Food, that it. Pure, unadulterated food. I’ve been thinking a lot lately (well, increasingly more and more over the past several years) about the processing that the food we eat goes through before it lands on our plates. I’m not talking about the cooking that we do at home, or any of the preservation measures that can also (at least theoretically) be taken at home, like canning, curing, pickling, drying, or freezing. I’m talking about processing that can only take place in a factory, or worse yet, a laboratory. Did you know that if you buy non-organic food in a bag or a box, there’s a very good chance that you are going to eat genetically-modified food (GMOs)? That is, some ingredient has had some genetic feature of some other plant or animal “inserted” in its genetic makeup to add some “desirable” feature. That to me is just weird, and a little scary. I’m sure many of you have heard the term “Franken-food.” Gross.
Now, I’m not going to lie. I still buy some foods in packages. I love Doritos so much that I can’t buy them, because they are probably my only “trigger food”. I can eat them till I’m sick. It’s not pretty. Still, over the last five or six years I have bought fewer and fewer packaged items, mostly crackers and cereal, because I have yet to find a recipe to make cereal at home (besides oatmeal, or course, or this yummy but fairly expensive granola recipe) and have not yet found a perfect recipe for crackers. But I digress….
My point is this: we as a society are obsessed with weight and image, and we think that we are obsessed with healthy foods, in the form of nonfat yogurt and mayonnaise and chips (have you had nonfat chips? They wreak havoc on my stomach. It’s ugly). I can’t help but make the obvious-and oft overstated-point that this is a paradox indeed, since on average we are far heavier than our ancestors who didn’t have access to fat-free cheese, and if you go back far enough, bought their staples at the general store, not the chain grocery, and got the rest from their back yard or from other local producers. Now, I am sure that someone will point out to me that our life expectancy is far longer than that of our thinner ancestors, and no, I don’t have an answer for that, besides the fact that we now understand germ theories (therefore doctors now wash their hands between patients) and most of us have access to much better health care than our forefathers. I haven’t done a lot of scientific research on this subject (but I’m working on it-the problem is that it is difficult to find unbiased, refereed sources on either side of the equation!) but I do know that our the occurrence of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are higher than they used to be and I can’t help but wonder how much of this can be linked to our “healthier” diets.
Additionally, we definitely aren’t thinner with all of our lowfat and nonfat foods than our ancestors who ate butter (not margarine or “buttery spread”) and red meat and exercised by working in their yards and gardens and on their farms and doing their manual labor jobs. So, let me pose a question: why do we think that we are smarter than God and we can make food better than it comes to us in its natural state? How is it that we can possibly think that when we add chemicals or icky additives to our food as a substitute for the flavor that we subtract when we remove the fat from it that we are making the food better? How, how, how?
No, not every meal that I eat is laden with butter and red meat and whole milk. We eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains…all the things that we’re “supposed” to eat. But I don’t get in too much of a twist over eating things that modern wisdom says are bad for us. It’s all about balance for us…and also about not eating too much of anything.
I was a bit hesitant about writing this post. I don’t want to come across as judgmental, or as trying to make anyone feel guilty about the foods that they eat. I’m not. I just want to make you think, as I have been made to think, about the sources of the foods you eat and if maybe there are things that you haven’t realized about the food that you’ve been eating.