available. So, I’ll try again and hope I find something more satisfying this year.

Here’s to going slowly, taking small steps, and shopping the perimeter.