By Rae Hadley
Naked?! Food?! Let’s be completely clear. I’m not suggesting you are sitting around in your birthday suit, eating a bowl of nachos, and trying not to get hot sauce on the sofa. Oh no. Naked food, sometimes known as ‘nude food’, is a description of the food itself rather than your state of attire during the act of consumption.
The concept of naked food has been around for the longest time. It is food in its most natural, unrefined, unadulterated, unprocessed, untampered with, simplistic form possible.
It is also not usually swathed in layers of packaging. After all, a ‘covering’ is the antithesis to the concept of ‘naked’. Naked food isn’t necessarily raw food; however, cooking should be kept to a minimum, ensuring the consumer gets the maximum benefit of the product’s nutrients.
A great example of naked food is a perfectly ripe apple, picked off a nearby tree, washed, and then consumed immediately. Rather than, a sliced apple product, covered in preservatives, shipped to any number of stores in its vacuum-packed-plastic-wrapping, bought by the consumer, left in their cupboard for an indeterminate amount of time, and then eaten. Both start off as nature intended, then deviate wildly from each other. One becomes a plastic-covered shadow of its former self.
Miles Of Packaged Food
Naked food is naturally produced minus the addition of pesticides, herbicides, and in the case of animal products, minus antibiotics, and hormones. To be honest, it is terrifying to think that these additives can be found in food at all. If they were a necessity, then I’m sure our ecosystem would have provided the means in the first place.
Non-naked food is packaged as part of the process to keep food in a ‘consumable’ and, ‘saleable’ condition as it undergoes transportation across time and space. Certain fruits travel many thousands of miles, to climates unconducive to their growth, and for this, need to be shipped in an unripe state, in packaging, and potentially in chemicals to preserve them. Some fruit even receives chemical treatment on arrival at its destination to ripen it quickly for sale.
If it’s not transported very far, then it doesn’t need lots of packaging. It also doesn’t degrade en route, which ensures a much higher level of naturally occurring nutrients. It’s potentially fresher, tastier, and more nutritious because it’s closer to you.
These days, buying from the local market is not a guarantee of naked food in the way it once was. The competition between local growers and supermarkets has forced many small scale producers to adopt the use of chemicals to ensure their livelihood. However, it is possible to turn that tide if more people express an interest in produce which has the old fashioned lumps, bumps, and marks on it. As well as being regional and seasonal.
If you have a local market, then you are in a great position to support your community, help them to reduce their chemical load, and minimise transportation miles and packaging when buying your weekly groceries. Eating locally, regionally, and seasonally are important ways to eat ‘naked’. I don’t know about you, but suddenly naked food is taking on an increased level of appeal.
We all understand the impact of plastic globally. Currently, only 14% of plastic packaging material is actually recycled. Additionally, based on current business growth rates, by 2050, it is projected that there will be more plastic in the world’s seas than fish.
Not only is food packaging bad for the environment, but it is also potentially bad for us. According to the Food Packaging Forum, “Food packaging can be a source of chemical food contaminants. The transfer of chemical contaminants from food contact materials into food is called migration. According to some scientists, food contact materials are an underestimated source of chemical food contamination.”
Possibly the most famous of these is Bisphenol A (BPA), the industrial chemical found in plastic water bottles, epoxy resins, and used to coat the inside of metallic food and beverage cans. It has been shown that a rise in temperature can cause the stability of the BPA chemical compound to change, causing molecular migration into water and food.
Migration is not just linked to plastic, however. As innocuous as cardboard seems the printing ink on the outside of some packaging has been shown to migrate inwards to the product you are about to consume. It is a terrifying thought that, unfortunately, makes complete sense. The packaging surrounding the food we eat has the opportunity to leach chemicals, chemicals which we will then ingest.
How To Get ‘Naked’
Simple snacks really are the best and the most ‘naked’. Raw fruits and vegetables, preferably whole, are the best way to maximise your uptake of the available nutrients. Carry a small penknife to cut them up, since slicing increases potential leaching of precious vitamins and minerals. Likewise, don’t go smothering your beautiful fruit and veg in lots of ‘dressings’ – as the name implies this is a sure way to reduce your foods ‘naked’ points.
A way to get yourself noticed by the local ‘naked food’ alumni is to carry your wholesome lunchtime goodies or snacks in adorable reusable containers. No single-use plastic here. Use cute, non-toxic stainless steel tiffin or bento boxes, but don’t order them on Amazon or from an expensive eco shop on the internet. Use your feet and prowl your neighbourhood for a suitable stack. After all, they are sure to be cheaper, they won’t rack up transportation miles, and you will gain from the exercise.
Unfortunately, health food and wholefood stores have developed a reputation for being costly places to shop. So scour your home’s vicinity for local markets, shop in preferably zero waste stores and buy in bulk. There are ways to reduce the financial load with a little research and creativity.
In order to buy as close to undressed and zero waste as possible, I will have to give up a certain amount of my desire for strawberries in the midst of winter, and reign in my love of English apples when not in that country.
Taking positive steps to a healthier life and more harmonious relationship with the planet is not going to happen without me sacrificing, or at the very least reducing, my consumption of some of the things I love that come with an environmentally prohibitive price tag.
So bring on the local, unadulterated, seasonal, and naturally misshapen fruit and veg. I’m keen to get ‘naked’ as quickly as possible!