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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Real Food in an Unreal Time

Real Food in an Unreal Time

When I go to the grocery store and try to find the wholesome foods that were a given for my grandparents, I realize how unreal our food supply has become. "Natural" means nothing, but we buy it thinking we are doing right by our bodies. I cringe when my friends talk about fat-free this and lowfat that. If cream cheese is fat-free, then IT'S NOT CREAM CHEESE. It's entirely fake, but people buy into the health claims on food packages and trust that it wouldn't be available if it were harmful. I want to ask them how they can maintain such a belief when any adult can buy cigarettes, alcohol, meat containing pink slime or sawdust, soda, or any of the myriad harmful, but perfectly legal products on the market today. I'm getting a reputation for being "weird" about food, so I usually don't comment when I hear people talk about the unreal products they buy; this is my forum to make a case for some sanity in our food choices.  

I started my day watching a video about the Chipotle company. That led me to the company's website and to their "ingredients statement." 

I have seen lots of criticism directed at the company for not limiting their menu to totally organic foods, but how can they? Consumers have not demanded product labeling for GMOs, which has given the food industry carte blanche to do as they please with our food supply. I don't eat much meat because finding sources that are never fed GMO feed is difficult and expensive. To find sources on a scale needed by a large restaurant chain like Chipotle is not going to be possible unless or until there is enough money to be made in raising farm animals with organic feed to revolutionize the industry. So when I really want a chicken, I pay $15 for a free-range chicken from Trader Joe's. If I want to make my mom's special tacos, I schedule a trip to buy 100% grass-fed beef from the farmer who brings it into my town twice a week. Otherwise, I eat fish that isn't farmed knowing it is the safest alternative available to me right now.  

But I hope that there will come a time when the success of Chipotle Mexican Grill's emphasis on healthier ingredients, Whole Food's decision to require GMO labeling, and the sharing of information on social media sites will spark change. If not for me, then for my grandchildren. 

So in the meantime, I do what I can do. 

It is the end of my first regrouping week, and it was a successful one. I lost three pounds and have made more progress than I anticipated with regard to running. I began the week running six minutes and ended it running 24 minutes (consecutively). I am always amazed at the resiliency of the human body. I had quit trying to run after hurting my knee and had gotten to the point that my joints were regularly reminding me that I inherited my mom's arthritis. In just seven days, I am no longer feeling much pain. I felt none at all today when I was running, which allowed me to push myself through the second mile. For me at least, running is the best analgesic. 

As I planned my food each day, I made mental notes about the different ways I have come up with to find wholesome foods I enjoy without resorting to adding processed foods to my diet. Here are a few of the ways I survive on a diet while greatly limiting GMOs.

Sweeteners: I know cane sugar is non-GMO, but it is still highly processed. I use organic maple syrup (the real stuff; grade B is best) for my sweetener in hot tea and on oatmeal and the few organic cereals I eat. People frequently ask me if that makes my food taste funny, but in truth, it is only the artificial maple flavor that is strong. I do not taste maple in my cereal or tea. I don't like the taste of honey, so I only use it in recipes containing other ingredients that will modify or overpower the honey taste. If you like honey, it may be your non-GMO sweetener of choice.

Dairy: I like yogurt and cheese, and I need milk on my cereal. I am completely unwilling to consume milk that is not organic. I also learned from reading Real Food by Nina Planck that drinking lowfat dairy is more likely than whole milk to cause any weight gain associated with milk consumption. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it is the fat in milk that contains the nutrients that allow the body to appropriately utilize the fat in milk. Furthermore (and this was surprising to me), all reduced-calorie milk has to be synthetically fortified because the nutrients in milk are generally found in the fat. So when the fat is removed, artificial nutrients have to be added to the milk to replace the nutrients lost by removing the healthy fat. Well I don't want artificial nutrients. I'll take mine in their original form, thank you very much. So I buy only organic milk, organic cheese, organic butter, and organic yogurt made from whole milk. 

Whenever possible, I buy dairy that is made from raw milk. The pasteurization process kills many of the nutrients in milk because they are heat-sensitive, and the homogenization process breaks up the fat into smaller particles that aren't natural and may (or may not) negatively impact the health of those who drink itAnd it is entirely unnecessary!

Where I live, it is almost impossible to find raw milk from cows that are totally grass-fed. I can find raw milk, but nobody within driving distance from me claims that their milk comes from 100% grass-fed dairy cows. The few who have "grass-finished" dairy cows have admitted to me that the grain they primarily use is GMO grain. As always, they identify the high price of organic grains as their reason for using GMO feed (but I would argue that the long-term health effects are costlier). So I give up the benefits of raw milk to avoid GMOs. Luckily, I usually can find raw-milk cheese, butter, and yogurt from grass-fed cows. 

Raw milk and raw milk products contain more heat-sensitive nutrients that are destroyed in pasteurization.

Benefits of Raw Milk
  • Folic acid and vitamins A, C and B6  
  • Lactase to digest lactose
  • Lipase to digest milk fats
  • Phosphatase to absorb calcium and aid in the digestion of lactose
  • Beneficial bacteria that lives in the intestines (aids digestion, boosts immunity, and eliminates dangerous bacteria)
  • Cortisone-like agent that combats arthritis, arteriosclerosis, and cataracts (found in cream)
  • Myristoleic acid, a nutrient that fights pancreatic cancer and arthritis (found in butter)
Source: Real Food by Nina Planck

Note: Contrary to historical claims, raw milk products do not present increased health risks any more than vegetables grown in nutritionally depleted soil, animals fed nutritionally inadequate diets, or either of these foods processed in dirty environments; check the history of pasteurization if you care about being an informed consumer.

Beverages: I love Diet Coke. Truly! It is a constant struggle for me to exercise a total dietary ban on sodas, but I have become more and more able to do so. The key has been to educate myself on what it really is. To quote a source I can no longer identify, diet sodas are the mother of all GMOs. Not only are soft drinks completely devoid of any nutritional value, they are harmful. Whether you drink regular or diet sodas, they all are linked to obesity. And the list of other probable and possible adverse side effects is long and growing with every new piece of research. 
  • renal problems
  • memory loss
  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • nervous system disorders
  • accelerated aging
  • osteoporosis
  • asthma
  • COPD
  • digestive system disorders
Read more about it
"9 Disturbing Side Effects of Soda"
"This is what happens when you drink soda."
 

I am just not a water-drinker. Unless I've run a few miles or been out in the sun for a couple of hours, I have to choke it down. And that just doesn't work for me on a daily basis. So I have my morning coffee and then drink organic herbal teas (cold during the day and a cup of hot tea before bed). I found one brand of tea that I liked without sweetener, but then I ran across an article about high levels of pesticides in the tea.

I wrote to the company and asked for its response to the allegation, and I got a canned response that did nothing to reassure me. I checked again today to see if the company had issued a response since I contacted them, and I found this

Since "natural" has virtually no meaning from a legal perspective and it is in the first sentence of the company's response, I'll just stick to the organic tea I found at Trader Joe's. When I'm feeling really indulgent and not in slim-down mode, Tazo has a wonderful organic chai latte that I just adore. I heat it up and mix it with organic whole milk (half tea, half milk). A one-cup serving like this is 205 calories. So it's not a daily habit for me, but it's a great treat when I need some indulgence, but want to stay GMO-free!

Dessert (or a sweet treat that's guilt-free):
I love dark chocolate, and Trader Joe's has quite a few varieties of organic dark chocolate that I really enjoy. Unfortunately, I can't just keep it in the house. It's kind of like Diet Coke - one of those pleasures that I enjoy too much to resist if it were always available to me. So I keep a Larabar in the pantry for those times when I want to have a cookie. Not every brand is made exclusively of whole foods, but plenty of them fit into that category. One of my favorites is Cashew Cookie. The ingredient list is simple - cashews and dates. It's totally non-GMO (and for those who narrow it down more than I, also vegan, kosher, gluten-free, and dairy-free). 

I'll keep jotting down ideas as I run into temptations and solutions for satisfying them on my regrouping plan. 

Until then, remember that we're never too old to reclaim our health and fitness. 

You just have to want it badly enough to take the first step. 

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