Monthly Archives: June 2010

Activism Green Living Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food

Can You Afford Not To Eat Healthy?

Many of the posts I write on this web site are devoted to the subject of eating real food and eating healthy. But I feel like the point of moving from supporting a conventional farming system that pumps out massed produced, nutritionally empty foods to a healthy, more sustainable one simply cannot be pressed enough.

Not everyone can afford to eat organic food all of the time. In fact, when the word organic is mentioned, the factor of expense almost always comes up. People have a perception that they can’t possibly change their lifestyle and buying habits because organic food is too expensive.

On the surface, organic, sustainable, or even truly “natural” food is more expensive than conventional. But consider the “hidden” costs of eating conventional, industrial food. The food grown and raised by conventional means is procured in the cheapest way possible – that is, to minimize operating expenses and maximize profits.

Then there are business people, merchants, and farmers who do things the right way, taking care to produce a quality product and something safe. Business may be slow at times and downright challenging, but these businesses are able to continue their activities because of dedicated and informed consumers who understand the big difference between conventional, mass-produced food and something that has been raised with care and thought for health and the environment.

According to Sustainable Table, consolidation of the food production system has concentrated farming into the hands of a few large food corporations.  The emphasis has moved to production and profit, pushing regard for the environment and human health to the back of the list. Because food is produced as cheaply as possible, quality ingredients and farming and production methods suffer greatly. When food is produced in such a way, it’s not only quality that goes down – so does nutritional content and integrity.

So the emphasis should be on real, organic foods because when you eat healthy, you are avoiding problems down the road – problems that will cost you more money than you realize. The idea should be that prevention up front will save you misery, disease, and cost later on.

Smaller, sustainable farming ventures and efforts don’t make the huge profits that the large corporations bring in. For that reason, they are very concerned with quality and maintaining a good customer base of people who are happy with their products. Sustainable farmers are more mindful of the quality of what they are producing and the environment, so the end result is a product you can feel good about eating and production practices you can have a good conscience about supporting.

Processed foods = no nutrition for the money you spend

One of the most heavily consumed items in developed countries is carbonated soda pop, which has absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever. Soda pop is the number one source of calories in the United States! When consumed in such amounts, there is no one who can deny this definitely affects anyone’s budget. So why not trade your dollars spent on soda pops, juices, Kool Aid, Crystal Light, Hawaiian Punch, Sunny Delight, or other processed sugary drinks for a wholesome, organic apple, pear, or banana, or a good water-filtration system.

Another example is pre-made, frozen dinners or meals in a can. Just look at the average ingredient label on one of these products and the list is a mile long. Can you pronounce these ingredients and do you know what they are? How about the effect they have on your health? If you buy the raw ingredients and prepare from scratch, both the taste and the health benefits you will receive from eating this meal are ten-fold what you get out of the processed one. It will probably make you feel full longer and provide more food for your money as well. Processed foods seem cheaper, but when you consider the damage to the environment to produce them, what’s in them, and how well they satisfy your hunger, are they really more economical?

The cost of health care

Just stop to consider the large amounts of money we pay in taxes and other fees to support industrial agriculture – massive government subsidies to agribusiness (which drive smaller, sustainable farmers out of business), environmental damage as a result of toxins being dumped into the air, water, and land due to the operation methods of factory farms, the continual increase of health care costs, and untold damage to our health.

Also consider the amount of money put into the healthcare system by the average person or family. In 2008 the average worker payed out over $3K into health coverage for a family of 4.

The $3K paid is just the beginning of money spent; that doesn’t even begin to cover co-pay amounts. As health insurance costs rise, it is becoming necessary to for individuals and employers to select plans with the lowest annual premiums, which can only result in higher co-pay amounts. Then comes prescription drug costs (many of them unnecessary and over-prescribed), and over-the-counter drugs used by millions and millions. Health care costs are one of the leading causes of incurred debt amongst the population. Also, the amount of money going into the system to pay for the health of the average senior citizen, welfare recipient, or wards of the state is impossible to gauge, but you can bet it’s astronomical. Someone’s got to pay for it.

The food we eat from the industrial food system actually increases our dependence upon conventional medicine, drugs, and surgery. Still think conventional (reactive medicine) is cheaper than eating healthy and prevention? Read this post and see if you aren’t convinced!

The cost of factory farming on the environment and health

Most of our meat and dairy products come from conventional farming sources – also known as “factory farms” or CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). The expense and damage of operating these facilities to human health, the environment, and economy are well-documented facts.  Factory farming uses management of what animals eat to promote growth and keep costs down. So the goal is to increase yield while decreasing production costs (Food Matters).

Here’s what you are supporting with your food dollars when you buy conventionally-raised meat and meat products:

  • The use of antibiotics – which increasingly creates resistant-bacteria
  • Hormones – to create a faster growth margin in animals for higher profits
  • Genetically-modified substances in the feed the animals eat
  • Pesticide spraying on crops to feed animals
  • Use of massive amounts of fossil fuels to transport feed, animals, and chemicals to ensure success of operation
  • Environmental contamination of soil, groundwater (and runoff goes into neighboring crops), and air from pathogenic waste that cannot be used for re-fertilization of healthy soil

So what’s going on here is that the health care companies are getting rich, the food industry is getting rich…but what’s to become of the consumer? Are we destined to remain in the stranglehold of these corporations who have absolutely no concern for our health or well-being, or are we going to do something about it?

We must take a stand, get proactive, support local and sustainable farming and food production, and stamp out these bloated, multi-billion dollar corporations who have taken for themselves all the power and profit – and all the while they are stealing our health and well-being.

Put the power, money, well-being, and health back in the hands of the people who can make a huge effect on our habits and future – the consumers! Do something ethical and moral, and healthy for yourself, your family, and the planet. Go organic and sustainable. Read labels. Be aware and educate yourself. Trade your junk food and industrial dollars for something more worthwhile and healthy – good, real, organic, sustainable food. Remember, each time you put food in your mouth, you are casting a vote for organic or not…and the consequences could be more serious than you think!

What you can do:

  • Learn about our food system and what goes into our food – be conscious of what you eat! Get to know the people who produce your food and ask about farming practices. There are many responsible farmers who want to produce clean, sustainable products for their community, and all you have to do is ask!
  • Grow your own vegetables and fruits – plant a garden! It doesn’t have to be large, start small and go from there.
  • Support local farming, CSAs, and your farmer’s market
  • Get involved on a local level to help educate those you know – talk about your experiences with people, start a blog, write a book, or become a chair on your children’s school lunch committee (I did!)

For more information about how the industrial food system affects our health and the environment, see these important films – Food, Inc., Fresh, and Food Matters

Want to protect family farms and our freedom to have access to safe, clean food? Join the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund effort

Read more about the high price of cheap food – TIME article

For some ideas about how to eat healthy on a budget, read:

Food Budgets – Using Creativity and Prioritizing for Healthy Eating

Proof That Real Food Doesn’t Have to Cost A Bundle, Is Nourishing, And Satisfies!

Want to know more about eating healthy to help improve health and lose weight? It’s not all about exercise!

Are You Nutritionally Fit?

Learn about the different kinds of foods; the kind of food you eat really does matter!

How Well Do You Know Your Food? Find Out!


High Fructose Corn Syrup – Do You Think It's Sweet?

Do you eat food products containing high fructose corn syrup? HFCS is a product that is manufactured from corn, and it is not a whole, natural food. It is broken down chemically in a laboratory and then reassembled as HFCS. Most HFCS is produced from genetically-modified corn.

You can get an idea of how corn syrup is produced is from a very interesting film called King Corn.  Two young men go to Iowa and are given a piece of land on which to grow conventional corn for one season. Through the film they learn just how corn is grown and harvested, and about all the different products we consume that contain corn.

One of the highlights of the film is when the two friends decide to investigate just how corn syrup is made, attempt to visit a corn syrup plant and then make their own batch of corn syrup at home. I highly recommend watching this documentary which shows two young men who decide they want to trace the roots of the corn industry in America.

Here are some products containing this artificially produced sweetener:

  • ketchup
  • mayonnaise
  • candy
  • jam or jelly
  • crackers
  • soft drinks
  • juice and “juice” drinks
  • breads
  • boxed cereals
  • yogurt
  • many other processed food products

Here is a short list of fast food restaurants using HFCS in their products:

  • Arby’s
  • Blimpie
  • Burger King
  • Chick-fil-a
  • Dairy Queen
  • Jack in the Box
  • KFC, McDonald’s
  • Subway
  • Taco Bell
  • Whataburger

Here are some of the dangers associated from consuming HFCS*:

  • The development of metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and and increase in triglycerides and LDL or bad cholesterol levels. Because it wreaks such havoc on the digestive system, it also causes liver disease.
  • HFCS is devoid of nutrients and will actually strip nutrients from the body.
  • HFCS contains unbound fructose in massive quantities, and this prevents the cardiovascular system’s use of magnesium, copper, and chromium – essential minerals for heart function.

(*source, Weston A. Price Foundation)

The American Corn Refiner’s Association maintains an elaborate web site proclaiming the virtues of HFCS as a natural sweetener, and why not? Besides manufacturing “natural sweeteners”, they are a multi-billion dollar corporation and leaders in the industries producing biotechnology, ethanol, starch, corn oil, and feed products. They have leading medical and health experts and “research” backing their claims that HFCS is an important component in the human diet, and continue to tell the public that this substance does not cause obesity, heart disease, nor diabetes.

The corn grower’s association also has produced various advertisements making the claim that it has “natural ingredients”, is made from corn and is “fine in moderation”. Oh, really?:

It is no wonder it is so pervasive in our food supply and people are so convinced it is a harmless substance for consumption. It is important to remember that when you are looking for answers, always check to find out who is funding the research and what the entity providing said funding has to gain from such activity.

Be aware that HFCS is toxic to the body and is found in many processed foods. To avoid this dangerous substance, eat natural, traditional, and organic foods. You will find that your health will flourish and you will avoid many health issues.

Here’s a good list of healthy sweeteners to be used in moderation:

  • Raw honey
  • Stevia – the green, powdered form that is unrefined (avoid Truvia and other refined versions of Stevia that are processed and white, liquid Stevia is an acceptable second as it still doesn’t spike blood sugar levels the way many other refined sweeteners)
  • Sucanat
  • Maple syrup (real maple syrup, grade B is the best choice as it contains trace minerals and nutrients)
  • Palm sugar
  • Maple sugar
  • Lakanto by Body Ecology – a naturally fermented sweetener from the luo han guo fruit and non-GMO erythritol; does not spike blood sugar or feed candida; fantastic for baked goods

Keep in mind that although these sweeteners are better for you and many of them do contain nutrients, they should also be used only on occasion.  Human beings naturally gravitate toward sweet tastes, it’s encoded in our DNA.  However, any sweetener you consume too much of can cause your body to stop burning fat as a fuel source and ultimately can have an adverse affect on normal weight levels in your body. Sweeteners also overload your pancreas, cause digestion to be sluggish, and also have a negative impact on normal appetite, energy, and mood levels.

Here are some ways to cut back on sweets:

  • When you feel a sweet tooth urge coming on, try eating some cheese or nuts, or some other food you enjoy containing a healthy fat. Often when you crave sweets, it’s a signal that your body really needs something with healthy fats
  • Keep fruit around to snack on
  • Avoid making baked goods and foods with starches or grains in them too often. These foods, even when prepared properly, can become addictive and also contain sugar – even though it’s natural sugar – which can still have adverse effects on health when consumed too often
  • Allow yourself a treat every now and then – designate a time for eating something sweet and stick to it. Then don’t eat that treat again until the next designated time, such as once or twice a week. When you do eat treats, make them healthy with healthy sweeteners and avoid artificial sweeteners like HFCS, Splenda, aspertame, Truvia, or saccharine.
  • Maintain a diet with healthy, whole foods. The more satisfied your body is nutritionally, the less you will crave sugar which is really often a sign that you are hungry and need real food.
  • When you do eat sweets, consider adding a natural healthy fat to your treat such as real cream, cheese, butter, coconut oil, or milk. Real fats help balance out the spike we experience in our blood sugar levels and can keep things in our digestive process more even when we consume sweets.

For an overview of corn and its impact on our health and the environment, read How the FDA, corn, and oil are killing people.