In this article I discuss the idea that finding Healthy Food is a complex issue. And I argue that solving issues around acquiring healthy food is central to our well-being and requires research. Not doing so, can present genuine risks to our health that most people are unaware of.
Many a time the problem people face when consulting me for back pain or other body aches cannot be dealt with purely by osteopathy alone but also relates to lifestyle, diet & exercise.
Here we deal with the issue of the quality of the foods we consume and the roll it plays in our well-being. No one would disagree that the quality of the food we consume directly impacts our health. However, things get murky regarding our perceptions of what constitutes ‘Good Food’ and I have also noticed that many people who need to change how and what they eat often consider that they actually eat well.
Upon closer examination, I often discover that what people consider as eating well, relates more to calorie intake and certain erroneous preconceived notions of what quality food is. None of this however, agrees with what I have learned over the last 10 years as a producer of organic food and as a health advocate.
For example, when I see the need, I usually start the conversation by asking, “What did you have for breakfast this morning?” A common reply would be, “Well let’s see, I had 2 slices of toast, some cream cheese, jam and a decaf.” Now the calorie profile of this ‘Good Breakfast’ may in fact be good but it is nonetheless not good for you. I gently and kindly inform the patient that this supermarket bought bread most probably consists of genetically modified bleached flour with various other substances added, such as components of human hair as ‘Anti-Caking Agents’ as well as animal bone meal as a Whitener with an assortment of vitamins and other nutrients added back into the mix due to the fact that all the processing removed many of these nutrients in the first place.
Now I realize that some people will take me to task on some of the things I have just mentioned such as, the safety of genetically modified wheat, but my argument is, that the jury is still out on these things and that there are no guarantees that genetically modified organisms may not prove to be harmful one day. Therefore, I prefer to err on the side of caution.
The problem, as we shall discuss further on is that Canadian and US companies who use genetically modified ingredients are not compelled to disclose this information on their labels. So our freedom to choose non-genetically modified foods has been effectively taken away.
Moving forward with the Breakfast, I continue with the cream cheese and jam. Cream cheese produced from cows that are raised by conventional farms are routinely given hormones, antibiotics and other substances such as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) to force the animal to prolong and increase their milk production. I argue that residues of these substances could easily find their way into the milk and milk by-products. Mothers who nurse know that whatever they consume rapidly finds its way into their milk, a fact that nursing mothers who have just consumed cabbage with their colic babies have known for a long time. Is it all that different with cows? One may argue that the amount of such substances that end up in cows milk is negligible and therefore poses no risk. My answer respectfully is two fold;
A) standards of permissible levels of various substances believed to be harmless have been revised in the past by governing bodies and that therefore what was once considered to be a harmless amount of a substance was later demonstrated not to be so.
B) And, that given the ubiquitous nature of so many substances in our food supply and environment, a cumulative effect in our bodies may indeed adversely affect our health.
Therefore, it is prudent to eliminate as many sources of these potentially offending agents as is reasonably possible. Again, let us err on the side of caution when other practical alternatives are available.
Returning to our breakfast, the jam of course is sweetened with highly refined denatured white sugar again with questionable substances added to it and the strawberries are heavily sprayed with herbicides and pesticides. I could go on but I think you get the point.
Actually, for the sake of this article I am being more detailed. In reality, it doesn’t take much for most people to realize that maybe, what they once thought of as a ‘Good Breakfast’ may not be so good after all.
Maybe you think that in many respects, you are eating well. Perhaps you’re right. I hope you are, but, here are a few things to consider. All of my 10 years plus involvement with Organic Food has led me to the following conclusions. In the vast majority of cases buying organic food is preferable to conventional food. This is the baseline from which every other decision gets made in our household.
In all fairness, not all organic food is good for you. There are certain ‘Junk Organic Foods’ appearing on the market such as, certain breakfast cereals that are nothing more than organic sugar, flour and natural colors, not exactly balanced nutrition. Also, some organic standards are questionable in terms of what ingredients are permissible and the organic industry is grappling with these issues.
To further complicate the matter, organic standards, certifications and counterfeit labeling in countries such as China are also problematic issues, so being able to trace the source of organic food is very important.
Much of this takes a certain amount of education and research. Sourcing ones food I believe is and will become increasingly important to those individuals who really want to know about the quality and safety of the food they are eating. And of course, the cost and availability of organic food is also important to most people. A good source of information for getting a handle on these issues is the e-book “Savvy Organic Shopper’s Guide“ written by Tania Belkin which details how the average consumer can source organic food at prices that virtually everyone can afford and also gives insight as to how we can know where our food is coming from.
Labeling laws are designed it seems to protect companies from revealing there true source and not the public from making informed decisions. For instance, the designation: ‘Product of Canada’ on food labels can be extremely misleading. Several years ago it came to my attention that certain fish products labeled ‘Product of Canada’ was not actually a product of Canada. The fish came from Ireland and was packaged in Canada. That was sufficient as far as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was concerned, to designate it as Canadian made. And the same thing goes for ingredients that may come from anywhere in the world but, if processed in Canada can be labeled ‘Product of Canada’.
To the authors’ credit, Tania Belkin gives you insight into these matters and does show you how to source your organic food and get it at affordable prices.
Well all this may seem a bit overwhelming to us, especially if you are just getting started on educating your self about organic food. Patients who walk through my door are no exception, but I do have words of encouragement for them and if you are in the same position. And here they are.
1) Start slowly, don’t try to change everything at once. Change one thing at a time, so that it will be easier for you to bring yourself and your family along for the ride.
2) Begin with organic Dairy Products because they are widely available in stores and most people use dairy. If you don’t, then buy organic Rice Dream, Almond Milk or a bit of organic Soya Drink. These products are also widely available.
3) Begin to educate yourself by reading up on organic foods, where and how to get them affordably (see above reference -Tania Belkin). On balance, most people I believe would choose organic if given the choice.
4) The next step is to change your consumption of meat to organic, then to consider the quality of your drinking water.
A gentle nudge in the right direction is all that is required for most people to give it a try. I hope this nudge has been gentile enough for you! Other topics like; the questionable nature of the meat we eat, safety issues related to municipal tap water and others will have to wait for future articles.
By: Eddy Basch DO