Health conscious people are going to great lengths to watch what they eat these days. They acknowledge the old adage: “you are what you eat”. After all, it makes intuitive sense, and under the laws of physics it must be true. What else is your body made of, if not the food you eat?
If you can accept the fact that you are what you eat, it is not a great stretch of the imagination to realize that you must also be what your food eats?
Yet how often do we think about this when shopping for our food? We think we are maximizing our nutrition by buying whole vegetables and meats, but are we? We can try to avoid pesticides and hormones by shopping organic, but the health of the food will still depend on the environment in which it was raised and on the nutrition available to it during growth.
What our food eats will directly affect its nutritional value.
Beef is an excellent example of this principle. The medical community has declared that red meat causes heart disease in humans, but why is that? We need look no further than to what the cow was fed.
The modern feedlot system takes young cattle and feeds them grain—lots and lots of grain. Grain is cheap and grain causes the cattle to put on weight quickly. Never mind the unsanitary conditions and resulting disease and antibiotic use of the feedlot system; grain lacks the necessary nutrition for the cow to grow healthy tissue. In particular, grain is deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids that mammals must consume as they cannot produce it themselves.
Cattle are grazers, evolved to eat a variety of grasses and plants. Fresh green plants are a rich source of Omega-3 fats. It is this varied diet that makes free range, grass fed beef much healthier for you.
Chicken is another example of the industrial agricultural food system robbing your food of nutrition. Chickens raised in barns and fed pelleted food do not consume the Omega-3 fats contained in fresh plants and insects. The same can be said for their eggs.
Meat is not the only food affected by our industrial food system. Plants can also fall victim to a lack of nutrition in their environment. Many of the vegetables found in the supermarket were grown on vast tracts of land that have had their soils nutritionally depleted. The industrial food machine compensates for soil depletion with chemical fertilizers, derived from petroleum by-products.
Once again, I remind you: you are what your food eats.
The industrial food system has created an abundance of food, but much is sorely lacking in nutrition. People are literally starving, even as their bodies grow fatter.
I believe people intuitively know this to be true because nutritional supplements in health food stores are seeing record sales. People are trying to make up for the nutrition they know their bodies are lacking.
It is time for us to start paying attention to what we consume. If we are to be healthy, we must place a higher value on our food and recognize that ‘convenient’ and ‘cheap’ come at a cost. Pay now, or pay later, as the saying goes.
We need to cultivate mindfulness in our daily choices. Buying local is a great way to know the conditions your food was grown in. The more you learn about how the food you are eating was grown, the more you will be able to make healthy choices.
If you really are what your food eats, what does that say about you?
Chris Semrick, B.Sc, RRT, CRE is a Registered Respiratory Therapist, Certified Respiratory Educator and a Smoking Cessation Counselor.