And outraged we should be.
But we also should be responsible by taking action. Educate yourself. Please read this.
And outraged we should be.
But we also should be responsible by taking action. Educate yourself. Please read this.
Me: “Hunny, could you get the soap box outta the closet for me please? I think it’s under that basket of hats and gloves.”
Hunny: “Again? Why don’t you just keep it out if you’re going to use it so much?”
Me: “I know. I know. I’m trying not to get on it but sometimes I just can’t help it. Believe me, I would love to write a nice, pleasant little blog that everyone knows and loves. But it is not always possible.”
[Guests walk in.]
Oh! Hello there! So glad you dropped by! Can I offer you a recipe or two? How about a nice cup of tea?
Hmmm. You seem upset about something. What can I help you with? Oh I get it! You’re confused about all these foods that people are running around raving about and telling you that you need them in order to be healthy? You’re under pressure to consume acai berry but you don’t really understand why? You’ve heard you shouldn’t eat soy, you should eat soy, you have no idea if you should eat carbs and now you’ve read my blog and wonder what the hell there is that you can safely sweeten your food with? You never in a million years imagined that plain old feeding your face was really so complicated?
No problem! Let me tell you the basic rules of knowing what to eat. The rules are so simple, I’m sure you’ll say you really already knew them. I’m just reminding you.
1. Choose whole foods. These are foods that have all their edible parts left intact. They have not been heavily refined or processed. Examples of whole foods are unpolished grains, beans, whole vegetables, whole fruits, whole animals. Yes! Have a cow! Really, if you are going to eat animal protein at least eat something that resembles a part of the whole animal instead of meat-like products that are ground, pressed and blended with God-knows-what. About a year ago I learned that ground beef is often mixed with other things and that this is not necessarily included on the label. And just recently we all read about “pink slime” and how some school districts are vowing to eliminate it from the school lunch menus.
2. Eat organically grown and raised food. There is plenty of information available about what organic farming is. But it can get confusing if you don’t know the legal definitions so here you are (from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture website):
100% Organic and Organic: Products labeled as “100 percent organic” must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients and processing aids. Products labeled “organic” must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients must consist of non-agricultural substances approved on the National List including specific non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form.
Made with Organic Ingredients: Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients can use the phrase “made with organic ingredients” and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. For example, soup made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients and only organic vegetables may be labeled either “soup made with organic peas, potatoes, and carrots,” or “soup made with organic vegetables.”
3. Choose foods that are as fresh and local as possible. Sure you can buy a can of organic pinto beans, some frozen organic brown rice (and I have been guilty of both on occasion) but it is simply not possible to preserve the nutrients and life energy of a food when it has been harvested a year ago and has been sitting in a warehouse six months after that. And even if you are buying fresh—let’s take cabbage for an example—your “fresh” cabbage is losing precious vitamin C while it’s waiting for you to pick it up and put it in your cart. If at all possible, look for “locally grown” and look for any farmer’s markets local farms or other sources of food that is truly fresh. Better yet, start your own garden, grow some herbs, participate in a co-op or community organic garden or whatever you can.
That is one reason why locally grown food is important. But there is another reason to choose locally grown food. That is, your ability to easily get along with your environment. Today we can get any food from any part of the world. But why do we have to import something like fresh pineapple if we live in Alaska? Obviously pineapple doesn’t grow in Alaska and in many other climates as well. So if we ate tropical foods every day while living in a cold climate we’d probably find it harder to stay warm. Tropical foods are in balance with tropical environments.
I have a friend who was recently consulting someone about their diet. She found out the person, who lives in a southern state, had a problem of being too hot all the time. She wisely recommended that he consume less meat because she knows that meat keeps a body very warm indeed.
4. Include naturally fermented foods. Naturally fermented foods provide valuable “good bacteria” for your digestive tract. In a world dedicated to killing every kind of bacteria and “germ” with fluoride in water and toothpaste, chlorine in water and chlorine wipes for every surface, and the king of intestinal flora killers–antibiotics—it’s no wonder that people suffer everything from chronic gas to serious yeast infestations. First of all, realize that if you are ill and have to take antibiotics, do it responsibly. Antibiotics kill bacteria but don’t differentiate between the good and the bad. Every day put back the beneficial bacteria that the antibiotic is killing. Some people feel this is wasteful and they just wait until they are finished taking the antibiotic. I don’t agree. By that time you have been totally stripped, leaving your intestinal tract open to infestation of whatever comes your way.
All traditional cultures have fermented foods. It was done to preserve foods and it was well known to be helpful to digestion. Pickled vegetables, pickled fish and yogurt in western cultures. Naturally fermented soy products such as shoyu (real soy sauce) and miso as well as other types of pickles and fermented foods are used in eastern cultures.
When looking to purchase naturally pickled or fermented foods, beware that many of the cultured dairy products are pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized and then they add the beneficial bacteria such as acidophilus. When I talk about including naturally fermented foods, I am talking about ones that are developed by traditional processes that result in live beneficial bacteria. You should also know that the ever-so-popular yogurts available are often flavored with sugar and sugared fruit products. That defeats the overall purpose of protecting health and leads to my final basic rule for knowing what to eat.
5. Don’t eat refined sugar. Get to know what is sugar and what isn’t and which types of sweeteners are complex carbohydrates and which ones are not. I have written many posts on this blog about the subject. Sugar is one of the most devastating food additives ever and it has been around so long, and contributes to so many health problems which are blamed on other things that it is truly insidious.
I know many people who consider themselves very healthy and conscientious who say they mostly avoid sugar and only eat it as a special treat. That is excellent and I admire their intentions to avoid this toxic substance. But the problem I see is that sugar is in so many things that it is difficult indeed to eat little or none of it.
Me: “I’m done with the soapbox now, Hunny. Help me get down, please.”
Hunny: “Shall I put it away?”
Me: “For now, thanks. But I might need it again so don’t bury it too far into the closet.”
Human genes engineered into experimental GMO rice being grown in Kansas
This is the Natural News headline I found in my email box this morning. I was still feeling kinda warm and glowy about getting a nice acknowledgement/award from a fellow blogger yesterday. But it’s back to business for me today.
I have so many concerns about this that I can’t keep count. The first one is that now I’m going to need to track down the source of this information and find out if it is just the rantings of the merchants of chaos or does it have some basis in truth?
Then if there is any truth to it, well, obviously there are lots of concerns such as the fact that plants and crops don’t keep to themselves exactly. The wind blows—things fly through the air—mix around—and get into other plants and crops. I have seen quite a bit recently about “traces of GMO” in non-GMO foods.
There is the fact that currently the FDA doesn’t make food manufacturers label their products GMO. Supposedly organic food would not be GMO but what if the organic farm is downwind from this place in Kansas?
I worry about the children who will eat this stuff and the mothers and fathers who will eat it and then produce children. And then of course there’s the whole idea of some sort of cannabalism and that is a disturbing thought. Who comes up with the idea to do something like this in the first place?
That is what I want to know.
It’s early Friday morning. I’m checking out my facebook and come across something about organic foods. Hmmmm . . . there’s a lot of information here. All graphically demonstrated. This is like one of those “Where’s Waldo” things. Well I don’t see Waldo, but I see a lot of somewhat disturbing data.
I spent some time following the arrows and learning what companies actually own some of my favorite natural food brands. These are big organizational boards showing the layout of the natural/organic foods industry. Very interesting data and plenty of it, but it is–at least for me–unevaluated data at this point.
Although I must say, my emotional response to the fact that an organic food manufacturer like Seeds of Change is owned by M&M Mars is that it makes my heart sink to the ground. Some of the others don’t surprise me as much and I make a quick and loose observation, “No wonder some of these so-called natural products have sugar and other weird ingredients in them.”
I am soothed to know that Lundberg, Eden, Amy’s and Frontier are still independent. I wonder, “But for how long?”
My friend who posted these commented that it may be more and more important to grow your own food. She is probably right but I don’t think that is a total solution. I think we have to be vigilant about label-reading and continue to refuse to purchase pretend natural food products and demand high-quality selections from our stores.
Is it important when organic food companies are bought out by huge conglomerate corporations that also manufacture the very foods we are trying to get away from?
What better way would there be to get fresh, succulent organic vegetables than growing them yourself in your own garden? Picture it: you go out to your garden and there are your favorite vegetables at the peak of perfection and ready to be picked. They have the best flavor, the most beautiful color and man, oh, man are they alive!
Just looking at these beauties sparks your desire and creativity for cooking today’s food, all the while knowing that you have the most nutritious, freshest and highest quality food at your fingertips.
Organic gardening is certainly a different way of growing things because, as you know, you aren’t going to use chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. All the better for the environment, the soil, and the health of you and your loved ones. But more than that, organic gardening includes restoring your soil so it is healthy and full of minerals, knowing which insects you want and which ones you don’t (and how to get rid of the “don’ts”) and how to recycle organic materials for making compost. For that you might want to look for a good Organic Gardening book.
Organic gardening is a lot of fun and it’s a great way to get outdoors and be more physically active now that spring is here and summer is around the corner. I once had an organic garden in which I dug up most of my back yard to build. I made a double-dug garden in a spiral shape which gave me lots and lots of space to plant a very wide variety of vegetables and the spiral made a convenient walkway for us to get around to every plant and care for it.
We had tons of food and our grocery bills were way down during those years. Organic gardening is definitely a money saving venture. I also learned a lot about how things grow and why I should love ladybugs even more than I already did. I had, for instance, huge brussel sprout plants. I didn’t even like brussel sprouts until I grew them organically. Mine tasted better than any I had ever been served anywhere. No kidding.
Simple Brussel Sprouts Saute
I would just pick them fresh, wash them and trim the stem end if necessary. (By the way, it often wasn’t necessary because when you bring in something fresh from your garden, it hasn’t had time to dry out or get tough.) Slice the brussel sprouts in half lengthwise and if they are a little large, slice the stem end vertically just about a quarter of an inch in so it will cook in about the same time as the rest of the sprout. Heat up a heavy pan with some olive oil and throw in the brussel sprouts. Saute them with some sea salt and pepper if you wish and really, any other herb or seasoning you think will be good. I like to add in some crushed garlic because that’s my favorite. When the brussel sprouts are tender but no mushy, they are done. Serve them like they are or garnish them with something toasted such as toasted light or black sesame seeds. Mmmmm!
Unfortunately I do not still have that big spiral-shaped garden. But that’s okay if you are like me and don’t even have a back yard! Organic gardening can be done in containers, in a community garden that promotes organic growing practices or, you can grow indoors too!
Today the term “whole food” is tossed around quite a bit and it sounds very healthy and much better than just “natural food.” There’s even a huge chain of stores with that name. But what does it mean, really?
Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed. Whole foods typically do not contain added ingredients, such as salt, carbohydrates, or fat. Examples of whole foods include unpolished grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.
The term “whole food” came into use around 1970, which makes a lot of sense to me in the broad scheme of things. I have a friend who grew up on a farm in the ’50’s. She would tell me about all the vegetables and fruits they raised and all about the chickens, pigs and cows. They provided the eggs, the meat and the milk. Virtually all the food they ate came from these “whole food” sources and processing them was minimal and done right at home on the farm.
It was truly whole food! My friend’s family did not slaughter an animal and then eat only a two-pound package of some of the parts. They used all the parts and they used methods for storing such as drying, smoking, pickling and freezing. When they milked the cows they did not homogenize it and drink only a two-percent version of the milk. They used the whole thing and made their milk, cream, butter, buttermilk, etc from that whole food source.
The twentieth century had brought us all kinds of prepared, packaged, processed food products that we could just buy in our grocery store instead of growing and raising and preparing them ourselves. These were not, and are not today, “whole foods”– no matter what the name of the store is where you bought them!
By the sixties and seventies we came full circle once again, looking for a healthier, more natural way to eat. Terms like “natural,” “whole food” and “organic” began cropping up.
(I’m skipping over a LOT of food history here, and perhaps I will write more about that later. You might want to check out Dr. Neal Barnard’s books for some of this. I’m also not promoting drinking milk. That’s another story involving the U.S.D.A, the U.S. Dairy Industry and billions of dollars.)
No, not everyone is to going to go back to farming and raising all their own food and that’s okay. However, if we are going to buy whole and organic foods from our “natural health food stores” we need to know some definitions.
I did not find a legal definition for “whole food” and there definitely isn’t one for the word “natural” or “natural food.” Natural food means to me, whole and organic food. It is in its natural state and wasn’t raised with pesticides and other unnatural chemicals and it is not highly processed. That’s probably what you think, too. But in the world of advertising and marketing, “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean that. So beware.
The United States Food and Drug Administration defines whole grains as cereal grains containing the bran, endosperm and germ of the original grain. That’s a mouthful! These are the layers that are inside the grain. It would be better to think of some examples:
Brown rice is hulled and the rest of the grain is left intact whereas white rice is hulled and has the underneath layers–the bran and the germ–also removed and you get the white part left (which is, by the way, called the endosperm.) The brown rice is whole, the white rice is not.
Organic unbleached white flour is not a whole food. Organic whole wheat flour is not a whole food, but is much less processed. 100% whole wheat flour is often stone-ground and still has the bran and the germ in it. Whole wheat–the actual grain–is whole food. So when you’re buying your “whole wheat” bread in the health food store, what does the label actually say? Is the ingredient “wheat flour?” That’s not necessarily “whole” wheat! It has to actually say, “whole wheat” to be closer to whole food.
What about that bottle of sweet, organic, unfiltered apple juice? Not whole. But the apples it came from, definitely whole!
Let’s look at this very simple example: You’re going to buy yourself a bunch of organic carrots. Great! The display is beautiful and the carrots are piled up all nicely arranged and they’ve even gone to the trouble of taking off the end where the green part was attached to the orange part . . . Wait. What?
Go for the whole carrot, I always say! You can saute those carrot slices up in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and you can wash and mince up those greens and toss them in for the last couple of minutes and you’ve got yourself a very colorful, delicious whole food dish.
In my universe, “organic food” falls under the category of “whole food.” Organic food production is a heavily regulated Industry in the United States and in several other countries. Organic farmers have to comply with strict guidelines to be able to claim their food or livestock is organic. Generally, organic food is food raised without the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Organic food is not supposed to contain genetically modified organisms, industrial solvents, or chemical additives and it is not supposed to be irradiated. Organic farmers are also required to use farming practices which foster recycling of resources and promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.
My first-hand experience with using organic whole food is that it is very economical and it provides much better nutrition than non-organic foods. I fed three growing boys with almost all organic food and I can attest that on the few occasions when I didn’t have organic food and had to cook with non-organic, they ate twice as much, snacked all the time and never seemed as satisfied as they did (and we all did) when eating organic.
I think you can take it from here. I’m not saying “NEVER” eat anything that is not 100% whole and unprocessed. But I am saying it is a good thing to start looking for more truly whole foods and use them to move toward a much more balanced, satisfying and healthy cuisine.
They’re everywhere – diet programs, weightloss systems, food philosophies, miracles promised if you take certain nutritional products. There are just about as many opinions on what a human being should consume as there are “experts” on the subject! Books, TV doctors, websites, blogs, health gurus, traveling side shows, official government recommendations . . . and food advice involved with social/political/economic issues.
I joined the United Farm Workers as a teenager. My parents kept receiving brochures and letters signed by Cesar Chavez asking for donations to his cause, which at the time was about protecting the rights of migrant farm workers who were exposed to dangerous chemical pesticides in the grape fields. (Remember the grape boycott?) I read that the migrant workers came into the fields with their entire family and that the mothers and children were suffering with all kinds of health problems because of their exposure to poisonous substances. “Something,” I thought, “should be done about that.”
This truly concerned me and I joined for $10. This was my first interest in a social cause and I continued paying for this membership for several years with my own allowance. And of course, I did not eat grapes.
As I grew up my personal lineup of diet and health advice came from my mom and Soupy Sales (“Don’t forget your vitaminnies!”), Jack LaLanne, then Adelle Davis, next came the book, “Sugar Blues” by William Dufty, closely followed by George Ohsawa who coined the term “macrobiotics” and Michio Kushi who really brought this philosophy to life for me, and recently Dr. Robert Cohen and his research. I have experienced being a meat-eater, a vegetarian, and a vegan over the years. And what did I learn?
I learned that there are some very basic concepts that should be put in place before you can even begin to know what foods work for you. They seem obvious to me now, but they weren’t at first and apparently they aren’t obvious to everyone else either.
The first concept is that you have to eat real food. A friend of mine sent out a photo the other day taken by Deb Mahan showing a fast-food factory producing what looks like a pink, styrofoamy boa constrictor of foodstuff and asking you to guess what kind of food it is. (I find the cardboard boxes with no other wrapping disturbing.) Anyway, it’s pretty easy to tell this is not real food.
I remember in college my boyfriend and I would chuckle over the fact that packages of individually-sliced and wrapped American cheese were labeled “cheese food” not “cheese.” We knew that wasn’t real food. We called it “plastic cheese.”
What about all those ingredients on so-called “food” packages that are mostly unpronounceable and that we mostly don’t have a clue what they are? They aren’t real food, that’s for sure.
I think you get the point. Real food is not made of plastic, petroleum or chemistry-lab products.
[Additional case in point: Twinkies, the Undead Snack opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com – Check out the third footnote at the bottom and click on it – there’s a list of the 39 ingredients in “Twinkies.”]
The second basic concept is that once you have chosen to eat a real food, you need to look at how refined or processed it is–i.e. how much has the original food been altered? Most people know that refined white sugar is nothing like the original sugar cane plant. Maybe you’ve heard that “carbs are bad.” Well, that depends. Are we talking about refined white flour products in which the flour bears no resemblance whatsoever to the original fields of waiving grain? Rice that has been stripped down until there’s nothing left but the white carbohydrate part? Or are we talking about whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, whole barley or whole oats that are called “complex carbohydrates,” act nothing like refined carbohydrates when you eat them, and used to be staple food all over the world?
The third basic concept (and this is closely related to the second concept) is that no matter what type of food you decide you should eat, choose the highest quality of that food that you can. “Quality” is relative, certainly. But this is where you should look into what it means for food to be organic and why that is important. And why your food should not be genetically modified. The subject of food quality is worth learning about because it is key to understanding how what you eat will affect your health and how you live. I encourage you to gain that understanding and get into the drivers seat of deciding what effects you will create for yourself and your family with your food and don’t just leave it up to the “chefs” at the local fast food place or your favorite chain restaurant or the marketing directors of food manufacturing companies.
There is so much data to sort through on the subject of food! Unfortunately it is can also be a highly political subject. After all, what better way to control people than to control their food sources? Diet and health advice is rife with rumors forwarded by vested interests. Here’s an article that reminded me of that fact: CDC researchers say mothers should stop breastfeeding to boost ‘efficacy’ of vaccines www.naturalnews.com
But take heart and just start finding out. Find out about organic food. Check out the subject of “whole food.” And if you can confront the political/economic realities, find out about GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). Following the three basic concepts I gave you will take you a long way toward understanding what’s good enough to eat.