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  • A Food Scientist?! In My Forum?!

    It's more likely than you think.

    Greetings, salutations, et cetera, et al. I come to this community in a rather unique and unenviable position: I am a food chemist, specifically a second-semester Master's student in Food Science at Iowa State University, and I came to this funny old thing called Primal eating through a link to Tom Naughton's Fat Head through a link on a blog that I follow early in January. I decided to put the concepts to the test and modified my diet the very little that was required to go completely gluten, sugar, and grain-free for two weeks. For me, this was not difficult, as my diet tended towards the French and whole foods paradigms already. However, in that two weeks, I was quite frankly amazed at the results. I lost a persistent "scientist pudge" around the middle that the lab coat usually hides and am well on my way to a physique I never thought possible for willowy me. I have never been "unhealthy" in the eyes of the world, but in those two weeks I read widely on the topic of ancestral health, including Wheat Belly and Gary Taubes' seminal Good Carbs, Bad Carbs, and I realized that my diet, all cooked from my hands though it was, had made me feel a low-grade sort of tired all of the time. I managed to deduce that likely my entire family suffers from an undiagnosed gluten intolerance, myself included. I'm now convinced that I lost my appendix back in September due to the chronic inflammation from all of the bread that I was baking for myself after I moved to Iowa for school. I lost an organ to grains and the pervading conventional wisdom, and that, frankly, makes me mad enough to spit.

    I've never felt finer in my life following the very simple, sensible rules that Primal entails. The logic of it all makes sense; the results are real; the chemistry is undeniable, and that is the sweetest thing of all. The only problem is my profession. One must make a living, but as I am on a track to becoming a product development scientist in a food corporation with my chemistry and culinary background, I find myself often wondering what to make of my life with what I now know. For years, I saw my mother's friends and my own friends all around me thinking that they were doing the right thing by swapping out steaks for celery stalks, or butter and olive oil for nothing at all, all the while my own family glowed with health from our fatty diet. We were close to the truth, but now that I am equipped with the real knowledge of the biochemistry involved, I find myself a stranger in a strange land. Is it possible to make primal-friendly foodstuffs? Does such a market even (or yet) exist? Watch me as I try to work out the answers!
    I'm a food scientist by trade, a writer and a cook by hobby, and stranded in the Midwest by choice.

    The best thing about the Internet is that you can't be sure I'm not a unicorn.

  • #2
    Welcome! Yes, the whole foods movement and local eating craze is on full upswing right now. The market is ripe for Primal eateries and foodstuffs. People are finally willing to pay more for actual food. You are in no way obligated to follow bad science or feed the machine that made you. You can help change the tides.
    Crohn's, doing SCD

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    • #3
      Wow, and welcome! I will say that for me, "food scientist" (meaning you find ways to make frozen dinners taste better through chemistry, right?) and Primal / Paleo are incompatible, assuming you've got a conscience. The more "primal" I get, the less I make use of the services of a "food scientist" or the products he creates. Actually Stephan Guyenet of the Whole Health Source blog has a number of pretty convincing pieces up that blame "palatability" - basically overloading our senses with certain salty and sweet flavors and textures - for the obesity epidemic and not carbs. In other words, "flavorists" and food scientists create processed foods designed to be addictive and to overload our satiety impulses and this is what really makes the country unhealthy. It might be worth reading up on those ideas before you graduate. Good luck to you and I don't mean this to sound confrontational, though I suppose it is. Welcome, though, in any case. Hope you stick around!
      BTW Robb Wolf has a whole line of frozen "paleo" dinners you should have a look at. My opinion (actual whole foods is a key part of the recipe) is just my opinion.
      If you are new to the PB - please ignore ALL of this stuff, until you've read the book, or at least http://www.marksdailyapple.com/primal-blueprint-101/ and this (personal fave): http://www.archevore.com/get-started/

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      • #4
        Glad you found us! I'm not one, but there seems to be a higher percentage of scientists and closet nerds here. Really a pretty cool place to be.
        Durp.

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        • #5
          Thank you for the welcome, both of you. I'll quickly respond to a question raised in a post above.

          Wow, and welcome! I will say that for me, "food scientist" (meaning you find ways to make frozen dinners taste better through chemistry, right?) and Primal / Paleo are incompatible, assuming you've got a conscience. The more "primal" I get, the less I make use of the services of a "food scientist" or the products he creates. Actually Stephan Guyenet of the Whole Health Source blog has a number of pretty convincing pieces up that blame "palatability" - basically overloading our senses with certain salty and sweet flavors and textures - for the obesity epidemic and not carbs. In other words, "flavorists" and food scientists create processed foods designed to be addictive and to overload our satiety impulses and this is what really makes the country unhealthy. It might be worth reading up on those ideas before you graduate. Good luck to you and I don't mean this to sound confrontational, though I suppose it is. Welcome, though, in any case. Hope you stick around!
          BTW Robb Wolf has a whole line of frozen "paleo" dinners you should have a look at. My opinion (actual whole foods is a key part of the recipe) is just my opinion.
          Let me be the first to assure you; I'm no flavourist. I have had the opportunity to dip my finger into quite a few different projects in the short time I have been here, including a project on the chokeberry/aronia berry that many in the primal community would do well to look into for its beneficent character. My present research actually concerns the mechanism of cellulose solubilization, which isn't even food-related! On the whole, though, I am a chemist first and a food scientist second. If I can bring that experience to bear and benefit the health of people through even small ways, such as finding ways to better preserve nutritive values of minimally-processed foods, then I will consider my conscience quieted. Also, I believe the term you are looking for is "hyperpalatability", a concept with which I am well-familiar. Put me into a kitchen and I can create any number of different foods and textures that fulfill the window of hyperpalatability. People make too much of this concept. Foods are not designed to be addictive; they are designed to taste good to a consumer panel after being confirmed by statistical analysis. It just so happens that the key window of hyperpalatability happens to fall within most consumers' highest liking scores for many products.

          As for me? Never touched the stuff, even before the experiment that started all this. Too salty, too sweet, or both. I'm very grateful for having parents that exposed me to a wide variety of food early on, which I think is key for developing a palate that delights in wholesome, whole foods later in life, rather than processed food, the majority of which is honestly dreck.
          I'm a food scientist by trade, a writer and a cook by hobby, and stranded in the Midwest by choice.

          The best thing about the Internet is that you can't be sure I'm not a unicorn.

          Comment


          • #6
            Welcome!
            I think it's rather cool to have a food scientist (not exactly sure what that is) on this forum. RitaRose is spot on about there being loads of scientifically minded folk on here. I personally seem to be either missing the science gene, or it is turned off. Perhaps there is a nutritional way to turn it back on!! ???

            Still, you are probably stuffed full of fascinating information which i hope you won't mind sharing! The fact that you have found, and realized the sense of, Primal living gives me a boost too

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Alainneire View Post
              Welcome!
              I think it's rather cool to have a food scientist (not exactly sure what that is) on this forum. RitaRose is spot on about there being loads of scientifically minded folk on here. I personally seem to be either missing the science gene, or it is turned off. Perhaps there is a nutritional way to turn it back on!! ???

              Still, you are probably stuffed full of fascinating information which i hope you won't mind sharing! The fact that you have found, and realized the sense of, Primal living gives me a boost too
              Thank you, and I certainly don't mind sharing knowledge! Generally, those of us in this line of work are happy to help foster understanding in whatever ways that we can. As for what a food scientist is... I would say a chemist that works with food, but that might be a biased answer. We deal with food on a molecular level, whether through characterization or manipulation. For example, the laboratory I work in does a great deal of research on resistant starch, specifically Resistant Starch Type V, which is essentially long, straight glucose chains complexed with a straight-chain (saturated) fatty acid. The complex is more stable than starch would be on its own and thusly inhibits the action of the digestive enzymes, thereby making a type of dietary fibre that is fermented in the colon or excreted in the faeces. A food scientist of the chemist's persuasion would synthesize this material in bulk and perform the experiments that show exactly how stable that resistant starch complex is. Does that clarify the matter?
              I'm a food scientist by trade, a writer and a cook by hobby, and stranded in the Midwest by choice.

              The best thing about the Internet is that you can't be sure I'm not a unicorn.

              Comment


              • #8
                All very interesting stuff! Thanks for taking my post in the spirit in which it was intended. I think my main "thing" is - food is healthier if NOT messed with, in almost any instance I can think of. I mean, if you "prepare a treatment" for a food to preserve its nutritious value, doesn't that generally mean spraying it with something odd and under-researched? I just cannot think of many, if any, ways in which modern science has made "actual food" healthier as opposed to merely microwavable, cannable, sweet tasting yet containing no sugar, etc. What do you do to a squash and a steak which make them better for me, and how do you know it's better?
                Which makes me a skeptic or just a luddite. I guess I'm viewing your field as "food engineering" and maybe that's a misinterpretation.
                If you are new to the PB - please ignore ALL of this stuff, until you've read the book, or at least http://www.marksdailyapple.com/primal-blueprint-101/ and this (personal fave): http://www.archevore.com/get-started/

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by tfarny View Post
                  All very interesting stuff! Thanks for taking my post in the spirit in which it was intended. I think my main "thing" is - food is healthier if NOT messed with, in almost any instance I can think of. I mean, if you "prepare a treatment" for a food to preserve its nutritious value, doesn't that generally mean spraying it with something odd and under-researched? I just cannot think of many, if any, ways in which modern science has made "actual food" healthier as opposed to merely microwavable, cannable, sweet tasting yet containing no sugar, etc. What do you do to a squash and a steak which make them better for me, and how do you know it's better?
                  Which makes me a skeptic or just a luddite. I guess I'm viewing your field as "food engineering" and maybe that's a misinterpretation.
                  We can't make food any healthier than it comes out of the ground. Any scientist that tells you otherwise is deep in someone's pocket. We can protect against spoilage, and we can inactivate endogenous enzymes that would otherwise be deletrious to food quality. Traditionally, this has been accomplished through thermal processing (e.g. canning), but anyone who has had a can of green beans will know that there is much tragically lost in the transformation of this food. One recent method to destroy microbes without subjecting a foodstuff to a thermal heat treatment is high-pressure processing, which is often used in deli meats. In this process, high hydrostatic pressure (i.e. a whole lot of water) is brought down to bear upon a package, literally crushing microbes on the surface of the food to death. This process has the advantage of having essentially no effect on heat-sensitive nutrients.

                  I do think that you view my profession as trying to supersede nature. We are not; I, for one, and most of my colleagues simply wish to understand food, what makes it healthy, and how we can get the word out into the community. If I did not love food, I would be working for Pfizer or another pharmaceutical giant with a degree in organic synthesis. One does have to take the good with the bad, and sometimes that means going along with the government line to get the funding for more research. Don't bite the hand that feeds, and all that. Still, it's worth it in the end to work in what is probably one of the most rewarding jobs in all of science.
                  I'm a food scientist by trade, a writer and a cook by hobby, and stranded in the Midwest by choice.

                  The best thing about the Internet is that you can't be sure I'm not a unicorn.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'm very glad to have you in the tribe, specifically on the forum!
                    Lifting Journal

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                    • #11
                      Welcome - looking forward to hearing more from you.
                      F 5 ft 3. HW: 196 lbs. Primal SW (May 2011): 182 lbs (42% BF)... W June '12: 160 lbs (29% BF) (UK size 12, US size 8). GW: ~24% BF - have ditched the scales til I fit into a pair of UK size 10 bootcut jeans. Currently aligning towards 'The Perfect Health Diet' having swapped some fat for potatoes.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        From one Iowan to another welcome. I just started about a week and a half ago, and I must say, Iowans love their corn and grains. The looks I get from many people when I refuse anything grain related is one of perplexity. It's almost as if I just cost a farmer his yearly income. I find it so much easier for me to just say I have a gluten intolerance (which I slightly do) and that seems to tide people over. LOL.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by boarderbabe13 View Post
                          From one Iowan to another welcome. I just started about a week and a half ago, and I must say, Iowans love their corn and grains. The looks I get from many people when I refuse anything grain related is one of perplexity. It's almost as if I just cost a farmer his yearly income. I find it so much easier for me to just say I have a gluten intolerance (which I slightly do) and that seems to tide people over. LOL.
                          Thank you for the welcome, from one Iowan to another! I must say that when I came here, I found that I was inheriting a very different food culture from the one I left. I live at the intersection of the nigh-stereotypical Midwestern diet, which is stuffed with grains and occasionally heartbreakingly bland, and a very large Chinese community due to the draw of the university. I've already learned a goodly amount from the latter by eating at professor's homes, but I have observed many of the international students with whom I work and study change their diets from living so deep in the heartland develop noticeable changes in health and appearance, such as the onset of pervasive facial acne. Sad, really. On the other hand, I've taken classical French desserts to a pie competition at the church I attend - preparations that, frankly, should win handily - only to see them spurned in favour of a ghastly hydrogenated peanut butter-chocolate monstrosity in an unbaked graham cracker pie shell. Head, meet table.

                          The gluten intolerance angle has worked well for me thus far as well, and I don't have to lie about it. I consumed a meatball at a potluck last Sunday that I knew probably had breadcrumbs, but I decided to take my chances. That... was unwise. After even a few weeks without gluten, my gut felt distinctly bloated and uncomfortable, and my face broke out in a way that I hadn't seen for years. No more!
                          I'm a food scientist by trade, a writer and a cook by hobby, and stranded in the Midwest by choice.

                          The best thing about the Internet is that you can't be sure I'm not a unicorn.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Welcome fellow Iowan! Whenever someone asks me about what I'm eating I just say I don't eat processed food. Whole foods only. That's it. Surprisingly, I have yet to get a follow-up question. Where I live most people are uncomfortable prying into others' lives, even if it's just food.
                            “You may have thought you heard me say I wanted a lot of bacon and eggs, but what I said was: Give me all the bacon and eggs you have.” - Ron Swanson

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                            • #15
                              Ha, I'm taking a sugar free/gluten free dessert to a superbowl party tomorrow. I warned the host and also informed her to not be upset if I chose to not eat anything if I felt it wasn't edible for me. I again used the Gluten angle and she seemed pretty observant and was trying to make sure they had some pure meat for me to partake in. I guess we'll see how the dessert goes over.

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