Saturday, November 17, 2012

How did we come to believe that food industry chemicals and processing could replace nature-made foods?

I realise that many articles and books have been published about the food industry and its influence on our health and eating habits, meaning that I am pretty late with my opinion about this matter. Fact is also that my insight about this came by the passion for natural wine without additives some ten years ago, followed by the many encounters with passionate cooks and foodies. I also meet more and more people who are allergic to much un-natural stuff in food and wine, and this made me think about the subject. And last but not least, I am a chemist, but didn’t have much knowledge about the topic and the effect on our health, so my opinion was not outspoken at all.

A hundred years ago all food was organic, local, seasonal, fresh or naturally-preserved by ancient methods. All food was food. Now less than 3 percent of the Western agricultural land is used to grow fruits and vegetables, which should make up 80 percent of our diet. Today there are not even enough fruits and vegetables to allow all people to follow the healthy guidelines to eat enough of it a day. What most of us are left with is industrial food. And who knows what lurks in the average boxed, packaged, or canned factory-made science project. When a French fry has more than 20 ingredients and almost all of them are not potato, or when a fast food hamburger contains very little meat, or when the average teenager consumes 34 teaspoons of sugar a day, we are living in a food nightmare, a sci-fi horror show. Do you agree?

The very fact that we are having debates about what we should eat, that we are struggling with the question about what the best diet is, is symptomatic of how far we have strayed from the natural conditions that gave rise to our species, from the simple act of eating real, whole, fresh food. When it becomes a revolutionary act to eat real food, we are in trouble.

The best advice is to avoid food with health claims on the label, or better yet avoid food with labels in the first place. The food industry is one of the biggest in the world, and people seem to forget this all the time, despite the obvious heavy influences on media and government. Low-fat is good -- so anything with a "low-fat" on the label must be healthy. But Coke is 100 percent fat-free and that doesn't make it a health food. Now we are told to eat more whole grains, so a few flecks of whole grains are sprinkled on sugary cereals. That doesn't make them a health food either. Or what to think of the more recent obsession to avoid carbs in whatever you put in your mouth?

In the 21st century our tastes buds, our brain chemistry, our biochemistry, our hormones and our kitchens have been hijacked by the food industry. We need to un-junk our biology!! Industrial processing has given rise to an array of addictive, fattening, metabolism-jamming chemicals and compounds including aspartame, MSG (monosodium glutamate), high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats, to name the biggest offenders. MSG is an excito-toxin that stimulates your brain to eat uncontrollably. When fed to mice, they get fat. It is in 80 percent of processed foods and mostly disguised as "natural flavorings." And trans fat, for example, is derived from vegetable oil - chemically altered to resist degradation by bacteria, which is why modern cookies last on the shelf for years. But do we need cookies that can stay good for years knowing that our metabolism cannot process these trans fats which result in a shitty situation in our bodies?

Your tongue can be fooled and your brain can become addicted to the slick combinations of fat, sugar, and salt pumped into factory-made foods, but your biochemistry cannot, and the result is the disaster of obesity and chronic disease we have today. On purpose I don’t mention cancer, but even more and more normal weight people have one or more cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar. Factory food makes people sick; there is no doubt about this!! But since a couple of years the powerful marketing machine is making us believe that products with low cholesterol is the way to go. Look in your local supermarket for all the health labels on the products. And funny enough the human species swallow all this nonsense. Do you really think that probiotic milk drinks like ‘yakult’ is needed if you eat normal healthy food? But the beauty of all those problems is that another industry lives from the more serious cases. The pharmaceutical industry have solutions for your stomach problems, high blood pressure, heart disease, … caused by the years of shit-intake. Thank you very much, dudes.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to take our kitchens and our homes back. Transforming the food industry seems monumental, a gigantic undertaking. But it is not. It is a small problem. In the small places in our lives, our shopping carts, the fridge, the cupboard, the kitchen and on our dining room table is where all the power is.

It is the hundreds of little choices, the small actions you make every day that will topple the monolithic food industry. The previous century is littered with the bodies and institutions of fallen despots and despotic regimes -- from the fall of the Berlin wall to the Arab spring. There is no force more powerful than a small group of individuals with a desire to end injustice and abuse. A very simple idea can break through the confusion and plant the seeds of a revolution. Our bodies were designed to run on real food. Our natural default state is health. We need to simplify our way of eating. Un-junk our diet, detoxify our bodies and our minds and we heal. Simply choose foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy oils (olive oil, fish oil, avocado and coconut oil), small amounts of whole grains and beans and lean animal protein including small wild fish, grass fed meat, and farm eggs. There are no diets, no calorie counting, and no measuring fats, carbs or protein grams. None of that matters if you choose real, whole, fresh, live foods. If you choose quality, the rest takes care of itself.

When you eat empty industrial food with addictive chemicals and sugar, your body craves more, looking for nutrients in a dead food where none are to be found. Remember, you are what you eat. Mother Nature is the best pharmacist and food is the most powerful drug on the planet. It works faster, better and cheaper than any other pharmaceutical. Dinner is a date with the doctor. What you put at the end of your fork is more powerful than anything you will ever find at the bottom of a prescription bottle. Just eat real food. Each of us has the capacity to make the small changes in our lives that will create big changes in our food landscape and our agriculture. I hope you will use the power of your fork to be part of the start of a true food revolution.

Did those two last paragraphs also made you laugh? Is St Etienne greener than the most extreme hippy in San Francisco? Why is health so important suddenly, for a guy who likes to hang with others boozing natural wine until dawn?

Congratulation, you are part of the happy few. The fact that you are reading a blog about food and wine means that you are not living in a part of the world where you need to search or beg for food. You live in an area where fresh (organic) fruit and vegetables are easily available, if you are willing to pay a fair price for it. Daily fresh bread is easily available. You can even find fresh fish around the corner. You have some butchers nearby where you can buy different types of beef, from different races and aged over different time. You have a few favourite restaurants where they serve the type of food and wine you like and you are willing to pay for this experience. You like to hang in trendy coffee houses which are roasting their own beans. Oh, maybe you are from California and drive weekly to the Whole Food Market for organic food (despite the silicone and botox in your body) with your new green car, which recently replaced your S.U.V. You despite fat people, as they can’t take care of themselves. Thinking about it, there are many selfish persons, putting themselves in the middle of the world, without taking into account the fast-growing population of the already overpopulated world. Do you also close your eyes for the economic and sociologic reality while eating a kiwi from the other side of the world?

Fact is that we don’t have enough space to provide real and healthy food to the entire planet. Until a few years ago men in China didn’t ask to each other what they had been eating, but ‘if’ they had eaten. Mass production, mass processing and mass distribution at low prices had made it possible to provide ‘food’ into those regions. Many people don’t care if the weed was growing organically. They are mainly interested if they can afford something to feed their family. And the sad thing is that this is now also pretty common in the Western world, where many people have to survive on one-dollar menus, which is often a combination of deep fried shit or a mix of rice.

The public food companies striving for quarterly higher profits are there to stay and are penetrating the fast growing countries, like India and China. They are bringing even more shitty body filling on the market, at even cheaper production costs. There shouldn’t been too many complaints yet about health in those countries. But at the same time we should also applause the fact that those companies are providing many new jobs in the countries where they start producing. So what advise should I provide to you? I honestly don’t know. I guess it depends on your personal situation, so decide for yourself, but please do not forget: you are what you eat!!

St Etienne
Chemist & Part of the Elite who can afford real food

Ps Thanks to Mark Hymann, M.D. for providing the insides in the matter and most info I have found (and this is not a joke) in the CIA World Factbook, but also during my professional visits of some big food R&D centers

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