Sunday, January 3, 2010

Quality vs. Quantity of Food

It is always assumed that we eat too great a quantity of food, thus contributing to the sky-rocketing rates of obesity and many chronic diseases like: diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Though, less discussed and less emphasized is the fact that the quality of food eaten by almost all Americans is horrible. Some of it is by choice, but a lot is because of what is offered to us in the supermarkets. The majority of foods sold in supermarkets do not resemble the foods humans ate even 100 years ago, let alone the majority of human existance.

Much of the foods considered 'healthy' or marketed as 'healthy', really aren't. Almost all of them are processed and full of preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers, and other added chemicals. Many of these foods are in the center isles of the grocery stores. These cereals, juices, cakes, snacks, pastas, soups, and other baked goods are full of refined, bleached, and processed corn, wheat and soy products. They are full of sugar, and stripped of any nutrients they might of had in them. Additionally, they are full of processed vegetable oils. It is comical to read boxes of Fruit Loops and Cheerios marketed that they 'may be part of a heart healthy diet' because they have 2 grams of fiber.

The produce, meats, and dairy in your supermarket are just as bad. Dieticians will recommend 'shopping the perimeter of the supermarket' which is where you will find your produce. What we see as healthy fruits and vegetables are only a shell of what they once used to be. The vitamin and mineral content of supermarket fruits and vegetables are a small fraction of what we would expect. They are grown in nutrient-stripped soil with heavy pesticide application. They are harvested well before they are ripe (therefore nutrient levels are not at peak), waxed, stored in a warehouse for weeks or months, then transported to your local supermarket where they may sit for days more. Fruit and vegetables lose half of their vitamin content in as little as a week from being picked. So, don't be surprised when that supposedly 'healthy' orange has no vitamin C in it at all!

When we look closely at meat and dairy, we find a similar issue. In an effort to produce meat and dairy more quickly and cheaply, farmers confine animals to small cages, inject them with growth hormones and antibiotics, and unnaturally feed them grain in lieu of grass. The nutrient profile of meat, poultry, milk, and eggs are inferior to the foods that once supplied us with significant nutrition. Egg-producing hens, are caged and fed cheap corn and soy feed. Chickens, like other free-roaming birds' diets consist of bugs and worms. When hens are able to eat freely, eggs their eggs have a much higher omega-3 fatty acids and B-vitamins content compared to caged hens.

Even when you are making a concerted effort to lose fat and become healthier, your quality of nutrition is as important as quantity. Many people are under the impression that simply 'dieting' or restricting Calories will help them lose weight and therefore they will be healthier. This is misguided. We need quality nutrition that consists of amino acids, fatty acids, cholesterol, vitamins, minerals, energy, and many other nutrients. Not just minimal Calorie intake. Also, the ubiquitous processed foods are detrimental because they load our bodies with toxins, and strip us of nutrients (antinutrients, such as phosphoric acid leaching calcium out of our bones). If this isn't bad enough, food manufacturers keep us 'hooked' on their products by engineering foods to be addicting and comforting.

So, what should you eat? I will address that in future postings.

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