I'm not sure why we put food scientists in charge of our food. From fluffy loaves of bread to fat-free coffee creamers, food scientists have had a major impact on what we put into our bodies. Take for instance margarine, a type of hardened vegetable oil. In an effort to lower saturated fat intake, food scientists created partially hydrogenated margarine. And while food scientists got the consistency of margarine just right, they got it wrong when it came to health. Partially hydrogenated trans fats are associated with worsening blood cholesterol patterns and an increased risk of heart disease. In the Nurses' Health Study involving more than 85,000 women, those who ate four or more teaspoons of margarine per day had a higher risk of heart disease than those who used margarine only rarely.
A narrow pursuit of optimal food consistency often comes at the expense of optimal health. For instance, fat-free products often substitute corn syrup solids to mimic the consistency of fat. Some processed foods like salad dressings and ice cream contain chemical thickeners like xantham gum. Xantham gum is also added to toothpaste, drilling mud, and concrete for the same reason.
Many recipes use high glycemic starches like corn starch or wheat flour as thickening agents. For instance, flour is often used to thicken clam chowder. Corn starch and wheat flour may give you the consistency of soup you are after, but at what cost? Instead of flour, why not try cauliflower? I took this recipe for gluten free clam chowder and blended heavy cream with cauliflower to create a creamy soup that my kids lapped up. I feature this recipe in the following movie trailer, Good Will Chowder:
Teicholz, Nina. 2014. The Big Fat Surprise: A Nutritional Investigation. Simon & Schuster.
Davis, Robert. 2012. Coffee Is Good For You: From Vitamin C and Organic Foods to Low-carb and Detox Diets, The Truth About Diet and Nutrition Claims. Penguin Group.