I'm always on the look out for reports and studies about how our interactions with food are related to our health. One of my favorite places to learn some interesting perspectives is on "TED" (ted.com)I found this talk to be especially helpful in understanding peoples necessity for pleasure when it comes to what they eat.
Have you ever been eating and someone is sharing with you something about the food you are eating that is quite upsetting? takes all the pleasure out of eating doesn't it?!
So it seems that if we had a better understanding of the value of our food and where it came from and what it can do for us, we would derive an even greater pleasure from our food experience. I constantly share with people that our food has to "Think Good", not just taste good, to be fully enjoyed, and finally science is catching up. Therapeutically, this is why its vitally important for us to play a leading role in our food system by growing some of your own food, knowing your farmers and sources of your ingredients and choosing and preparing your own foods with the full knowledge of its benefits, and completely avoiding some foods that we know don't fit into that value system.
Do this test:
Record how satisfied you are after eating two different meals (1 hour after): one convenience meal (some one else made), and one that you fully prepare yourself. Record how you feel and how satisfied you are.
(1)not at all satisfied
So in consideration for slowing down your life and being more thoughtful and health minded.... What do you think about your food? ("where it comes from, what it will do for me, how it will taste, etc...) What do you think about healthier foods that you may have an aversion to? ("no one eats this stuff", "thats weird", "its going to taste bad", etc) Its really helpful for you to just observe and listen to what thought process is going on when you eat. Then you can begin to understand the "conversation" that you have with your relationship to food and change what you don't like to be able to fully enjoy the pleasure that eating is.
There are many factors that contribute to ones state of health or lack thereof, both internal (emotional, habitual, hormonal, perceived value of quality, etc...) and external (agricultural policy, social programing and pressures, convenience, marketing, etc...) and I would suggest that the majority of those factors we have personal control over as a daily choice.
Yet there is such an overwhelming tide of influences and demands on us that we can so easily give in to the flow of the way of the world, and feel helpless, frustrated and isolated. Couple that with our ingrained national pride of individualism, the belief of "I can do it all by myself" and "I'm entitled to what makes me happy", and we are stuck in a pickle between, "its all my fault for my state of health" and "I can't do anything about my health, so why bother?".
So one of the most empowering ways to ultimately improve your health, is to step out of the flow of the way of the world and see where its going, whats driving it and what are your choices. In a word...AWARENESS. By educating your self about the internal and external factors that contribute to the health of you and those you interact with (a shocking revelation for some; You are part of an ecology, your health and life influences and is influenced by your internal and external environments...that donut isn't just unhealthy for you alone!) you will be more conscientious of your choices and the effects they have, will be more motivated to chose wisely and feel good about those choices!
That said, here is an assignment for your first step. Learn about the Governmental policies that that are contributing to the state of your dietary choices here in America.
Then learn about some of the internal thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to your lifestyle and habits.
Have you ever considered what REALLY goes into your food when someone else prepares it for you at a Restaurant or other food service?
Considering that the true amount people eat out is more than 50% of the time, contamination sources from food services must be understood if you are concerned with your health.
An effective HACCP plan (http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/HazardAnalysisCriticalControlPointsHACCP/ucm114868.htm) can mitigate much of these vectors, yet they only control them to a point, not eliminate them, and the effects of these multiple contaminations and accumulations aren't considered in light of the consumers health (only to keep customers from getting sick to stay in business)
Below is a list of various contamination factors I put together from my experience in the food service industry.
Vectors of biological and Chemical contamination in Commercial Food service operations that can contribute to health complications:
-GMO's: the most insidious of all contaminations! (virtually in all
processed/packaged foods including Nutritional yeasts, sugars..)
-Humans: (the more pretty your food on your plate, the more
people touched it)
-The handling of various foods during operations contributes to
multiple cross contamination, no amount of washing and
chemicals will prevent cross-comtamination. Which makes
Allergen free food services are very rare (for that sake,
vegan/vegetarian/gluten/nut free food services if they serve
those contaminants otherwise)
-Human hair, skin, saliva (personal hygiene practices)
-They are the main cross contamination vectors (trash to sink to
food to toilet to food, etc...)
-Foods naturally contain a certain level of insect parts (from fresh
salad greens to grains),though they are rarely considered
pathological for humans.
-improperly stored foods can attract and contain insects
-Foods naturally contain a certain levels of animal parts/fecal
matter/hair, not normally considered pathological for humans, as
long as its keep to USDA standards.
-Sources of contamination: Water supply, air, humans, foods,
-Intrinsic properties of foods and processing (bacterial levels,
-Equipment (cutting boards, ice-makers, water pipes,
refridgerators, sinks, tables, small wares, storage ware, etc...)
-Animal/plant products: conventionally raised
livestock,wild/farmed fish and much of the
plant crops now contain certain levels of Hormones, pesticides,
genetic modification, environmental contaminations (organic or
-City water supply (HALO's, Chlorines, bromines, florides, etc...)
-Water pipes (copper, lead, plasticizers, iron, etc...)
-coffee filters (material made with bleaching and other
-Dishwashers (highly toxic cleaners/sanitizers/rinse agents leave
residues on flat ware and
are sent into the air and water supply)
-Cleaning agents: Tables, floors, equipment
-Cook ware: aluminum, non-stick, plastic, (cookware, utensils,
equipment) (can react with
cleaning agents, foods and cooking methods to contaminate
-storage ware: Cambros (#5, #7 containers), cellophane/plastic
wrap, alluminum foil
-Service ware: (melamine, plastic, metal) plates, bowls, cups,
-Cooking methods: High heat cooking (searing/roasting/baking
produce highly toxic compounds related to multiple health
disorders for the people cooking them and the people eating
-Disposable wares: (Plastic, wax, paper wares) my impression is
that even bio-compostable wares are even more toxic, less
stable bonds of materials and they still use petroleum/chemical
-Product packaging: Plastics, waxes, cardboards, biological
control chemicals, fumigants, preserving agents.
-Rubber/plastic/nitrile gloves: both the material and the
Talcum/cornstarch/other powder/chemicals used in
producing/packaging/ease of use.
So, its pretty much impossible to have a contamination free food service...you just have to choose your level of contamination that you are willing to accept...you control many of these factors when your produce your own food. So you see why I rarely eat out...
Many of you have seen the image of the medical profession, but probably not thought much about the meaning and origins of the symbol or adoption of it to the medical profession.
The ones on the Left are called "Caduceus" and on the right "the rod of Asclepius". I'll just be discussing the "Caduceus".
Here is a brief history and description of this symbol in relation to the medical industry.
And here is an piece on the history and interpretations of the Caduces
I find it fascinating that it was adopted in war time to the medical field, for much of the medical practices and viewpoints on "Health care" continue with this same war time mentality of treatments. These include extreme and heroic measures to keep the patient alive until further treatment and healing can occur. I would interpret this to be that people go to the contemporary doctors in case of life threatening illness, and Allopathic medicine throws all they can at it to keep them alive, long enough (or they don't) for the patient to seek healing from the natural processes with the help of Naturopathic practitioners. Just an observation...
But where I think this symbol sadly plays more of an appropriate roll is in describing the industries economic and health effects. Despite the just intentions, the Allopathic medical profession has caused more deaths and economic bondage than any other industry.
"The long-standing and abundantly attested historical associations of the caduceus with commerce, theft, deception, and death are considered by many to be inappropriate in a symbol used by those engaged in the healing arts." I find it to quite apt!
A report points to Deaths related to medical error to possibly be as high as the 3rd leading cause of death in the US.
"More people die in a given year as a result of medical errors than from motor vehicle accidents (43,458), breast cancer (42,297), or AIDS (16,516)."
"Using a conservative definition, 62.1% of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical."
So when you see this symbol...run the other way...
I've worked in a few places that used the sous vide method. Its becoming quite popluar in fancy restaurants as a way to cook foods to perfect doneness.
From a culinary perspective its an amazing way to cook and produces consistent products, it adds another dimension to a chefs repertoire that can make for great food.
That said, from a health perspective, I would avoid it like the plague. Chefs tend to want to manipulate food in many different ways to coax as much flavor out of food. Which is why they cook things in so much oil, brown everything, loads of salt and sugar, msg, etc...So this is really just trading one method of unhealthy cooking for another. Heating liquid oils, at all, produces some nasty carcinogens and oxidised lipid with goes on to produce AGE's in our bodies. But then cooking sous vide leaches various petrochemicals into the food. And usually restaurants that would do sous vide will also do the frying/flavoring of the same food, so you are getting a double whammy...
Also, they are likely planning on cooking foods sous vide that have alcohol, acid, or fat...all of which leach compounds out of plastics even faster than water (see study below).
The cooking times will likely vary from 30 minutes to 2 days when cooking sous vide, and the longer the time and the higher the temperature, the more compounds will be leached from the plastic.
Plus, this is another expensive piece of equipment that can be marketed to chefs and customers...so this is just another way to make a buck, without really having a concern for the customers best health. (restaurants weren't designed for that, your own kitchen is...)
This is some of the reasoning behind my recommendations that people really concerned about their health should avoid eating out at restaurants altogether (no matter the quality or promoted health benefits). Yes, extreme, but you would be surprised as to what other kind of contamination happens in the best of restaurants...trust me.
Here is some background on what I'm talking about...
Sous vide cooking products
The plastic bags used in sous vide are likely made of PET (or HDPE) so here is a report on the leaching of a specific chemical at low temperatures. Even thought the EPA has set standards for contamination levels of such products, if these compounds are toxic at all, why would it be ok at ANY level, especially one with a carcinogenic level as low as 6ppb!
There is another way to cook sous vide which is much healthier, yet hasn't seen professional applications. There is a way to vacuum seal glass jars and cook sous vide. Glass is a better conductor of heat and is less of a source of contamination and has zero leaching (plus they are 100% reusable/recyclable ).
There has been much debate over the years of the role of saturated fats and other forms of fat in our diets. Since the 50's we have seen a dramatic rise in diet related health disorders, particularly heart disease. This occurrence seems to fly in the face of the "nutritional experts" and policy makers that have instituted a set of dietary recommendations, that include "low-fat" and "Grain based" diets, that were intended to reverse the occurrence of these same diseases. In other words, we were feed some "bad science" and now we are suffering for it.
So if you listen to your grandma and and not the deity in a white lab coat, I think we'll come to the conclusion that butter will always be a healthier option than those butter substitutes....
here is a great video that helps to clarify the historical and empirical evidence that has been ignored and points to quality forms of saturated fats and a reduction of carbohydrates in our diet can help reverse many of the modern disease we are experiencing because of this "Bad Science" culture....
"Big Fat Fiasco"
On the journey of learning how to live a balanced and healthy life, we invariably are distracted and beguiled by the many health claims that are the product of marketers for the purpose of profits...not your health. Many of these include certain diets (blood type diet, Atkins, South Beach, etc...) while others are certain supplements or food products (Acai berries, processed single/multi-vitamins, etc...). But I think the single most promoted health food/product with the most potential for detriment to your health is SOY. Yup, soy, that fad food that is now in some form or another in everything from your french fries to your supplements.
Every real food or food product simultaneously has potential detriments along with some potential benefits to our health, each food and its form and quality needs to be understood and ranked by each person to develop the best therapeutic eating habits. This becomes difficult when we are feed marketers and bias researchers white lies and half truths about certain products and then become disillusioned when we find out they were wrong. Soy happens to be a prime example of this, its detriments out weigh any of its health benefits.
Here is some of the reasons:
"Current evidence for the beneficial effects of soy requires a full understanding of potential adverse effects as well."
Dr D Doerge, scientist from the National Center for Toxicological Research.
Quoted here are many of the scientific research studies on soy spanning the years 1925 through 2001.
-Soy Blocks Vitamin and Mineral Absorption: Studies indicate that soy (organic and non-organic) causes increased requirements for vitamins E, K, D and B12. Phytic acid from SPI (soy protein isolate) blocks the absorption of essential minerals and creates deficiency symptoms of calcium, magnesium, copper, molybdenum, iron, manganese and especially zinc in the intestinal tract. This may be contributing to the early onset of osteoporosis in Japan, starting there as early as age 20 versus age 34 in the USA. Also test animals fed SPI developed enlarged organs, particularly the thyroid gland and pancreas, and caused increased deposition of fatty acids in the liver.
-Soybeans have one of the highest phytate levels of any grain or legume. Phytates in soy are highly resistant to normal phytate-reducing techniques such as long, slow cooking. Only long periods of fermentation will greatly reduce soy's phytate levels, but will not eliminate them.
-Soy has natural toxins or anti-nutrients. Soybeans contain potent enzyme inhibitors that block the action of trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion. These inhibitors are not completely deactivated during ordinary cooking. They can produce serious gastric distress, reduced protein digestion and create chronic deficiencies in amino acid uptakes. In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors also caused enlargement and pathological conditions of the pancreas, including cancer.
-Soy contains haemaglutinin, which is a clot-promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together, setting the stage for clogged arteries and stroke.
-Endocrine-disrupting isoflavones, genistein and daidzein are goitrogenic components found in soy. In vitro studies suggest isoflavones inhibit synthesis of estradiol and other steroid hormones. Infertility, reproductive problems, thyroid and liver disease due to dietary intake of isoflavones have been observed for several species of animals including mice, cheetah, quail, pigs, rats, sturgeon and sheep.
-The Swiss Health Service, in 1992, estimated that 100 grams of soy protein provides the estrogenic equivalent of one birth control pill.
-Processing of soy adds even more toxins. Much soy is acid washed in aluminium tanks, leaching high levels of aluminium into the final product.
-Now, over 90% of the soy beans grown in the US are Genetically altered, adding to even more health complications. Even though most of them are produced for animal consumption the detrimental health effects experienced by the animals are passed on through our food supplies. So it isn't even necessary to eat products labeled with soy ingredients to be effected by them through secondary pathways.
To make matters worse, Americans are consuming soy in unprecedented amounts. Among the many health problems linked to a high-soy diet are:
•Thyroid problems , including weight gain, lethargy, malaise, fatigue, hair loss, and loss of libido
• Premature puberty and other developmental problems in babies, children and adolescents
• Brain Damage
• Reproductive disorders
• Soy allergies
So if you want to eat soy and not ruin your health … and in fact gain health benefits, the following are all healthy options:
For more information and education on this soy story do your own research and listen to your body when you consume soy products.
Here are some good starting places:
Why Soy is not the Health food you think it is
The whole soy story
Wikipedia (be aware of misleading info)
Weston A. Price Foundation: Myths&Truths about soy
Here is an amazing report on the cost-benefit analysis of food/nutrition programs as it relates to disease treatment costs. The findings are obvious, but an astounding and average of 10-1 ratio (up to a 17-1 ratio). That means (if I'm interpreting this correctly) that for every $1 you spend on preventative measures that you are saving $10 in treatment of diet/lifestyle related illnesses. That is HUGE!
So if you think that healthy food and preventative measures are expensive, try higher insurance premiums, loss of work time, family and social burdens, medications, surgery, hospital time, more medications, nurse/doctor visits and care, transportation costs, loss of quality of life, emotional tolls, more medications...
One of the biggest excuses (yes, its just an excuse) I hear from folks interested in protecting their health through preventative measures is that "its just to expensive to buy all that stuff and treatments...". So I beg you to consider the total COST of your choices and not just the initial PRICE of healthier food and preventative treatments and the time spent learning how to take care of yourself and relationships...its well worth the investment, for its the only wealth you really have!
Blog of a Therapeutic Chef
Adventures, discoveries, experiences, opinions, and mistakes in the world of food, faith and farming