The definition of food has changed significantly over time. With all the prevailing preservatives, chemicals and added flavors, what we eat today is merely food like products.
I have watched a significant amount of documentaries and follow multiple health blogs and it is quite disheartening to know how multi billion companies have altered the composition of food over the last few years for their own profit, and worse, at the cost of human health and lives. What I would like to share through this blog post is some hidden realities about the modern foods we consume and how to make more informed decisions on food related purchases.
Traditionally our ancestors used to consume large amounts of carbs, fats, sugars, vitamins and minerals to keep up with their laborious tasks like hunting, agriculture etc and also to store these foods in their systems to survive through the winters (when produce used to be low). Today, however our lifestyle has not only become sedentary but to add to that, winters never come! We eat and eat and eat and eat (due to the food habits ingrained inside of us due to our ancestors food habits), and of course during winters we only eat more. About 30% of the adult population in the US, are now obese and type 2 diabetes – once believed to affect only adults – is now being diagnosed among young people. According to a WHO report obesity will now emerge as a rising concern for developing nations like India and the middle eastern countries and it is estimated these countries will take over by 2025.
It is however not only our sedentary work life and over consumption of food that is problem, rather ‘what’ we are eating is a concern. The food that we eat today contains – artificial sweeteners linked to cancer; oil-based plastics like styrofoam that never biodegrade and release cancer-causing benzene into the environment for a thousand years, genetically-modified (GMO) seeds, and few carcinogenic additives.
The modern day foods which include everything from breads to cereals to dairy to biscuits, crackers, chips, candies, ice creams, pastas, etc contain high amount of calories and sugars and low nutritional value. Therefore, even though you might feel full after eating these foods, at a cellular level you are still hungry for nutrition. All these products are packaged ‘smartly’. They look good, they smell good, and of course they taste good. Most companies selling food items include such high amount of preservatives which excite the brain and keeps you longing for more and more. The more you eat, the more you gain weight, but your body still craves actual food.
In 1970, the average American ate 123 pounds of sugar per year. Today, the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar in one year. This is equal to 3 pounds (or 6 cups) of sugar consumed in one week!
Sugar is no less than cocaine for your system. You want more and more of it, but you don’t know why. Now a very important point to consider here is that by sugar I do not mean only the sweet tasting, white, refined sugar. As a matter of fact only 29 pounds is consumed per year by the average American in the form of conventional sugar. The rest comes from sodas, junk food and yes even from the foods that you least expect it from! Sugar is in almost anything we eat. I have seen so many people going on a diet saying ‘I’m off sugar’ but gulping down loads of breads, crackers, chips, cereal, corn bread, pan cakes, subway sandwiches etc. These are all examples of ‘bad carbohydrates’ which are reduced to sugar that spike up the blood glucose levels. (Carbohydrates is absolutely essential for your body – but one should consume more of good carbs and avoid bad carbs – this is a complete separate blog post in itself which I shall write shortly). So even though you are not traditionally consuming ‘sweet sugar’, these bad carbs (which are usually refined carbs such as white bread, products made out of refined flour etc) ultimate land up as sugar in your body which not only make you gain weight but lead to diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart ailments etc. Therefore, you must make a conscious decision to stay away from refined carbohydrates. Go in for whole grains and whole wheat products instead.
Some very common ingredients present in processed foods now a days are MSG, Aspartame and High fructose corn syrup. Stay away from these products at all costs! (I will be including a blog post on these additives, soon). Artificial sweeteners increase the body’s cravings towards sugar which leads to weight gain. Products that are ‘fat free’ in fact contain a lot of sugar.
Ready made, processed, convenience foods are all nothing but toxics for the human system. The key is to consume foods such as fruits and vegetables that are procured as close to its raw form, as possible. Look at the list of ingredients of any product you pick up and if there are substances that do not sound like real food such as high fructose corn syrup, propylene glycol, hydrolyzed soy protein, glutamic acid etc, then you know you should stay away. Most of these are hidden forms of MSG.
It indeed is tough to keep track of whats going into your food and into your body but a simple rule is that nothing beats raw fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts (almonds, walnuts, pine nuts), seeds (chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds) and essential plant based fats (avocados, chia seeds). Most of us are not fans of consuming green vegetables and a great way to get these inside your system is to juice it up early in the morning and nourish your body with the required nutrients. (for more on juicing read my blog posts on – juicing vs blending, tips for creating a wholesome juice).
With biggies like Monsanto and Cargill thrashing our food with chemicals and cheap preservatives, it is time we take our health in our own hands and stop blindly trusting these companies. There is nothing but profits these companies aspire for and they go to the extent of making sure any research conducted against these companies or the hazard their chemicals cause us, remains unpublished.
The US has long been a victim of genetically modified food products under the pressure of these corporate honchos, and there are a number of non GMO initiatives and projects that concerned and conscious US citizens are driving. It is sad that in India, its Oil Minister and new Environment Minister has approved field trials of 200 GM food crops on behalf of companies like Monsanto, Mahyco, Bayer and BASF. He has been labelled ‘a corporate mole’ in lieu of this bold step for a country which was until now almost GMO free. Over 50 countries have been undergoing marches against Monsanto and the fate of India in this regard remains to be seen.
Documentary : food matters, hungry for change
Web Links : cdc.gov