Is it really better to buy organic, locally produced, and GMO free foods? Why do we pay more for less? Why do we pay so much less for more — that is more additives, artificial ingredients, and preservatives? What do they even mean? Are these some of the questions frequently rattling around in your noggin?
There is no quick and easy answer but I am going to try to explain some key points and need to know background information to help answer some of these pressing questions. I’m going to break it down into parts to discuss various aspects and then I’ll conclude with a summary to actually bring it altogether.
Part I: Conflicts
Usually the first question everyone has is whether or not the food they are consuming is really safe — followed by asking what they can do to improve the safety and quality of their foods. A very complex and multi-factorial situation, the safety of our food is influenced by a multitude of things.
To make matters worse is that there are tons of conflicting statements by various so called experts — so, who should we believe? For more about this almost daily conundrum, be sure to read my post:
When it comes to our food sources there are limitations to what science can truly determine because of the inability to fully eliminate all other potential influences and factors in order to get a truly clear picture about any one specific factor or point of interest.
Furthermore, who is to say whether or not that one factor, which may be safe all by itself, is going to remain safe in combination with other supposedly safe factors. It is one thing to theorize or hypothesize based upon what is already known or discovered and another to actually prove it definitively.
Like us, plants and animals are living, breathing, complex organisms which are effected by everything from the quality of the air that surrounds them, to the water they drink, exposure to infectious disease, environmental contaminants and pollutants, DNA mutations (naturally occurring or not), breeding and pollination, rest cycles, heat and cold, and diet — the nutrients that they do or do not consume. Even plants and animals need to eat! Like us, what they actually eat determines overall health — along with many, many other factors.
This is why it is important to limit potential over exposure to all potentially harmful things and the only way to truly do that is to get as much variety as possible. Variety is also key to obtaining a sufficient quantity of the nutrients that we require. Absolutely nothing is one hundred percent safe under all conditions or in any quantity. It is all about balance and avoiding over exposure.
If you eat only one type of apple, or eat only prepackaged processed and fast foods, or only cook and prepare your foods using a single method — well, you aren’t being kind to your body and putting your long term health (mental, physical, hormonal, etc.) at great risk. There is no one perfect food, diet, nor one perfect method of cooking! There is only balanced nutrition and that is best achieved with variety — no matter what type of diet.
For more about cooking methods and effects on the nutritional value of foods, also see:
Part II: Food Rations and Fast Foods — Why So Cheap
Food rations? Yes, food rations. In other words, highly processed prepackaged foods. I’ll talk about this some more later.
More importantly, highly processed prepackaged foods and fast foods are the one way to ensure that you are exposing yourself to large quantities of super concentrated doses of artificial (not real; not even food) ingredients, excessive salts, excessive sugars, unbalanced nutrition (exceedingly high in some and low in other nutrients), GMOs, pesticides, weed killers, poorer quality and less nutritional foods, and all the rest.
Too much of anything that we require to stay alive and be healthy — or too little — is bad for you — nutrients, water, fats, vitamins and minerals, protein, carbohydrates, cholesterol, sugars and salts, oxygen, sleep, exercise, etc. — literally everything. It is all about proper balance!
They may list tons of vitamins and minerals on the label of prepackaged foods, but most often the majority have been added as a supplement. Not all forms of vitamins and nutrients added (or even those in pill form) are as readily absorbed and usable to the body as those gained from natural food sources. Nor can they be absorbed properly without the right combination of other nutrients, fats, proteins, etc. Their absorption can even be decreased by being combined with certain other items.
The nutritional label may say it contains this vitamin but does it say in exactly which form — and is it a type readily absorbed? Is it actually calculated from its availability in a natural food source ingredient, or was it added, or both, and if both how much exactly from each? The more processed the food the less nutritious plus all the more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals they must add.
Are all vitamin and nutrient supplements bad? No, not at all, but there are differences in the forms and how much can be absorbed and actually used by the body. Various factors effect their absorption or lack of it no matter which form. In pill and other forms they also contain binders, preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings, and other things not found in natural “real” food sources. It is also bad to consume an excessive amount of vitamin and minerals.
Vitamins and minerals and other dietary (as well as herbal) supplements are not regulated in the same way, if at all, as drugs or foods. Depending upon the manufacturer, country of origin, etc. they may contain contaminants, additives, more or less of what is actually supposed to be there, or be in a form that is less readily absorbed if at all. The combination and quantities of other supplements and additives can also effect their true value. Whether they are taken on an empty stomach, in combination with certain types of foods, when over or under hydrated, with or without caffeine, with certain prescription or over the counter medications, — and many other things can effect how they are absorbed and if your body can use them. It can even cause too much, as well as too little, to be absorbed. How much of what has been absorbed actually gets used and how much of it simply gets eliminated by the kidneys or digestive tract is also effected and factors to consider.
So it is better to get them from a good nutritiously balanced diet, rather than out of a bottle, as much as possible.
With boxed up prepackaged and fast foods, instead of getting chicken you may only be getting chicken fat and skin. Instead of beef you may be getting only gristle and tendons that have been chemically and/or heat pressure treated to make it chew-able, and bone marrow or tallow — things you could not chew or would not likely want to eat if served up on your plate at home in its natural, not overly processed state.
Does the label say which actual cut of meat or animal part is being used or does it just say beef or chicken? It only says beef or chicken of course — and that is only if it even contains any actual beef or poultry parts at all rather than simply artificially flavored.
If actual animal or plant products are used then they have been dehydrated taking with it many vital nutrients. They do not even use the best quality, freshest plants (vegetables or fruit) to start with, then they chop them up and dehydrate them taking away not only vital nutrients but also taking away any flavor. Then they add artificial flavors, and instead of nutrient rich broths and juices, you are told only to add water.
Often the same cheap animal byproducts going into pet foods are also being used in processed and fast foods for people and then simply being supplemented with added vitamins and minerals. They then add tons of artificial colors and flavors to make them actually taste and look better and preservatives to prolong shelf life. Still wondering now why it is that they are so much cheaper even with all those additives? You usually get what you pay for!
So if you’re going to eat something that is prepackaged make sure that you read your labels carefully and know exactly what it is your are or are not really getting. If not readily available, ask for nutritional and ingredient information whenever you order fast foods. Know what it is that you’re eating! Look not only at the nutritional numbers but also the ingredient list. The ingredients are listed in order from greatest quantity to the least of what is used. If it lists sugar first then it contains more sugar than any other ingredient. Make such unhealthy items the rare exception, if used at all, rather than the regular rule in your diet.
Whenever you do use such products try to add as many truly healthy choices such as vegetables, fruits, and lean meats, fish, or poultry as you possibly can, have some fresh fruit for dessert, and whatever else you can to try to boost your body’s natural defenses with much healthier choices.
Remember always, that these products began as “stop gap” foods to be used as rations “temporarily” in the event of war, drought, and natural disasters when access to natural foods may be limited or impossible.
They were intended to have as long of a shelf life as possible and to prevent total starvation. They’ll keep you alive but not necessarily completely healthy — temporarily — just until the disaster is over when you can gain access to real food again.
Then the food industry discovered a new way to make money selling them as time savers in the kitchen. If it is good enough for our troops and our astronauts then it has to be good for us too, right? Wrong!!!
How long exactly do our troops spend out in the field away from base camp where real food is prepared and do our astronauts actually spend in outer space — therefore, spend consuming these products? Do they continue eating them and eat only them when they get home — for the rest of their natural lives?
They actually still include the same directions for use such as adding water — which is all that would available in such ration situations — — instead of actually replacing the natural broths and juices lost when it was very highly processed just so it could sit for long periods on a shelf without spoiling.
I have to laugh when I see somebody watching television and saying, “I don’t see how they can tolerate eating that stuff for so many weeks or months. I bet they can’t wait to get home to eat some real food!” — while sitting there consuming the same thing that has only been given a pretty label and referred to a time saver in the kitchen. How often and how long have you been eating those cheap rations?
TO BE CONTINUED ….
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