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A Few Thoughts About Food Choices in America

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This morning, I read a funny article entitled, “7 Foods That Make Your Liver Glow In The Dark”. The title was intended to get the reader’s attention, but it was simply trying to communicate how far our food supply has come from its pristine beginnings. 


My bookshelves are gradually running out of space because of the books written about the worrisome details of a world food supply that is looking less like a garden or an orchard, and more like a chemistry lab.


To give you a very rudimentary example of how far we’ve descended in our appreciation of natural eating, answer this question: When was the last three-month block of time in which your diet was comprised entirely of seasonal foods? If you’ve had conversations with people under a certain age, it may shock you to know that many people do not even realize that foods are generally associated with different seasons of the year – other than knowing watermelons are for summer and pumpkins are for Thanksgiving. But the idea of eating only those foods that are “in season” is entirely lost on Americans.


Another example: When was the last time you cut open a banana and found a seed that could actually be planted and grow a banana plant?  Would it surprise you to know that the wild varieties of bananas have rather large seeds, and that the flesh of those bananas is typically bitter?  Botanists have worked to cultivate varieties of fruits that appeal to the eye and palate with pleasant and harmless results. But their work has given way to food scientists who have taken the crossbreeding concept to the level of manipulating the core genetics of certain edible plants. It’s so common now that it’s almost impossible to find a conventionally grown tomato that isn’t genetically modified.  


What about wheat? In the book Wheat Belly, Dr. William Davis discusses the many side effects he has observed as a result of modern wheat in the diet. They mirror what Doug has found over his 40+ years of research. In one section, he talks about the history of wheat. His work led me to Dr. Eli Kaufman (no relation to Doug) in Israel who writes about the hearty ancestral wheat of that region, and how today’s varieties pale in comparison in terms of nutritional value, and even it’s ability to withstand fungal overgrowth. Doug and I have wondered if wheat would be a great Kaufmann 1 food if today’s wheat were identical to the wheat of Biblical days.


Speaking of the Bible, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few tidbits about foods and the Scriptures. The Eden diet was entirely plant-based. Years later, Moses was given dietary laws which gave the do’s and do-nots for Israel’s food choices. If you care to do the research, you may be surprised to know how well those foods translate to a healthy diet today – but with a few caveats. For example, the wheat that was permissible in the dietary laws does not resemble the wheat we are left with in modern America. The “clean” animals were fed their natural diet. Cattle ate grass. Fish were wild-caught. And the wild-caught “clean” fish back then didn’t contain the heavy metals and toxins in their flesh that they do today. The point is that we are left with only a faint reminder of the quality of the foods that they enjoyed when those laws were given. (The article I referenced in the opening paragraph said that shrimp was one of the foods to avoid – and was also prohibited in the Mosaic dietary laws. Interestingly, shellfish are known as the “vacuum cleaners” of the ocean. They attract the trash. One wonders if our ocean fish would be less contaminated with toxins if the “vacuum cleaners” were left to do their cleanup duties instead of being consumed as food. Just a thought.) 


So, we live in an age of a diet of non-seasonality, genetic modifications, pesticides, and animals that neither eat their natural diet, live in pristine environments, nor escape artificial hormones and antibiotics. This is to say nothing of the cans of food that have a decade-long expiration date, packages of “cooked meat products” that require no refrigeration thanks to a slew of artificial “preserving” chemicals, dessert foods that are comprised of 51% food/49% chemicals, and portion sizes so large that they could easily feed two or three people. No, Americans generally aren’t going hungry or thirsty. Yes, it’s possible to eat inexpensively in America. But the net result of many of our practices is that we’re a culture that ignores or is ignorant of the most fundamental principle of natural health: Natural eating.


Today there are people dying because they lack basic, sound agricultural practices. Where this hurts is in the area of sanitation, clean water, drought mitigation, or even simple cultivation practices. I’m not so idealistic to think that America isn’t blessed beyond measure. There are people in hurricane-ravaged island countries that would sacrifice everything they have just to live in a public bathroom in America, and drink from a fluoride-riddled drinking fountain. That, alone, could save the life of their child. One trip to any of those countries will show you that despite the pendulum swinging too far into the technological in America’s food science, we’re not wanting for a simple drink of water.  


I’m also not oblivious to the fact that there’s a place for genetically modified food. If I lived in Haiti, and my baby was starving to death, give me GMO rice cereal if that’s all that’s available. Give me GMO tomatoes and GMO wheat before you let my baby starve. Where people are eating only one meal every few days, and mothers don’t have enough nourishment to produce their own milk for their newborns, we have to think about everything possible so that they live without hunger today, while helping them with longer-term, sustainable solutions for the long term.  This is where GMO foods shine – as a stopgap measure to prevent starvation.


But in America, we should have choices. Food and chemical companies, however, often would like for you to be oblivious to your choices. Look no further than last year’s election in California in which a bill was presented that would require food companies simply to state whether or not their products have been genetically modified. Lots of money poured in from corporate interests, and they successfully convinced citizens that such labeling was unnecessary. And while I do agree that it was put to a vote of the people, I guess I’m surprised that our own companies in our own country would even want to deny our own people the right to know what they’re eating. Why would the companies care? Could it be because they know that, if educated and given the choice and the resources to do so, people would always choose the real and the natural food over the artificially manipulated “food”?


In previous newsletters, I’ve talked about the experiences of friends and colleagues who have lived in places like Europe and South America.  Two things always occurred. First, their hosts playfully mocked the Americans about how much time they spent worrying about every detail of their diets. Calorie counting and “fat free” were unthinkable to the hosts. Worrying about weight? Also a foreign concept.


The second thing that always occurred was that the Americans were astonished by how good they felt after only a few days of eating real food, and how little food they needed to satisfy themselves. A recent guest on my radio show had spent last summer in Argentina. She’s not shy about revealing her Argentinean diet. Fresh fruits in the morning. Grass-fed beef, (which, I’m told, is all that is allowed in that country). Fresh-caught wild fish. Vegetables that are “passively organic”, (which means that they are pesticide/herbicide-free, but that the farmers hadn’t gone through the task of actually “certifying” it as organic). Oh, and even a few desserts. But not 32-ounce milkshakes or 12-inch cookies. Just a bite or two of a tiny sweet treat to top off an exceptional meal. As a nutritionist, she was stunned by how only a few days of eating this way energized and satisfied her. She was equally encouraged by the fact that she lost every ounce of excess weight without investing an ounce of effort.


Here are a few takeaway points:

1).  In America, someone is winning big by producing cheap food that is edible, but of questionable long-term quality.  It’s up to you to decide if the winners are the consumers or the food companies.


2).  Food is the most important feature of your good-heath plan. If for the next 20 years you continued eating the way you’re eating today, what do you think the net result would be? Would you even make it 20 more years? Should the first day of your renewed 20-year journey begin today?


3). Our friend, Jordan Rubin, sometimes says, “You can pay the farmer today, or the doctor tomorrow”. That’s a nutritionist’s version of “an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure”. Everything costs something. Is what you’re doing costing you a little today, or will it cost you a lot tomorrow?


4).  Unfortunately in America, we have to think about our food choices, because, apparently, it isn’t important for the powers that be to openly, voluntarily inform us about what they’re feeding us. This means that a little effort is required for us to make wise food choices. Maybe it involves reading more labels.  Maybe it means going in with some other families in a food co-op so that cleaner foods are more affordable. Maybe it means restricting yourself to Kaufmann 1 seasonal foods. If you invest a little effort now, you can go on a more carefree approach in the long run.


5).  Even with the effort, please be reminded that “Perfect” is not one of your options. You can’t be perfect. Money, time, availability, energy, old habits – all of these things limit our ability to eat a perfect diet 100% of the time. But here’s the good news. The more you’re able to approach your ideal, the better you’ll feel, and the easier it’ll be to maintain.


Think about how you and your family can gradually begin eating your way to good health, and just watch what happens over the next few months. You’ll never want to go back to the old way again.





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