More reasons to skip the processed foods and “eat local” instead

I always recommend you strive to “eat the rainbow,” because the natural, unprocessed, whole foods in Nature come in a spectrum of colors. For example, deep, ruby-red, blue, and purple foods—such as blueberries—contain a lot of healthy anthocyanins. Likewise, red, orange, yellow, and green foods contain loads of carotenoids.

In fact, in Nature, the more-vibrant the color of produce…the higher its nutritional content.

Of course, the U.S. government found a way to mess with this natural color-coding system. It began back in the late 19th century, when big food started producing margarine—perhaps the most-processed, fake “food” product of all…

Margarine was one of the first artificially colored, processed food products

Margarine entered the U.S. food market way back in 1873 as a cheap, artificial butter substitute.

But dairy farmers, understandably, weren’t too happy about this sudden, new competition. So, they convinced nearly half the states to pass anti-coloring laws that prohibited margarine manufacturers to add yellow dye to their products to make them look more like butter. (As you may recall, natural, grass-fed butter and cheese assumes a bright yellow color of carotenoid-rich grasses in early and mid-summer. And it fades to pale yellow in autumn and winter.)

So, for a while, the margarine sold in many stores was actually white…sometimes even pink! (Or, as a clever work around, some manufacturers sold their “naturally” white margarine with a capsule of yellow dye. And the consumer would stir the dye into the tub of white margarine at home.)

Then, the feds got involved. They permitted manufacturers to add artificial yellow coloring to margarine, but restricted its sale by adding heavy federal taxes to it.

Then, after WWII, the feds flip-flopped and repealed the restrictions. As a result, margarine sales skyrocketed…contributing to disastrous increases in heart disease, which were deliberately hidden for years.

Federal government starts to mess with Nature’s natural spectrum of colors

At the same time, the feds started to place new, crippling restrictions on the production and sale of whole, natural foods—like apples and tomatoes.

Even today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) still places severe restrictions on produce. For example, in order for apples to be called “red varieties,” their surfaces must be 50 to 60 percent covered with a “good shade of solid red.” Which basically subjects Nature’s natural variety to bureaucratic opinion.

Indeed, these unnecessary restrictions essentially wiped out the natural, full spectrum of colors normally present in whole foods. So, now, we only see apples (and other kinds of produce) in the narrow range of acceptable colors permitted by government standards.

As a result, the nutritional content of these foods has plummeted. In fact, according the USDA’s own Human Nutrition Research Lab at the Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland (which I visited in the 1980s), the nutritional content of foods has consistently declined each decade since these federal grading standards began.

Ironically, at the same time, they give big food manufacturers extraordinary leeway to add artificial flavors and colors to its products. The infamous “Red Dye No. 2” was long thought to be among the safest of artificial colors. But by 1976, after two decades of debate, it was finally banned due to toxicity.

Of course, the newest processed foods to hit the market—plant-based, fake meats—are filled with artificial ingredients and colorings. Yet somehow, big food has convinced millions of Americans that they’re healthier and safer for you and for the planet.

What does this all mean for you?

By following a balanced, Mediterranean-type diet, you’ll naturally (and simply) avoid processed foods, and, instead, fill up on fresh, whole, minimally processed, colorful foods. Plus, this traditional diet will give your body what it really wants and needs—real meat and full-fat dairy from organically raised, free-range, grass-fed cattle and poultry. And—it will naturally come in a rainbow of colors.

In addition, I suggest purchasing foods that were grown (or raised) within 50 miles of the point of sale. These foods are generally exempted from federal regulations. So, you may actually get to enjoy a “red” apple that is less than 50 percent “red”—but 100 percent nutritious.

One of the best ways to incorporate more locally grown foods into your diet is to find a local farmer’s market and talk directly to the farmers. Ask them questions about how they are growing their produce or raising their cattle and poultry.

There are actually a lot more small, local farms popping up around the country. In fact, according to the latest USDA survey, 10 percent of all farms in America are small farms that operate locally—up from only 4 percent a few years ago. (I get a copy of the official USDA farm report, since we technically operate a small farm, and I’m required to complete a 15-page survey biannually.)

I know many of these small, local farms are struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic. So, I know they’ll appreciate your business now more than ever.

P.S. Since I often recommend eating local, fresh, whole foods, I encourage you to check out the November 2019 issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures (“How to preserve healthy, colorful, nutritious foods year-round”). In it, you’ll learn how to continue eating healthy, naturally grown foods throughout the year. So if you haven’t already, consider becoming a subscriber today. Click here now!


“How the government came to decide the color of your food.” Smithsonian Magazine, 1/15/2020 (