Killer at Large

Convenience and low price may allow us to get a bigger telly and have more time vegging in front of it  (pun intended)… but is it really worth it?

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  • Is it comfort or laziness we are seeking?
  • Do we want more nutritious food? Or or just lots of flavor, with no or little regard for nutrition?
  • Are the man-made food-like substances with all the calculated nutrients really matching up to the whole foods that come with no nutrition label?
  • Has food science got a one-up on the nature?

I have an inkling that marketers and the government shun aside morals as they fool us in to thinking that they have it figured out, and they know best. 

Looking at the health of the west (and in particular the US) should we trust what the government (USDA and FDA) is saying about nutrition?

I don’t think so. But at least those lovely pharmaceutical companies have our best interest at heart by providing us with lots of pills to treat all the western diseases (yeah, right!).

I wonder, if we changed our approach to eating, would we need them?

Many cultures that have not been infected with the western diet show us convincing proof that we would not.  Western diseases are absent without the western diet.  Not to mention better individual health and the health of the community.  Meds are a good tool that can be used in treatment of disease, but it seems we could avoid many diseases with preventative methods.  A healthier diet.

It’s true that the west is spending less of their earnings on food, but the lesser known fact is that the money we are saving is going to pay for our medical bills, which often come as a direct result of our poor diet.

Simpler food chain:

Sun → greens → little bit of animal → nutritious food

Complex, and ironically cheaper food chain (due to government subsidies and the power of industrial/intensive agriculture):

Sun+chemicals+antibiotics → corn/soy→ fuel for transport → processing plant → more fuel → breeding lot → fuel → feeding lot → fuel → processing plant → fuel → packaging plant → fuel → super market → food void of nutrition but with very colorful and deceptive health benefit label

Is organic better?

Not necessarily.  Take a look at a possible organic food chain:

Sun→corn/soy→fuel for transport→processing plant→fuel→breeding lot→fuel→feeding lot→fuel→processing plant→fuel→packaging plant→fuel→super market→food void of nutrition but with very colorful and deceptive organic health benefit label

The simpler food chain that goes beyond organic is undeniably better for our health, our communities health and the health of the earth.  I could go on, but I’ll give you a few resources that I have found very helpful (see end).

Better than just filling up with good facts, why not give a simple, sustainable, seasonal and local diet a go?

Will the benefits speak for themselves?

If you are not convinced by the facts, I’m confident you will find the proof of the pudding in the action of eating it (pun intended).

I have spent the last 6 months incessantly researching, reading etc… but I admit I have only had one foot in taking part in the matter.  I am excited to jump in head first to this life style–and watch a steady, holistic transformation.

The farmers markets start next week and I’ve a few locally run eco-friendly grocery stores to try out, up my sleeve.  I would be excited to hear  some stories, tips from others who are taking a step towards a simpler and more eco-friendly lifestyle  or who have been living it for a while.

I know that it will take good planning and  some sacrifices (time, money) to make the change initially.  However, I am confident, that as the change becomes routine the physical, emotional, relational, environmental and spiritual payoff will far outweigh the cost.

Some good resources:

Films:

Killer at Large,  Food Inc.,  No Impact Man, Botany of Desire, Life off the Grid, King Korn.

Books:

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan,   Eating Animals by Johnathan Safran-Foyer, The End of Over-Eating by David Kessler, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, The Necessary Revolution by Peter Senge, The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert and Five Acres and Independence by M.G. Kains

just one more hit… of fries

I’ve gotten some comments on the irony of my post on overweight children followed by an encouragement to devour free ice cream… but really I don’t think they’re contradictory, since moderation is the key. Banning certain foods altogether can just make one feel deprived and more likely to binge. But then again… when what your eating affects your brain chemistry in a way similar to cocaine it might be time to quit cold turkey.

Sound unbelievable? Well, as David Kessler reports in his book: The End of Overeating, many in the food and restaurant industry process and engineer their food to be insatiable in a way that’s only slightly less alluring than hard drugs (at least in rats!).  Reading this book made me giddy with glee that I don’t eat out much, because the bottom line is that food served in restaurants usually boils down to layers of fat on sugar on salt on fat on sugar….  Ever wonder why it’s so hard to get the nutrition info on foods when you go out to eat? That’s because even the salads are loaded with hyper-palatable combos of fat, sugar and salt that can actually change your brain and get you addicted.

Kessler likens some in the food industry today to the tobacco industry of the past. Many global food companies are employing scientist to create insatiable food combinations…. that in the end can prove deadly.  Government regulations have a role to play but changing public perception is key. And to change public perception consumers need to know what they’re REALLY eating… where the ingredients are from, what the ingredients are, the nutritional information, the preparation methods, etc. And nothing let’s you know they’ve got something to hide like the fact the food industry is fighting so hard to keep you clueless about what you’re consuming.

More from The Washington Post and The Huffington Post.

Food on the Defensive

There are many dilemmas to the Western* way of life and mindset, and to me, a primary problem is the desire to neatly break-down and categorize things that are interconnected.  Another issue of the “Western way,” if you will, is the desire for quick and easy fixes – instant gratification. For example, if someone is struggling with depression, often they will be prescribed an anti-depressant rather than addressing the issue from a holistic approach that examines mind, body, and spirit.

Therefore, I value Michael Pollan’s integrated approach to food. He offers no quick fixes or outrageous promises (“Lose 15lbs in 15 days!”) but he does make a strong case against the Western diet and the food industry and so-called science that supports it.  And, thankfully, he offers an alternative to the Western diet other than subsisting off hunting and gathering.

Pollan emphasizes the need to not only examine what nutrients (vitamins, minerals, calories, grams of fat, sugar, etc) one consumes, but also in what form they are consumed (whole foods, processed foods, canned, peeled, etc), how they are consumed (three main meals, small samplings throughout the day, what order, what speed, etc) and even who they are consumed with (alone, friends, the TV). Then, of course, to examine one’s health we must also take into account their levels of physical activity, role in a community, mental state, spirituality and heredity.

So it’s easy to see why issues of food and health become difficult to study. There are countless variables. Pollan argues that the reductionist scientific method (a prime example of Western modernity) used by many nutritionists have come to erroneous conclusions because of their focus on only one aspect of something as complex as food and health.

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