How much do you understand about how your food makes it to your table? We all know a chicken used to be a chicken and now it’s on your plate. We all know what an egg is, or how to pull a carrot out of the ground. But how well do we know what goes on behind the scenes in the production of our food?
It doesn’t take much to do some research and find some very disturbing information. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect is that it happens right under our noses and we smile and stay loyal to our brand; supporting the very corporations that have destroyed healthful food as our grandparents were accustomed.
I cannot stress enough the importance of understanding the food you eat. From how and where it is grown, to how your body processes it. Part of understanding that is learning different industrial practices that directly affect the food you eat. Please see the Organic Food page to learn more.
Eat whole foods not processed foods. Eat local farm foods, not big corporation foods. Cook at home, don’t eat out unless you know the food is fresh, unadultered, and local.
General Rule of Thumb: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.
Processed food is manufactured food, a result of Industrialized Agriculture. Manufacturing is defined as “To make or produce by hand or machinery, especially on a large scale.” When I think of manufacturing, I think of assembly lines putting parts together to make things such as televisions or cars. Do you ever picture your food being “manufactured” in this same manner? Would you ever treat an animal as if it was nothing more than a “part” or “object” on an assembly line?
Think back for a minute to something as simple as furniture. It’s no surprise that older furniture is built to last, using real wood and hand-crafted materials. Compare that to furniture these days that are heavily dependent on manufactured particle board, glue, and plastic laminates, and it’s obvious it won’t last long or function as well. Our food has degraded in quality in the same manner.
It truly is no different when it comes to Industrialized Agriculture. Our food is no longer food. The crops grown to feed the animals are genetically modified. The feed used is not what the animals are designed to eat, which changes their chemical make-up and structure. They are then confined to tight quarters which encourages disease and ill health, never mind their emotional or mental health.
Then they are pumped full of hormones to make them grow bigger, faster (feel like eating steroids anyone?). Then, they are given antibiotics to prevent the imminent outbreak of disease which then disrupts their natural digestive balance and immune system just the same as it does to humans.
They are often slaughtered in unsanitary conditions. The meat is then “processed” to eliminate harmful microbes, and they are sent in trucks to the stores. By this time, what little nutrient value is left is altered by using carbon monoxide to make the meat look red and fresh and deceive the customers who will not only be purchasing this sad excuse for food, but will be feeding it to their unsuspecting families.
For a side dish, we’ll have some genetically modified remnant of what should be a vegetable or a grain, which is doused in synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Then, to cover up the flavor that used to resemble something we recognized, it is further enhanced with sugars, chemicals, MSG, partially hydrogenated oils, and called a “sauce,” “marinade,” or “flavoring.” Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?
It’s no wonder we see an increase in diabetes, heart disease, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, asthma, mental disorders, and other auto-immune and chronic diseases. Should we really be that surprised? And instead of looking at the obvious, instead of considering that what we eat and drink could be involved in this, we are prescribed medications to treat the symptoms, not solve the problem. And when we experience side effects to that medication, we are given more medication to treat the side-effects. This is a downward spiral. The next thing you know, you have a pill box for each day of the week, one for morning, afternoon, and evening. You have so many ailments you don’t know which symptom to attribute to what. Meanwhile, Big Ag and Big Pharma are making a fortune off of your illness.
The Union of Concerned Scientists said it best, “Industrial agriculture is unhealthy—for our environment, our climate, our bodies, and our rural economies.”
Food for thought...
There are many manufacturing processes that many people are not even aware are happening during the production of our food.
Antibiotics, Hormones, & Animal Cloning
The use of antibiotics and hormones in our meat, dairy, and egg supply is elusive and sobering. There is a laundry list of negative effects that antibiotics and artificial hormones have on the human body. There is no nutritional benefit provided by these, and in fact, they have been proven to cause serious illness and are primarily responsible for antibiotic resistant strains of human illnesses. Why they are still legal in food is beyond me.
If you research any large scale corporate farming, you will quickly see that their practices are that of factory assembly line. The animals are no more than an object that is used in the manufacturing of whatever product it may be. They are fed diets high in corn, grain, and other genetically modified and mass produced “feed”. This changes the chemical structure of the food we ultimately eat. Whether it be the Omega balance or nutrient and vitamin levels, it is all affected. Much the same as our high sugar and processed food diets changes our metabolism, health, and make-up.
Large scale “food manufacturing” is all about low cost, high profits. If injecting animals with hormones makes them grow larger, faster, or produce more milk or eggs; then that becomes standard practice. If they become ill or diseased due to the immunosuppressant nature of hormones, they are given antibiotics which furthers the degradation of their health and well-being.
Animal Cloning brings a whole host of other problems into the equation. It is still unknown the effects and risks of using meat and milk from cloned animals. The FDA determined in 2008 that it is safe for human consumption despite grave concerns from the scientific communities.
Put aside all of the moral and ethical issues surrounding the torture of these animals, we are being fed chemically altered non-food all in the name of profit margin. Anyone born before 1985 remembers how meat USED to taste. If you happen to buy a grass-fed steak or a free-range chicken these days you taste and think, “Wow, I haven’t had meat that good since I was a kid.”
Keep in mind when you eat out, there is no way of knowing the quality of ingredients unless you ask. Some restaurants state whether their products are antibiotic or hormone free. Be mindful of the quality of food in the restaurant when you do eat out . My feeling is, if I’m going to spend the money to eat at a restaurant, it better be the highest quality ingredients with the best flavors I’ve ever eaten. Otherwise, I’d rather cook at home, thank you.
There is much research needed, but there are growing concerns that antibiotics, hormones, and animal cloning in food negatively affect human health. Interesting that it is such a topic for debate, yet there are few studies in this country regarding this.
The European union banned the use of antibiotics and other growth related drugs in 2006. They are currently protesting Genetically Modified foods and Animal Cloning. They recognize the health risks involved and refuse to allow it into their food supply.
Eat local, grass-fed, and organic dairy, eggs, and meat and you don’t have to worry about the potential risks involved with this practice.
Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
All forms of sugar and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame must be avoided. Besides the most common names for sugar that we are aware of, there are close to a hundred different chemical names and artificial forms of sugar and sweeteners that are dumped into processed food products every day.
Giving up sugar is not always easy given our cultural addiction to it and all of the products containing sugar. We have been subconsciously taught that if it isn’t sweet, it isn’t good. Recent studies have shown that sugar is responsible for the majority of our illnesses today including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and an overall decrease in immune function.
Say goodbye to Sweet-N-Low, Equal, Splenda, and the like. They are chemical cocktails. Say goodbye to white sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, molasses, maple syrup, honey, and yes, even agave nectar.
“Natural” is not always good or better. Health benefits have been shown to exist with honey. Maple syrup is also a pure sweetener. However, both of these can have a negative impact on blood sugar levels and insulin production. The human body still recognizes them as sugar, which feeds pathogens. They should be used sparingly if at all.
Agave nectar is popular in the natural food sector, but is nothing more than a “natural” version of high fructose corn syrup. Xylitol and Erythritol are also popular in health food stores. Both of these are still chemical compounds. Even though they are derived from “natural” sources, they have been altered and manufactured and have adverse effects and risks associated with them.
The only truly “healthy” sweeteners I have found are Stevia and Coconut Nectar Crystals. Stevia is an herbal sweetener with no calories and has been proven to be safe and can help with digestion. Not much is needed, and a little goes a long way. Coconut Crystals are the next best choice. They are low glycemic and have several beneficial nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
For more information on specific sweeteners, see the Substitutes page.
I have also provided a list of The Many Names of Sugar for your convenience.
Address your addiction to sugar (at least for most of us!) and this will not be an issue.
Additives, Preservatives, & Enriched Products
Additives generally are flavorings, colorings, preservatives, and dietary additives. Many manufacturers hide behind the terms “natural flavors” or “spices” in their ingredients list to get around telling you what they are actually feeding you. I figure, if you have nothing to hide, hide nothing! And if I can’t tell what is in your product, then I’m not putting it in my mouth.
Many of these chemical cocktails are there to trick our brain into thinking it tastes good and therefore is good for us. The truth is, many of them have been linked to cancer, asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and birth defects.
Many preservatives are used in our food to extend shelf life. Nitrates (discussed below) are one of them. Vinegars and sugars are another. Wax coatings are often found on fruit, many of which are made from petroleum products and pose some health risks. Some are less imposing such as citrus. If you eat whole foods, as fresh and local as you can get your hands on, you have no need for highly processed and over preserved chemicals called “convenience food.”
How often do you see “with Vitamin D!” or “Calcium enriched” on product packaging. The manufacturing process destroys any potential nutrients that may have existed in the ingredients used. To make what has now been made into non-food fillers taste good, there are flavorings added, coloring for palatablility, and preservatives to make you believe it is fresh. The newest trend is to add back in the vital nutrients and vitamins that were destroyed in the manufacturing process and then advertise it to make us believe it’s healthy. Most of the time these added nutrients or “enrichments” are not bioavailable to our bodies and therefore useless.
There is a wonderful book, “Squeezed” that exposes this in orange juice production. It ultimately reveals that manufacturing processes as a whole hide critical information from buyers. Visit this link for an interview with the author: The shocking truth about Orange Juice.
If you eat whole, fresh, local, and organic foods, you don’t have to worry about any of these potential problems.
Nitrates, Nitrites, and Carbon Monoxide Treatment
Although our ancestors have been salt curing meats for centuries, studies show that nitrites and nitrates, which are the result of this curing, can cause significant increases in the chance of lung disease, hypertension, and cancer.
Carbon Monoxide is used to treat meat to make it look “red=fresh”. Meat begins to spoil and turn brown after approximately 12-14 days. Using this method, meat can retain its “freshness” for a month or longer. You may believe your meat is fresh because it looks so vibrant and red. Chances are, the more vibrant it is, the older and more spoiled it is.
Buy fresh, local, grass fed, and you don’t have to worry about this.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is in almost every packaged food on the shelf and often hides under the term hydrolyzed protein. It is one of the worst things you can ingest. It causes headaches, nausea, weakness, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, among other symptoms. It is an “excitotoxin” which means it overexcites your cells causing neurological damage and possible death. Often times, even if you’re not hungry hours later, you feel the need to eat.
Buy fresh and local, cook your own food, and you don’t have to worry about this..
Genetically Modified and Irradiated Foods
Genetically Modified and Irradiated Foods are difficult to avoid because they are not required to be labeled or disclosed by manufacturers. They have been proven to cause serious illness, birth defects, and degenerative diseases, yet the FDA claims that they are safe despite the lack of effort or requirements to adequately research, monitor or label these practices.
So, what’s so bad about genetically modified foods? Besides that it has not yet been determined to be safe for human consumption and has shown detrimental results in lab tests on animals, it is quickly contaminating our normal food supply. This alters DNA sequences in our natural food. Once we lose nature’s seed as it was provided, there is no getting it back.
What is Irradiated food? Food Irradiation uses Gamma rays that are much more powerful than standard X-rays to break apart pathogens and insects in food. This process creates carcinogenic substances that can cause gene mutations. It is currently considered to be a “food additive” by the FDA.
It does not have to be labeled except for the first purchaser, which is usually not the consumer. Any multi-ingredient packaged food that contains irradiated food does not have to be labeled. Irradiated seeds do not have to be labeled when they are grown into food. Now, it is being proposed to allow the wording to be changed to “electronically pasteurized” or “cold pasteurized” in place of “irradiated.”
The Organic Consumers Association says it best, “Irradiated fruits and vegetables benefit the packer and grocer, not the farmer or consumer. The consumer receives an inferior product that appears fresh, but has depleted vitamins and enzymes.”
See the Anti-Nutrients page for more information.
It’s simple, eat organic and you don’t have to worry about either of these sneaking in to your supply. If you don’t eat organic, chances are, your food falls into either one or both of these categories. And don’t be fooled by the “All Natural” labels. Many of them contain GMO food.
Synthetic pesticides are nothing more than chemical cocktails that have a toxic build-up effect in the human body. What that means is our bodies are not designed to digest or eliminate these toxins, and they collect in our bodies eventually causing disease and illness. They contaminate the ground water, the soil, and our food. And….they aren’t necessary.
Again, eat organic, and you don’t have to worry about potential risks from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. At the same time, you are supporting local and organic farmers which increase sustainability, water and soil quality; while speaking against big corporate and industrialized food practices.
Fluoride is good for teeth, right? We need it, right? WRONG. It is true that fluoride prevents tooth decay….temporarily. But, over long term it can actually cause the teeth to deteriorate and break down, softening them and ultimately destroying them. The Fluoride used to supplement water is a hazardous industrial waste product from the phosphate fertilizer industry. There is substantial evidence of serious health risks, and no evidence of significant benefit.
Test your water and filter it out if necessary. Don’t believe your dentist when he tries to sell you “fluoride treatments”. Stop eating sugar and processed food; eat a diet of whole foods, and drink water. Take care of your teeth, and have them cleaned twice a year, you won’t need fluoride. It is not an essential nutrient.
For more information about water quality, see the Water page..
The agricultural age and the advent of industrialized food was the beginning of the end for human health…