30 Foods You've Never Questioned That Aren't Natural
Did you know that kale on the grocery store shelf isn't exactly organic? Shockingly, some of your favorite fruits, veggies, nuts and grains are hybrids that were made by humans using "selective breeding" techniques.
Other common foods are straight-up cut with low-quality substitutes, including wood chips. Gross, right? Would you be amazed to find out that everyday "health" foods like cauliflower, sushi and brewed tea aren't 100% natural? You wouldn't be alone. Here are 30 foods you've probably never questioned that are sketchier than you thought.
Trip Out About Cauliflower
Are you ready to trip out about cauliflower? In reality, this popular vegetable — particularly due to the keto diet craze — was spawned from a plant species called Brassica oleracea. Don't worry, you're not actually putting anything crazy into your stomach when you snack on cauliflower. Brassica oleracea is just a fancy name for wild mustard. Not scary, but it’s a far cry from cauliflower.
Thousands of years ago, the ancient Greeks and Romans crossbred wild mustard seeds to create cauliflower. Not only that, but Brassica oleracea was also cross-pollinated to make other cruciferous veggies, including kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and collard greens. Talk about weird science!
The Truth About Peanuts
Want to know the truth about peanuts? Honestly, they're a scientific blend of several different species of herbs, including Arachis duranensis and Arachis ipaensis. The Arachis duranensis plant can be found throughout the Andes Mountains, but the Arachis ipaensis plant can only be found in Bolivia.
The point: These two species of peanuts grow naturally way too far apart to have cross-pollinated themselves. The first South American settlers were actually responsible for transporting Arachis duranensis to the Andean Valley about 10,000 years ago. The craziest part? They needed bees to help the plant flourish!
Orange You Curious?
Orange you curious about where oranges really originated? Numerous varieties of this juicy fruit line store shelves, and each one stems from a man-made hybrid of a mandarin and a pomelo. Yes, you read that right. Mother Nature did not create oranges.
The orange owes its signature color to its ancestor, the mandarin. Although it's not easy to get to the truth of the orange's origin, it was first discovered in the southern part of China. Since that time, selective breeding has been used to produce other citrus fruits as well, including the tangerine!
Going Carrot Crazy
Although there's nothing wrong with going carrot crazy at the grocery store, you should know that the orange color is actually artificial. For those of you who are already confused, think about this one: Natural carrots are either purple or white in color — and they’re not edible. Mind blown, right?
How can this be possible? Back in the day, some accounts indicate Romans ate white carrots, but historians have disputed the accuracy of these rumors. Nevertheless, the carrots you see at your local supermarket are actually a hybrid of the yellow and white carrots. It’s not obvious how that turned into something orange, but genetics can be strange.
All About Almonds
Sweet and savory almonds are a scientific hybrid of their wild ancestors. Known as the wild almond, the natural nut tastes super bitter and dry if you eat too many of them. Despite their less than appealing background, wild almonds were still selected to be crossbred to create the modern almond as we know it.
Sound complicated? Here's everything you should know. Scientists have pinpointed Amygdalus fenzliana as the predecessor of the everyday almond. Its fruits, seeds and trees look almost exactly the same. So, where did modern almonds originate? Answer: Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Bonkers Over Bananas
You might go bonkers over bananas, but what's the real background of this flavorful fruit? Basically, bananas are a man-made combination of the wild banana species known as Musa balbisiana and Musa acuminata. Why were they crossbred?
The two banana species were cross-pollinated because one has a ton of seeds and the other leaves a nasty taste in your mouth — not appealing options on their own. Amazingly, these two banana species were crossbred the natural way in Southern Asia. In spite of this, the modern banana couldn't reproduce on its own. Enter early humans, who replanted it to make it tastier.
Broccoli on the Brain
News flash: You'll never find broccoli growing naturally in the wilderness. (Okay, so the cauliflower section was a bit of a spoiler that broccoli wouldn't exist if humans hadn’t created it.) A relative of cabbage and cauliflower, broccoli is an artificial crop that also derived from the Brassica oleracea mustard plant.
When this plant species is modified, it can create flowers and leaves that eventually turn into broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprout clusters. The flower buds on broccoli heads remain closed when they're ready to go. Besides that, the flower clusters of the Brassica oleracea can also be cultivated to produce gigantic heads of cauliflower.
The Curious Coffee Bean
Did you know that coffee beans have been mutated to produce several different varieties? Even though the coffee bean is a staple of nature, you can’t find different flavor profiles and types in the wild. That takes some coffee bean wizardry. So, where do coffee beans come from?
Coffee was originally grown in India during the late 1600s. That's when the coffee bean first made its splash on the international market. Since then, more than a dozen varieties have been developed. Craving sweeter coffee? How about caffeine-free lattes? These days, the hardest part is picking your favorite.
What's Up with Wheat?
What's up with wheat? As one of the oldest cultivated crops, wheat has been an agricultural staple since the dawn of civilization. Naturally, when humans made the switch from hunting and gathering to farming, wheat was their most important harvest. They even set up their encampments near wheat fields to be close to the essential crop.
How did wheat turn into something so edible? Although the first wheat crops were mere grass and seeds, early humans replanted them until they had larger seeds and higher nutritional value. As if that's not enough, they also made it easier to retain the edible part of the plant.
Cracking the Corn Case
Here's the breakdown. When it comes to cracking the corn case, you have to take a look at corn's ancient ancestor. Also referred to as teosintes or Zea, the original corn was just a strain of grass commonly found by Meso-Americans more than 10,000 years ago.
Over time, the Meso-American people cultivated a plant so unique that it was unparalleled worldwide. All of a sudden, corn stalks started popping up in historical records all over the world. Only about fives genes — possibly fewer — have changed since the original corn was created.
You might be surprised to hear that watermelon is actually the most genetically modified fruit in the world. Created in Sub-Saharan Africa, the juicy fruit was domesticated to produce different sizes and colors. What happened next is wild. After it was introduced to Europe and Asia, watermelons magically became much larger and fleshier.
Why? Ancient watermelons were mostly filled with seeds, while modern melons are almost all water. It gets better: The size of the watermelon has expanded dramatically over the years, leading to a juicier melon. Want to know a secret? Lycopene, an important nutrient, gives watermelons their red color.
Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? That depends on who you ask, but either way, there are a bunch of tomato varieties to choose from these days. If you want to know where tomatoes came from, they started out as super small yellow or green fruits.
Surprisingly, the Aztecs used tomatoes during their time as rulers and enjoyed them for cooking purposes. Later, explorers took the savory fruit with them when they returned to Italy and Spain. That probably explains why tomatoes are frequently essential components in the historical dishes of those countries. Tomatoes are essentially their national fruit.
Is Rice Real?
Did you know that rice was first hybridized in the mid-1970s? Rice is a pantry staple for more than half of the globe, which means there just wasn’t enough of it to keep everyone in the world fed. Additionally, the world’s land and water resources are steadily depleting. That's why hybrid rice seeds were created.
Of course, hybrid rice seeds yield more rice, but they also require a ton of labor. Despite being a little more high maintenance to produce, hybridized rice crops actually help the communities that grow them. That sounds like a win-win.
The Sushi Suspect
If you’re a fan of sushi, you probably want to know that the white tuna inside your sushi roll could be a bit suspect. What does that mean? According to a study conducted by Oceana, 100% of the fish found at sushi restaurants in New York were found to be imposters.
In fact, Larry Olmsted, author of Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don't Know What You're Eating and What You Can Do About It, reveals to Delish that "consumers ordering white tuna get a completely different animal — no kind of tuna at all — 94 percent of the time." What?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Exposé
It's time to expose extra virgin olive oil. Sadly, the majority of bottles that claim to be "extra virgin olive oil" are actually fake substitutes. Don't believe it? Just ask Olmsted, who claims that the good nutrients that should be inside the bottle are often swapped for bad quality fillers.
That's not all. Olmsted also dishes that extra virgin olive oil "is one of the most pervasive Fake Foods in America, reaching deep into home kitchens, restaurants and supermarkets, and not unfamiliar to the government agencies supposedly watching over our food supply." That’s definitely something to think about next time you're at the store.
A Peek at Parmesan
Okay, so you probably know that Parmesan cheese comes from Parma, Italy. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that the label on your hunk of cheese is accurate. Contrary to popular belief, Olmsted divulges that the FDA revealed that anything marked "100 percent Parmesan" should be looked at with a critical eye.
That's because they can typically cut Parmesan with more affordable cheeses. Even worse, some Parms are combined with wood pulp during the mass production process. Gag! How can you avoid this? Look for Parmesan cheese that says it's made in Italy. Of course, you could always fly to Italy and pick it up yourself.
The Hunt for Honey
Are you on the hunt for the most authentic honey you can find? Unfortunately, there are no guidelines or standards to differentiate the real honey from the fake. What does this mean? Many retailers get away with selling imitation syrups with sweeteners as legitimate honey.
Not to mention that the honey on grocery store shelves could contain dangerous antibiotics or high fructose corn syrup as well. In spite of the fact that they're distributing a false product, there's no penalty for this kind of behavior. Two surefire ways to avoid this trap: Make friends with a beekeeper or hit up a farmers’ market.
Spilling the Tea
Face it: You live in a world where tea is unsafe. Don't believe it? According to a Congressional Research Service report filed in 2014, your average box of commercially sold tea is chock-full of things that don't belong, including weird leaves and sawdust bits.
That means that lower quality packages of tea could actually put you at risk of ingesting some pretty sketchy stuff. There’s no need to take the risk when you can stick to organic tea for a cup of the real thing. Better yet, support a local supplier by ordering your tea straight from the source.
Deceptive Dry Spices
Imagine this: Even dry spices can be deceptive. Are you scratching your head? Traces of corn have been found in healing spices like turmeric. What about nutmeg? Occasionally, this spice is mixed with pepper to save time and money for the manufacturer.
There can't be anything wrong with oregano, right? Wrong. Scientists have discovered cut up bits of weeds in containers of oregano, so how could you possibly assume the oregano you buy is safe to consume? Your best option is to buy organic dry seasonings at your nearest store. Good luck!
The Fruit Juice Fraud
When it comes to fruit juice, it seriously pays to read the label. Shockingly, no laws regulate the ingredients that fruit juice producers are allowed to put in the bottle. Do they typically put strange ingredients in juice? Not necessarily, but apple juice is often used as a filler for juices like blueberry or pomegranate.
Not so bad for apple juice lovers, right? Think again. According to some reports, even if the apple juice you bought is actually apple juice, you still might not want to drink it. Why? A lot of it is made from Chinese-manufactured concentrate. Once again, you pretty much have to go organic.
Attack of the Red Snapper
If you’re thinking about picking up some red snapper for dinner, you might want to reconsider your options. Why is that? Olmsted recommends that you avoid grabbing red snapper and choose something else instead. He shares that the priciest cuts of fish are often the fakest ones. As a result, this could put everyone from kids to expectant mothers in major danger.
What's the inside story about red snapper? Olmsted says, "It has many different imitators, including mercury-rich tilefish, which is on the FDA's do-not-eat list for sensitive groups such as children and pregnant women."
The Beef About Kobe
Have you ever tried Kobe beef before? If so, then you know that it's one of the tastiest, most succulent cuts of beef on the planet. But is your cut the real thing? In most cases, probably not. How do you know?
The answer is simple. The legitimate exportation of Kobe beef to the United States was banned for a very long time. Even though it's totally legal to buy and distribute now, it’s still very difficult to find in America. Some reports claim only eight restaurants in the entire country actually serve the real deal.
Can You Trust Truffle Oil?
Can you trust truffle oil? Not really. Truthfully, the truffle fries you paid a fortune to enjoy probably had some fake chemical substitute splashed on top of them instead. Crazily enough, plenty of chemicals have been manufactured to taste just like the real thing. Why? Real truffle oil is way too expensive for most restaurants to use.
On the other hand, according to the experts, there's pretty much no such thing as real truffle oil anyway. Apparently, even chefs in the top high-class restaurants are aware they're not serving 100% pure truffle oil. Instead, they serve up some sort of lab concoction without any qualms.
It's a Champagne Thing
Ever heard that it's illegal to confuse sparkling wine with champagne? You can’t really go to jail for mixing them up, but be aware that true champagne only comes from the Champagne area of France. In other words, the last glass of champagne you enjoyed probably wasn't really what you thought it was.
Imagine this: More than half the wine bottles that say "champagne" on the label aren't the real thing. Sadly, wine manufacturers across the country have conspired to promote Korbel, Cook's and André as legitimate champagnes — not even close! Pro tip: Fake champagne bottles never say where they came from.
The Grouper Stupor
For those who adore grouper, prepare to be astonished. While real grouper from the west coast of Florida is beyond asty, some researchers have found that fishmongers often sell lower quality fish in place of grouper in grocery markets. What exactly are you putting in your shopping cart?
Rather than authentic grouper, you could be consuming something cheaper like tilapia, hake or Asian catfish. Want to know the worst part? Some pros have revealed that grouper could be swapped for a really weird fish with DNA that's so strange, it’s not even recognized as a known species.
Do you love shelling out cash for a fancy dinner at Red Lobster? There's absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying some seafood on your night out, but the lobster that you're ordering might actually be an imposter. Have you ever wondered what's going on behind the scenes at your favorite seafood chains?
For one thing, the odds are high that the lobster on your plate is really something else called "langostino." If you don't think that sounds bad, langostino is actually a type of crab or shrimp, depending on where you live. Of course, it's commonly mistaken for lobster when it's served on a nice plate, so it obviously tastes like the real thing.
What's in an Apple?
Many people think apples are one of the most natural fruits to buy at the supermarket, but they would be mistaken. Rich Marini of Penn State's horticulture department reveals, "One apple breeder told me it took 50,000 apple seedlings to get one tree that was better than the parent."
Sound like a lot of hard work? It is. Farmers around the world have crossbred different varieties of apples to create the most delicious options. The result? Honeycrisp, Honeygold and Macoun apple varieties. But why stop there? The SweeTango apple was recently created as well.
On the Beet
Are you familiar with the Robin beet? Invented a few years ago, the Robin beet is the newest variety of this root vegetable. Bred to be stronger and healthier than the others, this special beet has blood red stems and deep green leaves that are resistant to certain diseases.
Robin beets are also very visually appealing. Thanks to their uniform look and large size, they are often displayed prominently at your local grocery store. If you’ve never tried them, pick some up from the store, steam them whole and enjoy the earthy flavor.
Suspicious Soy Sauce
When did soy sauce become a suspicious food? You might be surprised to learn that soy is actually a hybrid plant. That’s not always a problem, but the majority of this popular crop is genetically modified. It's also commonly used in baby food, which has produced some shady results.
If you’re a vegetarian or merely enjoy soy, the only way to protect yourself is to source your soy from organic manufacturers. If they can tell you where their soy crops come from, then you might be able to rest easier at night. Otherwise, you might want to look for an alternative.
Get to Know Ginseng
If you want to live healthy, you need to get to know ginseng. This hybrid herb isn’t naturally found in the ground like chamomile, garlic, goldenseal and other spices and herbs. Regardless, your cup of ginseng tea may not come straight from Mother Earth, but it's still good for you.
What's the bottom line? There are more genetically modified foods on the market than you might think. If you want to separate the real food from the fake food — and the safely created hybrids from the genetically modified abominations — do your research to find out the truth about your favorite fruits, nuts, grains and proteins.