2010/02/17

Eating Defensively

A few months ago when I watched too much tv when we were sick I saw a commercial where a mom asked her daughter if she wanted to bake muffins. She then proceded to take out a plastic tube and scoop some gloopy stuff out of it into muffin pans and then bake said gloop. Although the commercial was bright and cheerful, (possibly to make people not think about how gross it is) I couldn't help but be grossed out by it. Several questions come to mind after watching this ad. 1. Why are people teaching their children that food comes out of plastic tubes? What happened to real food? 2. Why aren't people taking the time to bake with real ingredients with their children? Seriously, it takes a few more minutes to make real muffins than gloop muffins. It's not that hard.

Anyways, speaking of real food, I like this blog post from Anna at http://www.freshorganicliving.com/:

It used to be that just finding enough food of any kind to eat was the human dilemma. It still is for billions of people today. But in most affluent nations, having too little isn’t the problem; having too much and, in particular, having more food-like items that aren’t either very nutritious or safe, is becoming an increasing problem.

If you look at the layout of a typical supermarket, the produce is usually on one side, the meat on the opposite side and in between, there are acres of canned, packaged and highly processed items that humans were never exposed to until recently. Today, highly refined, chemical preservative and pesticide laden, nutritionally poor and genetically modified food-like substances are grossly over represented in most large scale food stores. How this has happened is that these food-like substances typically don’t spoil, are made from ingredients heavily subsidized by our government and have a much higher profit margin than real food. Plus, worst of all for parents, they taste good.

My hero of this issue is Michael Pollan. If you haven’t already read his books: In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, (winner of the James Beard Award), and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, (named one of the ten best books of the year), then may I suggest that they will forever transform how you view food. His new book ‘Food Rules’ is now in bookstores and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

One of his comments about how to choose a healthy diet was so elegant that I must share it with you. I’m paraphrasing here a bit, but he says that if the food you’re considering wasn’t around when your grand parents were, then it’s probably not a good choice to eat. For me, my grandparents, who lived on a farm in Germany, that excludes virtually any packaged, processed or commercially canned food. For younger people, they may have to look back to their great grand parents to reach the time when humans were eating a non-commercially modified diet.

With the recent information about the dangers of BPA and it’s prevalence in commercially canned food, now you have to worry not only about the quality of the food that you buy, but how it is packaged. Bisphenol -A is a chemical that is used to make plastics hard, clear and resistant to breakage. It is also used in the lining of canned food products. It leaches into liquids in canned food and at present, there is no real alternative available. BPA is linked to breast cancer, male reproductive dysfunction, autism, obesity, infertility, miscarriages, prostrate problems and cancer.

To be safe, I’ve switched to glass containers for tomatoes, juices, using dried rather than canned beans and making my own soups from scratch. My larder now has rows of glass jars filled with colorful beans, lentils, peas, whole grains, oats, nuts and flours. If you still drink canned or bottled soda or juices, there are dangers of BPA leakage in those items as well. The good news is that frozen fruits and vegetables are nutritionally superior to canned and sometimes even to fresh. The long distance that most fresh foods are shipped causes a dramatic loss of vitamins, whereas most frozen foods are packaged within hours of being picked and their nutrients protected. I’m also finding more organic fruits and vegies available in frozen form and sometimes they are a better deal than buying what’s fresh in the local market.

Another great book to help us figure out what we’re up against is “Genetically Engineered Foods: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers” by Ronnie Cummins and Ben Lilliston. Genetically Engineered food is a huge subject and one that deserves careful scrutiny by all of us, but I urge you to seek out the facts yourself. As far as I can tell, genetically modified crops have not fulfilled their promise of providing greater yields with fewer pesticides but have increased our reliance on pesticides and ‘chemi-culture’. Sterile GE crops have been accused of contributing to the global food crisis and also contaminating non-genetically engineered crops world wide.

Perhaps the worst fact of genetically modified food is that there still is no legal requirement to inform us when GE ingredients are being used. Without this information being tracked, there simply is no way to know what the long term health consequences are. In Robyn O’Briens powerful book “The Unhealthy Truth” more of the consequences of our genetically modified diets are exposed. She examines research that links genetically modified foods to multiple health disorders and the increased prevalence of serious childhood illnesses. It begs the question, how can we protect ourselves from dangers that aren’t even acknowledged or made public?

It seems we do need to eat defensively, and shop with a view of protecting our families from unwanted chemical contamination. To learn more of what you can do, check out a favorite blog of mine at Healthy Child Healthy World.

6 comments:

Jenn said...

1 more week to go Sherri! I pray that all goes well for you in the next few weeks. Thinking of you here! (and I expect pictures on here ASAP afterwards...get Stu to do it for you, please!)

And those muffins look really yummy too! Maybe I'll have to bake some muffins today...don't worry...I'll BAKE them from scratch!

willowsprite said...

Thanks Jenn! I'm hoping for a sucessful VBAC. How are you doing? When is your due date?
Don't worry, pictures will be posted!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info..and wow, only one week to go? Nice! Wishing you all the best in the coming days/weeks, hoping you get your VBAC! Can't wait to see pics of new baby H!
Rachel K

rkingma said...

thanks, you're great :)

willowsprite said...

No problem! :)

mom said...

True in the stuff you wrote. But in defence of the working mothers, sometimes there just is absolutely no time in baking. I believe that as long as kids get nutritious 3 meals a day, and a great amount of fruits and vegetables in thier daily diet, they'll be just fine. A store-bought snack, that is low in saturated fat, and low sugar (and there are great improvements now in the store-bought snacks for kids) will make a happy child as well as the home made stuff. Home made IS healthier. But as long as the parent is in control of the amount of store-bought snacks available to the "kids" then no harm is done.