This article is going to be a discussion on our constantly changing food sources. This will preface my upcoming articles which explain how I feel about some critically important nutritional supplements that almost every person should be taking in order to offset our current foods and diets which are deplete of nutrients. I would like to forewarn all my readers that this article may seem a little "doom and gloom" but unfortunately this is the food time period we currently live in. But no one should fret because as I mentioned above I will write a follow-up article on how to counteract these nutritional deficiencies.
Today's food does not resemble the food of the ancestors that came before you. A common comment that I hear from people daily is that "If my grandmother ate this way and she is now 80 years old then I can do the same". Unfortunately with the invention of food engineering, genetically modified foods (explained in depth in my GMO article), and the introduction of new pesticides and herbicides to our farming system our foods now look nothing at all like the foods that were available 60 years ago.
First and foremost the quality of our produce has gone down dramatically. The use of chemical fertilizers depletes the soil of trace nutrients like zinc, molybdenum, manganese and other minerals. These fertilizers allow farmers to continue to grow different forms of produce that look larger and healthier but are nutritionally depletant due to over farming of the same soil year after year. Let alone the fact that many of these foods are becoming genetically modified. From a nutritional standpoint when we choose to purchase and eat conventionally grown foods rather than organically grown we are technically eating beautiful looking cardboard laced in pesticides and herbicides. The problem begins with the fact that it is cheaper to eat conventional farming than it is to eat organic.
Secondly the care for our livestock and meat products has also plunged. The pumping of antibiotics into our beef, pork and poultry has become common place in the food industry. Farmers purchase half of the antibiotics in this country. They are indiscriminately distributed to our livestock to counteract the poor living conditions farmers provide for them. Most livestock live in a space where they are unable to move at all with hundreds of animals next to them. They are forced to eat in the same place that they and other livestock defecate. If an animal dies in the herd it can take a number of days before the farmers realize it is being stepped over by the other animals. This happens in the case of beef, pork, poultry, and even farm-raised fish. In many cases these animals are also fed corn based food which is a large difference from the grass they evolved upon eating. This corn meal is cheaper for farmers due to current government funded corn subsidies. This corn helps make the animals fatter quicker as well which is seen as a benefit to farmers. This combination of unnatural diets, overcrowding, unsanitary living conditions, and indiscriminate use of antibiotics has led to foods that may carry antibiotic resistant bacteria aka "super-germs" as well as meat that is exceptionally high in omega-6 (pro-inflammatory) fats. Grass-fed and free-range livestock (wild caught instead farm-raised when it comes to fish) is the meat we should be eating. This lean meat is much higher in omega-3s (anti-inflammatory) fats due to the ability of the livestock to eat it's natural diet as well as roam and exercise as they would in nature. The health benefits of these meats far surpass conventional raised livestock and farm-raised fish. Yet again these healthier forms of food are more expensive and not as widely available as conventional meats to the average person.
And finally lets talk about food additives. 99% of the 80,000 chemicals in circulation today did not exist before 1950. This means we cannot look to prior generations to see health effects.
With the consumption of so many new additives, pesticides and herbicides it is easy to understand why so many people feel fatigued, depressed, and ill in today's society. This is primarily due to the majority of these substances being either poisonous or harmful to our body in one way or another. Many of these substances are known carcinogens or possess other well known side-effects. Here is just a list of a few ingredients that should absolutely be avoided at all cost due to known health side-effects (which I will also address in a future article):
- Trans fats (any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil)- being the primary fat linked to heart disease. Heart Disease is the number 1 killer of Americans. These fats are absolutely devastating to the cardiovascular system. In fact, trans fat has a half life of 51 days. That means three months after consuming trans fat, you’re body is still dealing with it.
- Sodium nitrites- Found in most deli cut meats and other frozen processed meats. This is a known carcinogen by the FDA. Not assumed to be carcinogen. This is 100% known and recognized by the FDA. When this chemical combines with the natural stomach acids it forms nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are a powerful carcinogen. The only reason it remains legal to sell is because it has proven to kill botulism spores which is how the FDA can justify putting a known carcinogen in foods without a warning label.
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Aspartame (nutrasweet)- found in almost every mint or gum sold in the US (except for the original altoids, for whatever reason the mini-altoids do contain it). It was approved in 1981 by the FDA against the objections of a federal panel citing the link between brain cancer and aspartame. Other known side-effects now recognized by the FDA are headaches, anxiety attacks, memory loss, breathing difficulty, heart palpitations, nausea, seizures, and blurred vision. The last symptom is so severe that many pilots are not allowed to consume any aspartame 4 hours before a flight.
- High fructose corn syrup- linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver and liver scarring. Also now being linked with obesity due to the inhibition of satiety enzymes in the stomach after consumption. Basically, your body is unable to tell your brain that you are full until your have already over ate. Yet it is still being advertised by corn farmers as "just as healthy as normal sugar". HFCS is found in sodas, ketchup, salad dressing, chips, syrup, and many other daily food items.
- Splenda and equal- Another artificial sweetener with more media coverage than the others so I will keep it quick. Basically it cannot be metabolized (broken down) by the body and it still leads to insulin resistance (diabetes). This is because insulin is still released into the blood following consumption but there is no glucose (sugar) available to transport into cells. Therefore insulin is left circulating in the blood stream leading to insulin resistance.
4. Carrageenan- This is in most dairy products (coffee creamers, ice cream, non-dairy milks). This acts as a thicker in cream products. Research is now showing Carrageenan is linked to GI tract tumors and other lesions. Could have a direct link with intestinal polyps and colon cancer. It should also be avoided by anyone with any form of irritable bowel syndrome.
5. Soy and Corn isolates (GMO form)- please read my GMO article to understand the risk with these products which are found in almost every processed food you can find. If it is a non-perishable item then it probably has some form of one of these in it.
6. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)- is a flavor enhancer use in foods such as ramen noodles, Doritos, and prevalent asian cuisine. MSG is a form of glutamic acid which is an excitotoxin aka a nuerotoxin. These excitotoxins encourage the continual firing of nuerons until they essentially burn out and die. Side effects associated with MSG have included burning sensations, numbness, tingling, feelings of warmth, facial pressure or tightness, chest pain, headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat, bronchospasm in people with asthma, drowsiness, and weakness.
Now that we have discussed these different substances that have altered today's food landscape it should be easier to also understand why so many of us are overweight yet malnourished. Our bodies are starving for nutrients, vitamins, and minerals yet instead all we are feeding it is chemicals, additives, and calorically-dense yet nutrient depletant foods. It is not your fault you are constantly hungry. Your body is searching for nutrient rich foods to satisfy it's instinct to survive. You see Mcdonalds and your body instantly recognizes it as calories which in turn triggers your brain to literally and figuritively "get the juices flowing". You eat the high calorie food and gain little to no nutrients from the meal. You also consume numerous additives that will take a very long time to break down in your body. A couple hours later your cravings kick in again because your body still remains deplete of the necessary vitamins to function and flourish.
I will get into how to get these essential nutrients in my next article. But for now just mull over this article a little longer and understand that our food source is not what it once was. It is nearly impossible to find a whole food (food containing only one ingredient) in ones pantry or refrigerator.