Today, Erik and I were talking about the Food Babe shenanigans that have been coming up online in the past couple of days and I had a couple things I wanted to say about them. My apologies in advance should this post come off as a bit all over the place. While I’m not necessarily a giant Food Babe fan, I do think that she’s doing a service by getting people to question the food that they’re eating in ways that they might have otherwise not thought about. I did feel though that the author of the Gawker article handled their argument a bit poorly (their words came off as charged, hostile, and emotional) but they made some good points. The word “chemical” gets thrown around so willy-nilly, when truly, everything is made out of chemicals. Water is a chemical. I believe that we should question what we read and that everything should be taken with a grain of salt. No one’s words should be considered the be-all-and-end-all. We need to consume information from all sorts of different sources, so that we can make educated decisions.
That being said, I can’t say that I’m without bias on the subject. Eating whole, local foods and avoiding processed foods are, from my personal experience, a huge part of achieving optimal health. But Erik asked me, “what do you mean by processed? Even picking fruit from a tree is a process.” So I did my best to explain myself: That I want to avoid processes that are going to decrease the nutritional value of a food or make a food worse for me. For instance, most packaged processed foods have tons of hidden sugar and sodium in them. These are flavourings that are very unlikely to have come from a health-friendly source, and inhibit your body’s ability to detect fullness. Instead, it just wants more and more sugar and salt. Another issue that I have with the conventional food industry is the monocropping of cash crops (corn, soy, wheat). Monocropping is just what it sounds like, the planting of just one kind of plant, often for miles and miles. This is a pretty big deal because by planting just one kind of crop in the same place year after year, the same nutrients get leached out of the soil rendering the product nutritionally deficient. This nutrient deficiency, combined with the lack of variety in their environment (variety = greater ability to withstand pests and disease) mean a greater need for corrective action like genetic modifications, and all the “-cide”s (pesticide, herbicide, fungicide) to keep the plants alive. I would much prefer to have my food from sources that aren’t in it for the money and truly care about their customers’ health and the quality of their food.
The other thing with these cash crops is that, because they are so darn cheap (cash crops are subsidized by the government, so duh, they’re gonna be cheap) they’re used by the food industry to make into all sorts of ingredients. Corn for example, can be derived into a number of ingredients and thus goes by all sorts of names (many of which are food sweeteners) in your typical boxed, bagged, or packaged good. They include (but are not limited to): alpha tocopherol, ascorbic acid, baking powder, calcium stearate, caramel, cellulose, citric acid, citrus cloud emulsion, corn flour, corn oil, cornstarch, corn syrup, dextrin, destrose (glucose), diglycerides, ethylene, ethyl acetate, ethyl lactate, fibersol-2, fructose, fumaric acid, golden syrup, high fructose corn syrup, inositol, invert sugar, malt, maltodextrin, monoglycerides, monosodium glutamate (MSG), natural flavouring, polydextrose, saccharin, semolina, sorbic acid, sorbitol, starch, sucrose…
These ingredients make their way into so many of our foods and this near constant consumption of corn products (this is just the beginning… soy and wheat sneak their way into much of our food too) or the overconsumption of any food can lead to sensitivities and allergies to that food.
This is why I feel it’s so important to support your local, organic farmers. But again, you can’t take everything at face value. If you see them at the farmer’s market, get to know them. Ask them questions about their farming practices and do your own research. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I also very highly recommend reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, one of my absolute favourite books.
Anyway, that’s my piece. Y’all have a good night. xx