What I've discovered over decades of continuing education as a health practitioner, is that this is really the most important question for your health. We eat and drink throughout every day of our lives and food is literally what keeps us alive and going. So why do we not make choices related to this truth?
Through all the years of counseling as a registered dietitian, I always felt that there was an important missing ingredient to what I was teaching around nutrition. It wasn't until I discovered Permaculture while traveling through Australia, that I found it. I moved from caring about calories and fat, to soil biology and pasture stewardship. The ecosystems that our food live and grow in.
The above picture here shows where a lot of my food comes from, along with Rainbow Bridge Natural Grocer, Watkins Butcher Shop (from their family run, local, grass fed beef ranch), goat milk/eggs/fruit from friends, as well as herbs, veggies and fruit growing at my home. I rarely eat out these days because eating in is soooo good. That's right, it's not just good for me, it's the best tasting food I've ever eaten.
What I've discovered is that if you source your food really well by finding the very best quality, where the farmer/rancher care as much about their plants/animals as they do their family and profits, you end up with ingredients that will always make an amazing meal. You won't even need to try and cook it perfectly or worry about seasoning. It will be good all by itself. You'll feel comfortable and satiated with less volume. And when you combine all these exceptionally sourced ingredients, you get an array of "out of this world" kind of flavor experiences. Oh and it happens to be really good for you too, even the fat.
Because we are only as healthy as the plant/animals that we are getting our nourishment from. When the plant or animal's health improves, nutrition profiles improve, like an increase in omega 3 fatty acids in pastured beef, and increases in phytochemicals and antioxidants in organic produce, because phytochemicals for example, are essentially an indication of a thriving plant: more vibrant flavors, colors, fragrance as well as protection from insects and disease (now that's something we all could use more of, eh?).
If you really look, it's easy to tell a very healthy plant, animal or environment from an ill one. The following photos are examples of this dichotomy.
Would perhaps chickens in sunshine, fresh air, digging in the ground, eating bugs and a variety of vegetation be healthier compared to ones raised in a concentration camp? I'm not trying to shock you or try to get you to stop eating meat, but there is no better description of the way the majority of the chicken (broilers) are being raised these days (pigs as well). They are in an unhealthy, unnatural environment for their short life span which is why they require pharmaceuticals as part of their daily diet to keep from getting sick. They are genetically bred for big breasts and faster growth because thats what most people like and what keeps the costs down. This is the most efficient system which allows them to pass savings on to us.
Is It Worth It?
To the giant food conglomerates it is, because it correlates to big money, and weeds out the smaller competition. But why are we not seeing these issues in the mainstream media? Advertising dollars and lobbying protect their interests and secrets. It is actually illegal to take pictures of feedlots, pig or chicken barns, processing plants, or GMO crops. Why is that? Because the public would be outraged at the sight of any of it. It's nothing like what you see on the marketing displays.
I never understood why Genetically Modified Food producers don't want labels. You think they would be proud of their innovative foods, but they want it to stay hidden for some reason. Probably because, if there was a clear correlation of the negative effects on our health, then they would suffer the lawsuits and bad press that comes with it. Instead, they've lobbied and achieved substantial equivalence, which allows their patented corn, soy and other crops to have the same labeling as any naturally grown corn, soy and other products. It's marketing and regulatory skirting brilliance on their part. You get the benefits of patenting, which keeps anyone from saving seeds from a plant for the first time...ever. This allows them to claim ownership of crops that have accidentally contaminated or cross-pollinated other fields. And with substantial equivalence, they don't have to worry about the long term environmental and health study impacts.
How is this happening?
Their biggest way of skirting bad press is essentially stating that genetic modification is just a more precise and accelerated version of natural selection in plant breeding. Though this is one way of using genetic engineering technology, this is clearly not the real problem. The problem is when there is modification with genes from completely different species. Yes there is something un-natural about inserting genes from a natural insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis into corn or using tumor-enducing plant pathogenic bacteria like agrobacterium tumefaciens as the way to transport or rather "infect" the desired plant with the new "favorable" gene to create a desired outcome, like pest resistance. Even though these bacteria are not considered to be a threat to human health according to the FDA, what if there is an accumulative or combination affect or transgenic affect happening here that is creating allergies or disease over the long run? There is already plenty of research indicating a potential correlation, but to this date, there still have been no studies that show the effects on humans, because there have been no studies on humans,, only on animals. Might all this "low risk" potentially be part of the problem of why 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women, on average, develop some form of cancer in their lifetime according to the American Cancer Society. That's 50% of us men will have cancer in our lifetimes! Is this normal? And 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some form of autoimmune related disease, often times related to gut disorders - abnormal permeability in the intestinal wall. What affects our gut health more than food? Is there a correlation here? Is this all a part of the natural process of aging or are we maybe going the wrong direction with how we are focusing on food and health in America?
You Are Your Only Hope
The only way to have optimal health, is to take full responsibility for it. It starts with nourishment, what your body needs to function. Here are some ways to begin re-connecting with your food.
I wish everyone raised their own chickens again. Talk to anyone that is doing it and they'll tell you they love it. Chickens are amazing. If only to re-connect with a species that has been feeding us so bountiful for so long. They deserve a good life, and so do we.
I also wish everyone had a garden. Even a little herb garden would be easy and low maintenance. Growing some of your own food gives you a new perspective on the incredible progression of latent seed to fruiting plant that will touch your very soul. Everything tastes better fresh from the garden because it is grown with such care, is harvested at the most optimal time and is only feet from your palate instead of being shipped from 100's to 1000's of miles away.
The best option for buying food is to connect with our local food sources. Meet your Farmers by searching for a local CSA - Community Supported Agriculture or go to a Farmer's Market. Ask questions and visit their farms. If they don't allow, don't buy from them.
Next find a Food COOP or Natural Food Store. We need these grocery stores for convenience and variety sake, but keep finding ways to source better and better foods.
Key words to look for when shopping:
- produce/grains/nuts - organic, raw, fermented, pesticide free
- beef, chicken, pork - grass fed, pasture raised, steroid/growth hormone & antibiotic free
- fish - line caught, sustainable
Simplest way of knowing
Don't worry about the Food Label Information, read the ingredients list. If you don't recognize it, don't buy it. If some form of sugar is within the first 4 ingredients, don't buy it. If it has any form of corn (syrup, oil, starch, flour) or soy (protein, lecithin) unless organic, pick something else.
Make sure each ingredient in that list is a recognizable food, herb or spice and you will notice a real difference in how your body feels within a few months. This is when you will get a sense of real vitality because you are giving your body what it really wants and needs and it will respond with starting to heal long standing issues or symptoms that never seem to go away.
Some of the long standing issues related to food that I no longer have a problem with:
- chronic sinus infections
- joint pain
- foot fungus
- sensitive stomach
- itchy scalp and dandruff
I have not been to a doctor, except once for a physical, in the last 10 years or more. My blood work was great, just a little low on B12. It made sense to me because I have been eating much less meat since I discovered much of the information I presented above. But instead of the B12 shot my doctor offered, I opted to head down to my local pastured meat butcher shop and for just a little over $1, I ordered a "sliver of liver", which is only about an ounce of liver which provides around 300% of the RDA for B12. Besides that, liver is high in protein, folate, iron and zinc, all nutrients that most people are commonly low in. You can get it combined in with your ground beef (just 10% liver) at a local butcher shop, so you don't even taste it!
I'll get into more specifics around healing foods in later blogs, but in the meantime, keep learning so you keep growing...
and stay out of this aisle :)