Pop Tarts Like You’ve Never Seen Them Before

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

Part of the overwhelming allure of processed foods beyond the colorful, creative packaging shouting at you from the shelf is the orderly, symmetrical and very consistent shapes of each cracker, chip, cookie, puff and flake.

The freakish uniformity of each Oreo cookie to all others that ever existed lulls the consumer into a complacent and dazed shopping routine that requires neither thought nor examination to execute.

Contrast the mindless grab and go mentality of supermarket shopping with the thoughtful and slow progression of a consumer through a farmer’s market as vegetables, fruits, and artisanal foods are picked up, touched and examined closely to determine which are ripest, most nutritious, and of highest quality.

When processed foods like pop tarts are examined under a scanning electron microscope (SEM), however, this uniformity fades away and a very different picture emerges.

Misshapen chaos and a horrifying lack of uniform chemical structure is revealed at 30,000 times the actual size.

In fact, artist/photographer Caren Alpert declares that pop tarts at electron microscope magnification strikingly resembles a pink calcium deposit.


Contrast the scary disharmony of a pop tart’s magnified chemical structure with the precision and conformity of a pineapple leaf.  Do all pineapple leaves look the same?  Definitely not.  But under an electron microscope, the true beauty and order is revealed.

How about a fortune cookie?  Does this look like something our digestive system would welcome and know exactly what to do with?

Compare this chemical chaos with that of a simple almond below.  Doesn’t it seem that the orderly perfection of our digestive enzymes would work a lot more effectively with this precise molecular structure?

The next time you are tempted to pick up that colorful package from the store shelf, remember that the comforting uniformity you see with your naked eye is a complete illusion. The true molecular nature of that enticing processed food is one of chaos and disharmony that will correspondingly bring decay and decline to the person that eats it.

It is ironically the visual irregularity of whole foods that is the clue to their true nature of orderly symmetry under intense magnification.

If these pictures astound you as they did me, you can view the entire collection of Ms. Alpert’s amazing photo series online here, or at New York’s Citigroup Building (153 E. 53rd St.) through January 31, 2013.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Picture Credit


Comments (72)

  1. Over and over again, there is always some ‘know it all’ who has to pick apart an article…..good grief….Take it for what it may or may not be worth and move on….This page owner is simply sharing information and it was with good intentions….Can’t you just leave it at that? :/

  2. Brandy Ellen via Facebook March 14, 2014 at 10:40 am

    This might be the absolute most ridiculous argument for eating real food that I have ever heard. (coming from a professor who has spent her life and research dedicated to educating people about their bodies, food, true health, etc.)

    Articles and posts like this actually take AWAY from the very compelling argument to eat real food, to be frank. Because anyone with even SOME logic says something similar to what Jennifer Hope already said.

    I mean, really…you think people are choosing to eat Pop Tarts b/c they look “uniform and pretty” so when they find out that *gasp* it is NOT neat and uniform at the microscopic level they will suddenly have a complete mental makeover towards faux food. C’mon. I rarely post negative comments, and I even more rarely post with this kind of negative fervor…but this makes all of us who choose real food look like morons b/c it makes it look like we believe that this type of nonsense actually matters. sigh.

  3. Jennifer Hope via Facebook March 14, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Honestly, I think it’s irrelevant what it looks like. All I’m interested in is what it does to our bodies.

  4. Well this is just ridiculous, great way of using science to baffle and deceive. Go have a look at charcoal and Tofu under a SEM, one is a delicious meat alternative, the other a very poisonous carcinogen. But if this article where true, then tofu is poison, and Charcoal is oh so healthy.
    Anyone with even a basic understanding of how a digestive system works will know everything in this article is rubbish.
    Eat healthy or don’t. It’s your choice, but don’t pervert science to support your political ideologies.

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  6. yuck! once in a blue moon i buy these for my boys {they were 16 cents with a coupon…..} we havent fully transitioned off processed food, but this for sure grosses me out! id like to see a pic like that of sprouted bread or something, just for comparison

  7. Monique C. Melara via Facebook December 2, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    From the few that I saw, it seems like she was comparing apples and oranges. Yes, processed foods are bad, but I’d love to see them compared to their healthy food, properly prepared counterparts.

  8. I’m wondering what the magnified photos of GMO foods would like verses the natural ones? Would be interesting to see if they vary or if they are all the same because of the alterations. I would guess that the symmetry may be off too. Would love to see some comparisons!

  9. Tamara Ward via Facebook December 2, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    Captions from the artist’s gallery show the foods at varying magnifications, but none of them at 30,000x’s or anywhere near it.

  10. Great article! I have never bought pop tarts and have never eaten them. They look terrible anyway, I could never see the attraction!

    Doesn’t the pineapple leaf look wonderful under the microscope!

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  12. Unfortunately you are comparing pictures of food that had to be prepared verses food that is a single ingredient. What would a picture look like of unprocessed food, with multiple ingredients look like? Probably the same as the processed food. Pineapples and almonds are single ingredients, hence the perfect uniformity. Mix those two into some sort of pineapple/almond paste, and it wouldn’t look so uniform under a microscope.

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  14. When I saw the picture of the pop-tart, I was thinking that’s gross but I wonder what an unprocessed food looked like and then you showed pictures of a pineapple leaf and almond. Wow. Mother nature is perfect.

  15. Microscopic, yes, but it’s not the chemical structure of these foods we’re looking at in these photos. I think most everything you say Sarah makes a great deal of sense but I don’t know that these photos are necessarily telling you what you want them to be telling you …

    • Agreed with Allison, here… If you took any food and put it in a blender, or even chewed it, or mixed it with something else, it would no longer look like this. The raisin looks pretty icky and it’s one substance. The vitamin C looks pretty creepy, too. The Oreo actually kind of looks pretty. The point I’m trying to make is, I think that almond blended with raw cream and maple syrup would probably look equally weird. The substances that look weird are combinations of things, for the most part, natural or not. And, as Allison said, this is just the physical appearance of the outside of a slice or piece of something. Smash it and it won’t look so pretty, but will that make it unwholesome?

      I don’t personally eat Pop-tarts, and I get my food locally and from farmers I know, but I think using this as an argument makes our side look like they missed the boat.

    • Me, too! Double drat. As a closet ex-pop-tart eater (shhhh! don’t tell anyone), I think this calls for some sort of recipe contest to create a lusciously lovely, splendidly symmetrical, tantalizingly traditional, modern makeover of a pop-tart!

      Is anyone up for the challenge? I bet someone could be a featured post here if you came up with a good lard, sprouted flour, whole fruit, honey, maple redux creation! The frosting could even be optional.

  16. I have always known that God is orderly. Now the microscope shows us proof. Even the food he has made for us has order.

  17. Boy am I glad I didn’t even know what a poptart was until I saw the picture. Never had one in my life and glad for it! Lol

  18. You caught me by the title. I thought you had found some pop tarts that you approved of and was horrified. :) I am glad to have read the article. I am going to show it to my kids. TFS.

  19. Oh, I’m disappointed! I thought Sarah was going to give us a homemade recipe for “poptarts!” I love them, but don’t eat them anymore. =(

    • Anita,
      I was thinking the same thing. We watched how fig cookies were made (Paul Neuman kind) and the kids were grossed out by it. Me too. I was amazed at how much HFS was added to the organic cookies.

  20. Julie Gerasimenko via Facebook November 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    The whole thing just makes so much sense! Processed foods are full of lies! Looks and taste can be deceiving!

  21. Very nice post and definitely some additional food for thought (all puns intended). But I did look at the rest of pictures in Caren Alpert’s gallery and while I thought the natural foods had a beauty to them that the processed did not, not all of the natural foods showed the same kind of uniformity that the pineapple leaf & almond did. The cauliflower looks like a crevasse in a glacier…lol.

  22. For those of us who believe God is our creator, this just demonstrates one of His attributes–orderliness. Thanks for sharing this info!


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