“Meat, carbs and fats aren’t bad. It’s what you’re buying that’s questionable.”
One thing that led me into nutritional therapy was wanting to know the real truth about food. There is so much misinformation that comes at us at from all angles (social media, news, magazines, blogs) and without a nutrition degree, how do you know what’s the truth? One week coffee is bad. One week eggs are bad. Red meat causes cancer. Raw vegetables are better than cooked. Cholesterol is the devil. It never ends and most of it is media hype over a random study highlighted for a ratings boost.
So what information do we trust? What do we really know about food? Is there good food versus bad food? Well, for starters, we know human evolution didn’t rely on processed foods. Most of what we see in supermarkets is an invention of the last century and it has caused epidemic rises in disease, depression and obesity.
Food Companies Don’t Care
Be honest. What’s in your grocery cart each week? There’s zero judgment here. We understandably go with what’s convenient and fits our busy lifestyle and that is hyper-palatable (strategically engineered with salt and sugar to make us want it even more), ultra-processed food. What we have to know is that processed foods are literally killing us. Food companies don’t care about your health. They want to market what makes them money, and unfortunately that is crap food.
“Food companies want to addict you and we have to resist that.” – Michael Pollan
They addict us with adding sugar into literally everything from ketchup to bacon to bread. They addict us with the convenience of a warm ‘meal’ in 10 minutes or ready-to-go salad in a bag. They addict us with flashy colors and feel-good slogans that trick us into thinking their chemically-engineered food is actually good for us. The simplest way to resist is to buy real food. That means by-passing 90% of what’s in the grocery store. And it means ignoring the latest food hype and diet trends the media pushes.
We’ve been told carbs are bad. To clarify, refined carbs in packaged cookies, cakes, snacks, and most cereals are bad, yes. But carbohydrates from plants are good for you and required for energy. We’ve been told fat is horrible for us. Fat from seed oils and low-quality meat is horrible. But fats from grass-fed meat, oil-rich fish, avocados, seeds and nuts are incredibly good for you and required for brain and heart health, as well as hormone production and sustained energy throughout the day (read more about fats here). High-quality meats and their products (eggs and dairy) are good for you and help balance the cholesterol your heart (and body) needs.
Simplicity & Sun
So what is real food? It comes down to simplicity. Whole food, straight from the earth, that has been touched by the sun, is what our species requires for life and it’s what we can trust. Touched by the sun? Yes. The sun produces the plant life that then gives the cows, chickens, fish, fruit, vegetables, seeds, and nuts life. This miraculous cycle produces all the nutrients we need to live and thrive. And believe it or not, we receive all our nutrients through the food we eat. Which makes it imperative that those nutrients be natural, not synthetic like those found in most vitamin supplements, breakfast cereals, frozen meals, the list goes on.
Let’s go back to the sun for a moment and think about the alternative, typical process we encounter at a standard grocery store. Let’s say instead of buying grass-fed (and finished) beef, you go to the market and buy ‘natural’ ground beef. This natural, feedlot cow was raised quickly, shoulder to shoulder, with his cohorts and fed antibiotics to keep him healthy enough to survive 170 days. He was not given his natural diet of grass, but instead fed corn or a mixture of questionable things to make him gain weight quickly and reduce the time to processing. Without his natural grass diet, his body did not get the nutrients that both he, and we, need. Corn-fed meat contains more saturated fat and less omega-3 fatty acids than the meat of animals fed grass.1 Not to mention, better fat quality and nutrient content as well as increases in cancer fighting antioxidants have been found in grass-fed beef vs. grain fed.2
Do you see the parallel between us and the grain-fed cow? We both are eating foods that are not natural to us. Giving him corn is just like giving us Cheetos and chocolate milk. We both gain weight quickly. We both start having health issues and don’t lead the lives we’re intended to have. And to make matters worse, both our life-spans are shortened.
Now think about a head of lettuce. This plant that we use so often can take two very different paths. One path is to be raised organically with caring farmers who keep pests away from it naturally so it can reach its potential in a month or two. The other option is to be raised from genetically-modified seed and sprayed with pesticides which soak into the plant’s delicate leaves. This is then ingested by you and those pesticides cause cellular damage that can over time lead to disease.
It’s Time to Resist
I know not everyone has access to a farmers market. If you don’t, try buying the best quality produce and meat you can afford in your area. There are even some online delivery options that can be a lifesaver if you have limited options. If you do live in a city or agricultural area, turn farmers market day into a routine event. Take your kids, a partner or your furry friend and make a morning out of it. Grab breakfast, stroll all the stalls, talk to the farmers and ranchers and learn where your food comes from. If Saturdays don’t work for you, several markets are open one day a week and some even after work hours or you can join a CSA. I’ve included links to markets in my neck of the woods below.
I beg you to resist what’s been pushed on us for years. Your health is on the line. Read, learn, ask questions, experiment, even grow or forage some of your own food. It can be a fantastic hobby and a sneaky way to get in some exercise too (I adore sneaky exercise). I’m also including links to some great resources below to get your started. Change is possible. Overcoming what we’ve been taught is possible and there is literally an entire other world of goodness out there. A world of real food and a life you deserve.
Western Oregon Resources*:
Corvallis & Albany Farmers Market
Forest Grove Farmers Market
Lane County Farmers Market
Lincoln City Farmers Market
McMinnville Farmers Market
Newberg Farmers Market
Newport Farmers Market
Polk Co. Farmers Markets
Salem Farmers Markets
Silverton Farmers Market
Stayton Farmers Market
* If you know of a great farmers market, please post the link in the comments below.
Cooked: Netflix Series
Environmental Working Group (EWG)
EWG Healthy Living App
Global Food Justice Alliance
In Defense of Food
Salt Fat Acid Heat
1 Pollan, M. (2006) Omnivore’s Dilemma. Penguin Books.
2 Nutritional Therapy Association, Inc. (2020) Evolution of the Modern Diet: Farming & Food Production Methods. NTA.