Tomato Flavor Instead of Tomato, Hmmm?

October 27, 2009 in Mediterranean, Nutrition by Joyce Bunderson

The other morning, I was reading a daily online journal and came across an article about some new flavorings being offered. I’ve known for a very long time that processed foods are often made of food-like substances rather than real foods.

I’ve also looked at ingredient lists for decades and been perplexed with the incredibly long lists of ingredients. Those lists sometimes work like a ‘flash back’ to the good old days in biochemistry classes. And most of you who have read my newsletter for very long, know that I have a strong sense that we should be eating real whole foods. But today, the contents of this article just about made me fall off my chair.

The title of the article was that company ‘X’ develops tomato-saving natural flavors; the subtitle said that the company is launching the release of six flavorings that promise to cut tomato use and capture complex tastes.

These are their six flavors:

  1. Salad tomato: fresh, green, pippy and juicy
  2. Sun-kissed tomato: fruity, ripe, sweet and pippy
  3. Sun-dried tomato: caramelized, sweet, fruity and ripe
  4. Tomato ketchup: acidic, sweet, fruity with a touch of spice
  5. Tomato puree: fruity, ripe, canned and sweet
  6. Tomato soup: sweet, canned and ripe

That really caught my interest. It sounds impossibly delicious and nourishing; so I read the article. You guessed it; my blood pressure rose. What on earth; ‘cut tomato use’? The company said that they developed their flavors in reaction to the fluctuating cost of spray dried tomato powder. I don’t know how glad I was about that. I wish ‘spray dried’ tomato was just cooked tomato. I realize that when you ‘spray dry’ tomato some of the nutrients are lost in the process; but at least it has some of them. Replacing a nutrient-diminished tomato powder with tomato flavor seems like a really bad idea. How happy should consumers be to consume tomato flavoring instead of ‘spray dried’ tomato?
I went to the company’s website to try to learn more about how they strive to ‘reduce your costs by replacing expensive ingredients and saving processing time while retaining quality and enhancing taste and mouth feel.”

This quote was especially annoying to me: “Rich tomato, herbaceous and citrus flavors give these pastes the ‘healthful’ taste associated with Mediterranean cuisine.” The “‘healthful’ taste”! Paleeessse! I guess in honesty I should admit that I feel a certain sense of outrage. Isn’t it difficult enough? We are trying to get people to move toward a Mediterranean diet and the food processors are trying to design a ‘healthful taste.’ This is really discouraging!

Do you want more? They offer: “clean declaration options available” This is so the ingredient list doesn’t drive away the consumer.

The same company sells bread aromas. “Taste and aroma are the foundations of bread. Our products emulate artisan bakery tastes and capture the aroma of home-baked loaves.

This is actually a fairly blatant example of why we need to return to the kitchen – get some real foods and cook them.  Get some control of what you eat! I hope that you will develop a little cynicism toward processed foods.
When I described my ideas of eating, I chose to call it American Mediterranean. I didn’t explain in much depth.  I did describe what the main goals are, but why call it American Mediterranean? We’re a long way from the Mediterranean (sadly, because I love that area of the world). I wrote an article in the March newsletter about why we should pay attention to the Mediterranean diet. In short the research has been published since the 1970’s and we, as a country, have not paid significant attention to what was learned.  The people of Crete, at that time, were the healthiest people on earth and it was tracked back to be largely due to their diet. Fish, not very much dairy, lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes, whole grains, not very much meat, olive oil, and not too much sugar.
I think that often people regard Mediterranean Diet as what is eaten in the Mediterranean now.  Perhaps many people think this diet is about Italian food or maybe even Greek food in 2009. Unfortunately the Greeks and Italians have for years been moving toward the American standard of white bread and pasta, lots of meat, lots of cheese, not too many vegetables or fruit and plenty of pastry. I thought that learning from those studies in Crete, was a good standard upon which to build an excellent eating style.  It can fit with any culture or food tastes.  If you read about food as much as I do, you learn that you can make any cuisine and apply the principles learned from the island of Crete. My goal does not mean for you to eat the cuisines of the Mediterranean, but to strive to eat more vegetables, whole grains and real foods. Maybe if you want the flavor of the Mediterranean, try their herbs and use tomatoes – consider skipping the products with tomato flavor, no matter how flavorful and great the mouth feel is purported to be.
I just finished the November Newsletter; I’m publishing my recipe for Tomato Basil Soup. Sorry, no recipe using tomato flavorings. ☺

Dr. Grandma's Tomato Basil Soup, warming near the Angel of Comfort and the African Violets