Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Is our food killing us?

I have struggled with my weight for a number of years, and tried many different diets, only to have none of them really work. I think it is mainly because the so called "experts" keep changing their minds about what is actually healthy.

I read an article today that talked about how, since the FDA and USDA came up with the Food Pyramid back in the late '60's and early 70's, obesity has become epidemic. The recommended servings of grain(bread, pasta, cereals, etc) is 9-11 a day. And guess what, grains are carbohydrates. And on top of that, most of the flour used to make the things we eat is so over processed that they have to add the vitamins and minerals back into the flour after they mill it.

The article went on to state that since carbs turn to sugar as we metabolize the food, and the sugar spike causes insulin to be created to store that sugar as fat, the more sugar we have floating around in our bodies over the course of the day, the more fat gets stored, the more insulin is produced and the more weight we gain.

Now, lets think about this for a minute. If you eat the 9 to 11 servings of grains the government tells us is healthy, then we would have to be eating carbs just about all day. That means that we have a constant sugar rush going in our bodies. That much insulin being produced is bound to cause problems, not just with our weight, but on the organs themselves, which could cause diabetes and kidney problems.

Then there is the whole "fats" issue. Does anyone really know what the difference between a monounsaturated fat and transfat is? Or a saturated fat and a polyunsaturated fat? And why on earth is one better or worse than the other?

I have a theory on this, so bear with me. If a fat comes from a natural source, like butter, olive oil, lard, fish oils, etc., it is probably healthier than fats that come from unnatural sources like vegetable oils, margarine, and shortening. Why? Well, in my opinion, if it occurs naturally in the foods we eat, and we do not have to mechanically or chemically alter it to be able to use the fats, then it has to be better for us. In whole unhomogenized milk, the fat rises to the top and we call it cream. If we beat it around in a jug for a few minutes, it makes butter. No mechanical separation of the lipids to isolate specific compounds, no heat treating to alter its physical state, nothing added to stablize or preserve it. Just cream that has been beaten within an inch of its life. Nothing special added to it, unless you want to add a dash of salt, just for taste. Want olive oil, squeeze some olives. Out comes the oil. Nothing really fancy about that either. Lard is just the fatty tissue of pork that has been cut off the meat when it is butchered, then put in a pot and melted. If you put about an inch of water in the bottom, all of the impurities will cook out into the water and you will have nice clean pretty lard for making pie crusts, frying chicken, or if you want, making soap. Fish oils are in the fish, so just eat it. They really aren't that good for anything else anyway.

But between butter, olive oil, and lard, what else do you really need?

Then we are told that the fat in red meat will clog up your arteries and kill you. Hmm, lets see, people have been eating red meat for hundreds of thousands of years without too much trouble. Red meat has proteins, minerals, and enzymes that you just can't find in other foods and if you don't eat it, you need to take mineral suppliments to replace them. Now, I don't know about you, but I had rather eat a nice juicy steak than take a handful of artifically produced pills to get the same nutrition. And they have to get those enzymes for the pills from somewhere, like the byproducts of meat production they cannot sell as food. If you can't eat it as food, why can you eat it as a pill? I don't get it.

In the last 30 years or so, diseases relating to the foods we consume has become epidemic. So why do we spend so much time and energy(and tax dollars) thinking up new ways to kill ourselves when we could just eat the same way our grandparents did. Fresh veggies from the garden, fresh eggs from the henhouse, beef, pork, chicken, duck, venison, fish, turkey, quail, goose, or whatever else could be hunted, and stay away from the breads and sweets all the time.

We would all be healthier for it.


Anonymous said...

Hi! Just came across your post, which I found very interesting. I really do agree the more natural the food, the better. I do disagree with a few points, though. For one,there is a lot evidence that vegetable fats are generally healthier than animal fats, though there are exceptions. Fish oil is very healthy, for example, and coconut and palm oils are not. And yes, vegetable oils processed into margarine, etc are not healthy, but that doesn't make the category of vegetable oils unhealthy. And though the olive is a fruit, it is classed as a vegetable oil so I'm not sure why you've put olive oil and vegetable oils on opposing teams!

I think some of the backing off of demonising animal fats in recent years is because it's understood they can be healthy in moderation and that processed foods and refined carbs are a big problem, too.

I'm a vegetarian, but I do think red meat is a healthy food to eat in moderation. It's just good there is awareness these days to eat leaner meats. I don't understand the point you argue that people have eaten certain things for a long time without any harm done. It assumes people always ate them and were really healthy, which is not true at all. That sort of argument creates a mythical past where nobody had health problems - when for one, life spans were much shorter. Yes many health problems are on the rise, and you are right, eating refined foods and processed foods is a big contributor, but that doesn't mean overindulgence in saturated fats has NEVER caused health problems and isn't STILL a big contributing factor.

As for vitamin pills, you can get completely vegetarian and even vegan sources of these nutrients.

novalunae said...

My post was mainly aimed toward the amounts of misinformation, sometimes contradictory in nature, that is presented to the general public under the guise of "healthy". Making healthy food choices is becoming harder and harder as packaging and advertising are attempting to entice people to buy more processed and convenience foods over the unprocessed, unadulterated foods our parents and grandparents ate.

I was not trying to imply that there were never health problems, but most of the time, they were not related to food. Diabetes and heart disease were not common ailments due to the fact that most people got a lot more exercise even though they may have eaten saturated fats and a lot of carbohydrates with every meal. They actually needed the calories to be able to do the daily chores. It isn't that there were not health problems, just that they were not related to food. During the time period I was referring to, access to healthcare was difficult for most people since the doctor might be 40 or 50 miles away, at least a whole day away by horse drawn wagon. Antibiotics were non-existent, and a lot of people in rural communities didn't have the hygiene knowledge we have today. It wasn't until the late 1800s that bacteria and viruses were even identified, much less known to cause specific diseases.

Traditionally, the European people have eaten meals rich in butter and cream, meat fats, and oils of all kinds, yet they are by far healthier as a society than the average American. Obesity in the United States can usually be blamed on convenience foods and drive thru windows. And the health problems derived from being over-weight and lack of exercise are killing us.

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