We indeed are what we eat and what we are eating in many ‘first world nations’ is quite scary. The chemicals added to these ‘foods’ are disrupting our hormones, causing cancer and leading to a variety of health issues.
“In the 21st century our tastes buds, our brain chemistry, our biochemistry, our hormones and our kitchens have been hijacked by the food industry.” ~ Mark Hyman
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan is one of my favorite books. He describes his journey through 4 different ways of obtaining food: industrialized (or fast) food, conventional farming practices, organic/symbiotic farming practices, and people that hunt/forage for their meals. He follows the food chain literally from the ground to the table.
“Much of our food system depends on our not knowing much about it, beyond the price disclosed by the checkout scanner; cheapness and ignorance are mutually reinforcing. And it’s a short way from not knowing who’s at the other end of your food chain to not caring–to the carelessness of both producers and consumers that characterizes our economy today. Of course, the global economy couldn’t very well function without this wall of ignorance and the indifference it breeds. This is why the American food industry and its international counterparts fight to keep their products from telling even the simplest stories–”dolphin safe,” “humanely slaughtered,” etc.–about how they were produced. The more knowledge people have about the way their food is produced, the more likely it is that their values–and not just “value”–will inform their purchasing decisions.” ~ Michael Pollan
I highly encourage you to do your own research in regards to not only the products that you put into your body but also the products you put onto your body (check out the Skindeep website to research your personal care products). If you’d like to live a life full of health and vitality, start by controlling your food choices. This is the easiest and most controllable factor in regards to health. I always aim for fresh, local and in season produce. And in regards to what I DON’T ever eat, well that’s this list below.
1. Canned Foods
We live in a world where convenience is king. I know this. It’s hard to find fresh produce and to only eat what is in season, kind of. When you buy canned foods, however, you are also buying BPA – a toxic chemical linked to reproductive abnormalities, neurological effects, diabetes, heart disease and a heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers. Canned foods that are highly acidic, such as tomatoes for example, cause the BPA to leach into your food. I recommend you avoid canned foods, whenever possible, and stick to what’s fresh and season. You can also switch over to glass containers or frozen foods instead.
2. Processed Meats
Most deli meats are typically made with meats from animals that are not raised in an ecologically sound fashion. They are given growth hormones, antibiotics and other drugs that stick in their bodies and are passed on to you when you eat their flesh. They are also raised in horrible conditions that gives rise to innumerable diseases that are then treated with more drugs. These meats are also treated with sodium nitrite (which adds color and flavor) which your body converts to nitrosamines, which are cancer-causing chemicals. Most processed meats also contain a variety of other cancer-promoting chemicals including HCAs, PAHs, and AGEs. Says Michael Pollan in his book the Omnivore’s Dilemma, “were the walls of our meat industry to become transparent, literally or even figuratively, we would not long continue to raise, kill, and eat animals the way we do.” If you’re going to eat meat, avoid all processed meats at all costs. Go for local and sustainably raised (and grass-fed) meat. Wild caught salmon (and other fish) are a great alternative as well.
The low-fat diet craze is perhaps one of the worst diet fads to happen in the last 50 years. Healthy fats are ESSENTIAL to your diet as your cells are built with fat. Margarine, and other butter impostors, are loaded with trans fats, free radicals, emulsifiers, and preservatives. Any of these alone can lead to: heart disease, cancer, bone problems, hormonal imbalances, skin disease, infertility, and many more health problems. Don’t let clever marketing fool you. Good old fashioned butter, when made from grass-fed cows, is a healthy substance filled with conjugated linoleic acid which actually helps to fight cancer and diabetes.
4. Vegetable Oils
Vegetable oils (and margarine, made from these oils) are oils extracted from seeds like the rapeseed (canola oil) soybean (soybean oil), corn, sunflower, and safflower. They were practically non-existent in our diets until the early 1900s when new chemical processes allowed them to be extracted. Vegetable oils are manufactured in a factory, usually from genetically modified crops that have been heavily treated with pesticides.
Unlike butter or coconut oil, these vegetable oils can’t be extracted just by pressing or separating naturally. They must be chemically removed, deodorized, and altered. These are some of the most chemically altered foods in our diets. Vegetable oils are found in practically every processed food, from salad dressing to potato chips to mayo to conventional nuts and seeds. Today, people consume, on average, about 70 pounds of vegetable oils throughout the year!
Anytime you cook a food, you run the risk of creating heat-induced damage. The oils you choose to cook with must be stable enough to resist chemical changes when heated to high temperatures, or you run the risk of damaging your health. One of the ways vegetable oils can inflict damage is by converting your good cholesterol into bad cholesterol–by oxidizing it. When you cook with polyunsaturated vegetable oils (such as canola, corn, and soy oils), oxidized cholesterol is introduced into your system. As the oil is heated and mixed with oxygen, it goes rancid.
Rancid oil is oxidized oil and should NOT be consumed–it leads directly to vascular disease. Trans-fats are introduced when these oils are hydrogenated, which increases your risk of chronic diseases like breast cancer and heart disease. Instead, whenever I cook, I use either butter or coconut oil. Coconut oil is practically 100% saturated, which means it is stable at high temperatures. It also is very beneficial to the health of your body.