Archive for July, 2009

Can You Become Deficient in Omega 6s?

In life, balance is important. People often talk about everything in moderation. The trouble is, “everything in moderation” often includes a barrage of unhealthy items in our meals and for snacks. What people end up eating, then, is still not much that is healthy and a LOT that isn’t.

One example I can think of right off the top of my head is that most of the people I know who are vegetarian (or vegan) actually don’t seem to eat many vegetables. In fact, what I see them eating most are processed grain and fruit products which are marketed toward people who want to avoid meat and live a “healthier” lifestyle. From what I observe, a lot of vegetarian diets consist largely of little natural fats or proteins (replete with a lot of processed low-fat selections like dairy products, soy, and tofu), and the processed grain products. No wonder so many people are getting sick and having trouble with their weight!

Another example: my father continually insists that if you eat a “mixed-diet” you will get all you need. However, my father has for many years been eating a lot of the things traditional diets advise against eating – items on the SAD (Standard American Diet): processed breads, crackers, cookies (and candy), desserts, etc., industrial meat and dairy, and basically a whole slew of industrial oils that are really high in Omega 6s  like soybean, canola, and cottonseed oil. So the whole “everything in moderation” mantra really isn’t all that reliable as a gauge.

Now, my father looks great for his age (he’s 72, is a rock-climber and very active), but he had prostate cancer at age 55 (although it  has not returned since his surgery) and has been on Lipitor for high-cholesterol for a number of years. This is probably what you might call a classic case of being way too high in Omega 6s…the exact opposite of what traditional diets recommend. Would my Dad still be on medication for high cholesterol if he ate a truly healthy diet? Does this profile fit a majority of people in developed countries? Without a doubt. But does it apply across the board to everyone in general? Maybe not. Here’s why:

For the last 3 years I have maintained an extremely healthy diet, so much that people are constantly in disbelief at the way I eat. I was told to avoid Omega 6s by a well-trained nutritional therapist when I first started my diet. I’ve been seeing another nutritional therapist from time to time, who happens to be my next door neighbor and studied under the first NT when she was studying for her credentials. Both of these individuals ascribe to WAPF (Weston A. Price Foundation) principles.

For some time I was using a small amount of the organic, unrefined, cold-pressed grapeseed oil mixed in with extra virgin olive oil for salad dressing, as we make all our own homemade dressings. Of course I knew grapeseed oil contained polyunsaturated fat and was high on Omega 6s, but it was such a great all-purpose oil I used it anyway because it was great for cooking and mixing with my homemade olive oil dressings. Then I read a few things here and there about grapeseed oil being unhealthy and I stopped using it for a few weeks.

Recently, I went to see the my Nutritional Therapist and she checked to see how I was doing with the fish oil I was using, and I did not respond well to it. She uses muscle-testing, a form of applied kinesiology, which has always been extremely accurate each time I have been tested for anything – whether it be a dietary supplement, food, or other substances. This puzzled her, so she tested me on multiple healthy Omega 6s like sesame oil, evening primrose oil, and sunflower oil. The discovery we made was a surprising one – that I had become DEFICIENT in Omega 6s! Why? Because I AVOID pretty much all Omega 6s in my diet. My diet has been so rigid that I had now been getting TOO many Omega 3s and NOT ENOUGH Omega 6s.

According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, “Cancer as well as heart disease can be prevented by taking a ratio of at least 1:1 up to 2.5:1 unadulterated parent omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids plus specific vitamins and minerals.” So apparently the ratios in my diet have been off. I had suspected all along before I stopped using the grapeseed oil that perhaps it was okay to be consuming this substance since my diet no longer included the rash of Omega 6 foods I used to eat…but I second guessed my own intuition. This is a valuable lesson I’ve learned and will be more mindful in the future of my own body and my own knowledge about what I need to be healthy.

When you eat a really healthy diet which omits the processed, unhealthy Omega 6s, you will need to supplement this important EFA (essential fatty acid) in some way. So let’s make clear the distinction about  eating the right Omega 6s and the wrong ones – and that if you have no Omega 6s in your diet, you can become deficient in those, just like many people in industrialized countries can become with Omega 3s. So I’ve added a bit of Omega 6s to my diet – organic sunflower/sesame oil/evening primrose oil – which also has Omega 3s (flax oil), Udo’s brand (cold-pressed). In fact, this oil is formulated to contain the right blend of the essential fatty acid oils for health.

I certainly do not advocate people eating the unhealthy variety of Omega 6s to receive adequate amounts in their diets. Unhealthy Omega 6s include many processed foods such as vegetable oils (canola, soy, safflower, cottonseed, etc.), packaged grains and grain products like cereal, breads, and crackers. Good sources of healthy Omega 6s oils with GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) would be foods such as the following:

  • almonds
  • evening primrose oil
  • walnut oil
  • hemp oil
  • pumpkin seed oil
  • sesame oil
  • wheatgerm oil
  • grapeseed oil

All oils should be organic and cold-pressed, kept in dark bottles, and away from light and heat. Check labels for information on oils and do some research to find out how the oils are produced. Best if refrigerated.

So please remember, you need the right balance of polyunsaturated fats which come from healthy sources of Omega 6s and Omega 3s too – from sources like safe-source fish (mackerel, salmon, and anchovies, wild caught from a deep-sea source), grass-fed meats and poultry, pasture-raised eggs, and real dairy from grass-fed cows.

Don’t be fooled: mainstream medical and health sources claim that meat is too high in Omega 6s, which is certainly true of commercially-raised, industrial variety meats and poultry. These animals are fed a steady diet of unnatural feeds containing high levels of Omega 6 like grain, corn, and soy. As a result, their meat is too high in Omega 6s (polyunsaturated), lower in protein, and is high in calories. If you keep your meat consumption to choices from healthy, pasture-raised animals you actually be getting the Omega 3s which are so important in the essential fatty acid balance. These animals consume the food nature intended for them to eat, and as a result you are getting meat with higher protein, lower calories, the right amount of fat, and Omega 3s.

Looking for good sources of grass-fed meats and pasture-raised poultry and eggs? Check you local farmer’s market and farmers who raise meat in your region. Here are some good sources online:

U.S. Wellness Meats – merchant selling a variety of naturallly-raised meats, sausages, pork, rabbit, bison, poultry, lamb, sustainable seafood, and more!

Alderspring Ranch – one of my favorite local sources for grass-fed, organic beef; family owned and operated in the mountains of Idaho

Grass-fed Traditions – pasture-raised beef fed Cocofeed!

Eat Wild – resource for grass-fed meats

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Do Restaurants Serve Healthy Oils?

When you go out to eat and read the dinner menu, do you think about cooking oils used by the restaurant where you are eating your food? Many people don’t, but the reality is, most of the oils used by restaurants, unless otherwise noted, are highly-processed, industrially-produced, genetically modified, rancid vegetable oils that are unhealthy to consume.

In my teens and twenties, I remember having conversations with people about eating low-fat dressings on salads that were supposedly “healthier” choices than the full-fat choices. The idea was that fat was unhealthy to consume, and therefore low-fat was better (not unlike the mentality about fat now).

This idea has persisted for some years, and really, this notion is false. Because medical and health communities have mislead the public about health information for so long, everyone believes the issue lies in fat. But real, whole fats are good for you. What’s more, the oils contained in 99 percent of the salad dressings and condiments you eat in restaurants are not good for you… and why? Because they are usually soybean, canola, cottonseed, or safflower oil. Just ask your server, and it may take some digging to find this out, but what you will learn is that your salad is covered in a toxic substance that has no place on the dinner table.

Case in point: one night some years ago I went to the Olive Garden with my husband and son who was still a baby at the time. This was during the years when we used to eat out a lot. For some reason it occurred to me to ask the server about the dressing. I asked her what type of oil they used in their famous salad that everyone believes to be so healthy to eat. She replied that she would have to ask in the kitchen and would let me know. Upon her return she confirmed my suspicion: the oil they use is soybean oil. All those years I had been eating that same salad and thinking how good it was for me…only to find out all that time I was eating rancid, toxic oil! I felt duped and lied to, and began to realize that probably every restaurant I ate at did the same thing.

Even when you see olive oil on the menu at a restaurant – which is usually served on some type of meat or fish (and it is called out specifically on the menu; the restaurant won’t just sneak it in somewhere because olive oil is too expensive), you have no idea what kind of olive oil they are using and whether it is good quality. For all you know, it could be rancid as well. Olive oil can become rancid easily if stored improperly, for too long, or is subjected to high-temperature heat.  So unless noted, anything cooked in oil in a restaurant, is most likely prepared in vegetable oil of some type.

Now there may be some exceptions, such as when the server brings out a bowl for dipping your bread with vinegar and a bottle of oil – in those cases, the oil is often olive oil. Still, the quality is probably not up to standard. The name of the game in the business of restaurants is making money, after all. Their margins are razor-thin and they have to make every expense count. And let’s not even get started on the bread…it MAY be fresh baked, in some cases, but the flour is most likely not organic and the flour used to make the bread is also probably rancid (and likely from a genetically-modified source). Best to avoid the bread and the dipping oil altogether.

What’s wrong with vegetable oils? Other than the fact that they are trans-fats, rancid and industrially-produced, and originate from genetically-modified sources, their main fat content comes from polyunsaturated sources. According to Rat Peat, PhD, a physiologist who has studied dietary fats and hormones since 1968, polyunsaturated fats are not healthy and cause heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and various auto-immune disorders. They are so unhealthy, he believes their only place is in industrial uses such as for painting. Read the following two excerpts from ‘Unhealthy Vegetable Oils‘ by C.J. Puotinen:

“The main problem is that polyunsaturated oils contain long-chain fatty acids, which are extremely fragile and unstable. The unsaturated oils in some cooked foods become rancid in just  a few hours even when refrigerated,” says Peat, “and that’s responsible for the stale taste of leftover foods. Eating slightly stale food with polyunsaturated oils isn’t more harmful than eating the same oils when fresh, since the oils will oxidize at a much higher rate once they are in the body. As soon as polyunsaturated vegetable oil enters the body, it is exposed to temperatures high enough to cause its toxic decomposition, especially when combined with a continuous supply of oxygen and catalysts such as iron.”

“Senate hearings on the health implications of tropical oils brought testimony from Harvard Medical School researcher George Blackburn, Ph.D., University of Maryland research associate Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., and U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D., all of whom defended coconut oil. They pointed out that coconut oil has been a mainstay in the diets of millions of people for thousands of years, and those who still follow their traditional diet, such as Pacific Islanders, enjoy long, healthy lives with none of the heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses that plague America. The media paid little attention and instead promoted the anti-saturated-fat hysteria with headlines (“The Oil from Hell!”) that sold newspapers. In the end, fiction triumphed over fact, and restaurant chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King replaced the saturated fats they had been using with more “healthful” vegetable oils. The switch, according to FDA tests, increased or even doubled the fat content of fried foods.”

What’s the solution? For one, don’t make eating out regularly a habit. Most food is sure to be bathed in these toxic oils. Prepare most of your meals at home and from scratch. Pay attention to the types of oils you purchase and from where they originate.

What are healthy oils and fats to consume?

  • Organic, extra virgin olive oil, stored in dark glass bottles or metal cans.
  • Organic, extra virgin coconut oil
  • Organic palm oils
  • Other cold-pressed, organic oils eaten uncooked such as pumpkin seed, avocado, flax (Omega 3), borage, evening primrose, blackcurrant, sesame, walnut, grapeseed, hazelnut, or almond.
  • Real, organic butter from grass-fed cows

As much as it does take a bit of time and effort, researching the source of the oils you eat will provide the maximum nutritional benefit out of your food. Just do a quick Internet search and read about the products you buy before you buy.

For more information about healthy and unhealthy oils, read The Oiling of America from the Weston A. Price Foundation.

This article is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and check out all the other real food posts there.

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Fluoride in the Water – Does it Really Help Prevent Cavities?

Do you use fluoride toothpaste or drink tap water with fluoride in it? Does your dentist recommend fluoride treatments for your children when they have dental checkups? These common practices are what many people do and accept as a method of “preventative” dental care.  Ever since I was a child, the concept of having fluoride in my toothpaste and water to keep cavities away has been hammered into my head. However, fluoride is not only unnecessary, it is not a nutrient; it is in fact, a harmful chemical.

Here’s why:

In November of 2008, the Journal of the American Dental Association made the following statement based on the systematic review of fluoride supplement research: “There is weak and inconsistent evidence that the use of fluoride supplements prevents dental caries [cavities] in primary teeth.” Yet for some reason, dentists persist in trying to convince parents to allow them to apply fluoride treatments to their children (I know, I’m one of those parents!).

According to Midwestern Integrative Dentistry (Dr. Philip P. Sukel) the whole theory of fluoride being necessary to maintain dental health was never founded on hard scientific research. Instead, its push to be used in the prevention of dental caries has primarily been driven by financial interests and efforts to cover up gross errors made on endorsing its use.  Dr. Sukel’s assertion that even if a certain amount of fluoride were useful to the human body, receiving more of the chemical doesn’t make it more beneficial is definitely worth considering.

During the time period between 1990 and 1992, the Journal of the American Medical Association published three separate reports which connected an increase in the rates of hip fractures to the consumption of water containing fluoride. The March 22, 1990 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine contained information from the Mayo Clinic stating that patients with osteoporosis who received fluoride treatment experienced an increase of hip fracture and bone weakening.

In a  2007, a statement was issued on the CDC web site (that received no media coverage) to warn the public about the following information:

“It now appears that the amount of the fluoride contained in the water used for mixing infant formula may influence a child’s risk for developing enamel fluorosis, particularly if the child’s sole source of nutrition is from reconstituted formula.”

“If tap water is fluoridated or has substantial natural fluoride (0.7 mg/L or higher), a parent may consider using a low-fluoride alternative water source. Bottled water known to be low in fluoride is labeled as purified deionized, de-mineralized, distilled, or prepared by reverse osmosis.”

“Using only water with low fluoride levels to mix formula will not eliminate the risk of enamel fluorisis…other factors that contribute to developing fluorisis include swallowing of toothpastse and use of dietary supplements that include fluoride (tablets or drops).”

And yet, how many medical or dental professionals are inclined to outwardly admit that fluoride is not only unnecessary but dangerous to your health? I’m betting most people hear just the opposite from their practitioners; that fluoride is still considered a necessary element toward wiping out tooth decay.

From the book titled Fluoride, The Aging Factor by Dr. John Yiamouyiannis, (1993) we learn how the consumption of fluoride destroys enzymes in the body and leads to a variety of diseases. Fluoride levels as low as 1 ppm cause the destruction of 30 percent of collagen – the most abundant protein in the body. It also causes irregular formation of collagen which provides major structural support to body components such as teeth, bone, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, tendons and and skin. Some side effects listed in the The United States Pharmacopoeia of drinking 1 to 2 pints daily of fluoridated tap water are as follows: stomach distress and cramps including nausea, faintness, bloody vomit, constipation, tremors, aching bones, stiffness, skin rash, weight loss, and brown or black discoloration of the teeth. The 1991 Physicians’ Desk Reference lists some of the same side effects from administered doses of fluoride.

Fluoride interferes with bonds responsible for maintenance of normal shape of proteins. When the protein becomes mutated, the immune system attacks it, and therefore, causes damage to the body’s own tissue and cells.

Fluoride (at 1 ppm) in drinking water has been reported to do the following:

  1. Damages the immune system by inhibiting the migration rate of white blood cells to infected areas;
  2. Interferes with phagocytosis (the destruction of bacteria and other foreign agents by white blood cells); and
  3. Induces the release of superoxide free radicals in resting white blood cells.

Because of this fluoride-induced situation, the body is subjected to foreign substances longer and also causes release of free radicals (which cause cancer and other diseases), and further accelerates the aging process.

Damage to the environment and health

One of the many examples of fluoride harming life is the incidence on August 25, 1961 where W.S. Meader and his wife May (near Pocatello, Idaho) took judgment through the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, against Food Machinery and Chemical Corporation for the amount of $57, 295.80 and against J.R. Simplot Corporation for $4,246.41. These corporations’ factories produced fluoride as a by-product in the form of both gaseous and solid compounds. The Meader trout farm and fish hatchery sustained serious damage from these substances. The fish eggs were described by court record as “worthless” and did not hatch normally. Furthermore, the fish that did successfully hatch were reported to have mutations. The owners of the hatchery removed about a ton of dead fish daily for a period of time. Levels of fluoride taken from water samples in the hatchery were between 0.5 and 4.7 ppm, which is the same as concentrations existing in food and beverages consumed by humans all over the country. In the end, the hatchery experienced a loss of business and livelihood.

The only fluoride naturally occurring in water is calcium fluoride, yet that type of fluoride is not used in fluoridation. The majority of what is used in municipal water systems is silicofluorides – these contain 85 times more toxins than calcium fluoride. These substances are pollution by-products of large corporations, do not biodegrade, and are considered hazardous waste products.

Cost of neutralizing these toxic substances to corporation? Per gallon, $1.40 – possibly higher if other toxic substances are present such as  uranium, lead, arsenic, and cadmium – at the highest-rated hazardous waste facility. These substances are purchased by cities and are then dumped into the water supply.  Silicofluorides contain toxic levels of those substances that are nearly as high as arsenic, and are more toxic than lead.

Recent reports from the EPA have stated that lowering levels of lead and arsenic within the water system are at a critical all-time high, and they would ideally like to see levels at zero parts per million. Given the toxic nature of silicofluorides (which contain arsenic and lead), it is absolutely inconceivable that anyone would pass recommendations to add them to our water supply.

The 2007 CDC information release caused some controversy within thinking health communities, and Paul Beeber, attorney and President of the New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation asked an important question, “Where’s the media alert so that the parents, caregivers, healthcare workers and legislators know about this?” Beeber has been one of the most vocal opponents of water and supplement fluoridation.

“Americans are unaware that their arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome or other symptoms may be fluoride-related,” he said. “This information should be heeded by physicians and members of the medical and scientific communities.

“So there is no good reason to swallow fluoride via supplements or the water supply. Further, fluoride is neither a nutrient nor required for healthy teeth. Poor diets decay teeth and fluoride won’t stop that, ” Beeber said.

Various European countries have already eliminated fluoride from municipal water supplies: France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Italy.

What’s the solution?

Write to your state representatives and legislature and oppose fluoride in drinking water. Find out which politicians support non-fluoridation measures and those who are in favor of fluoridation, and keep sending correspondence. Don’t sign petitions in your local area advocating the adding of fluoride to your water system. Tell all your friends, family, and neighbors about the dangers of fluoridation in water.

At the dentist, decline to have fluoride treatments for your children. Although your dentist will surely try to talk you into it, resist anyway.

Use non-fluoridated toothpaste (read lables) or make your own.

Educate yourself on the ways to keep good dental health by following a diet that supports teeth and bone health. Research states that good nutrition prevents dental decay and bone problems.  In fact, studies of the diets of indigenous peoples around the world who eat traditional diets (research of Dr. Weston A. Price) have proven that dental and many other health issues are virtually non-existent when eating nutrionally-dense foods such as fish, eggs, butter, shellfish and organ meats.

Purchase a good quality filtration system for your home and don’t drink tap water. Some good quality brands include GE SmartWater filtration systems, Kangen Water, and visit Heart Spring for good general information about water filtration products.

After analyzing foods consumed by isolated primitive peoples, Dr. Price discovered that they provided at least four times the calcium and other minerals, and at least TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins from animal foods originating from animals raised naturally. This was in contrast with the processed, additive-filled diet of Western citizens in developed countries who experienced heightened levels of dental issues including decay, malformation, and bone malstructure and loss. His record of detailing the extreme deterioration both physical and dental health of people who went from nutritionally-dense foods to processed foods is both startling and eye-opening.

Consider the amount of processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and sugar consumed by the average citizen living in a developed country in the modern age. As technology continues to advance, more products are invented and the availability of products becomes more prevalent and widespread, we are exposed to more and more sugar than ever before in history.

Although overall sugar consumption has increased, the consumption of  real sugar has steadily declined over the years due to the advent of artificial sweeteners – and subsequently, we consume more of those – high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, glucose, dextrose, fructose, aspartame, and saccharin has gone up. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, consumption of available calories from all forms of added sugars increased 17 percent from 1970 to 2006. When you consider just how much we consume, it is no wonder we have such high rates of tooth decay. The presence of fluoride does not affect this number.

Take the challenge to improve your diet which will have a profound effect on your health and your teeth. Read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston A. Price and learn about how you can take charge of your future and live a healthier life.

You may believe you have a healthy diet, and perhaps you do, but ask yourself the following questions about your diet and then go from there. Do you consume:

  • Processed foods
  • Sugary beverages
  • Foods with artificial sweeteners
  • Foods with refined sugars

If you are in the habit of consuming these types of foods regularly, ask yourself if you can replace them with the following:

  • Grass-fed meats from healthy animals raised without chemicals and additives, antibiotics and hormones
  • Pasture-raised poultry and eggs
  • Real milk and other dairy from pasture-raised cows (raw is a plus!)
  • Organic produce (fruits and vegetables)
  • Sprouted, organic whole grains from non-GMO sources
  • Real, whole fats like butter, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, lard, tallow, fish oil, and cod liver oil
  • Fermented foods such as real yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, natto, kombucha, or lacto-fermented vegetables

When you include real, nutrient dense foods in your diet, you will experience a decline in tooth decay and better health.

For more information about this topic, visit the Fluoride Alert web site and read the 50 Reasons to Oppose Fluoridation.

Recommended reading on the subject of eliminating tooth decay naturally: (Rami Nagel) Cure Tooth Decay; Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition

This article is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit the other great real food posts there.

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East Ender-Stew with Chicken and Sausage

We live in the historic northeast-end of our city, which means our neighborhood is filled with old houses and possesses a rich ambiance of the past. Our house is approximately 90 years old and we’ve spent the last 7 years of ownership remodeling and fixing it up as time and money permit. We still have a ways to go, and who knows if we’ll be living here in 5 or 10 years. But while we’ve lived here, we’ve enjoyed some really fabulous food in our little kitchen.

This recipe is dedicated to our neighborhood because it represents our life here, and the many diverse elements which make up this neighborhood and its residents.

Although it is not a Basque recipe, the Italian sausage in it reminds me of the well-known dish that is loved by so many people in our city and other many other regions – Paella, a Spanish dish traditionally served with chorizo. Our city has a variety of ethnic populations, Basque people being one of the more well-known ones. It has been through this exposure to Basque culture that my husband and I have grown so very fond of their food and anything closely resembling it.

I’m very big on one-pot recipes, and just like long-time favorite recipes like Paella, this dish surely delivers in taste and intrigue.

We did not prepare ours with rice, but there’s no doubt it would taste great with this meal. You could also use beer if you were feeling just a bit adventurous, in the true Paella tradition.


  • 2 Chicken breasts, cooked and diced up
  • Italian sausage (we used U.S. Wellness Meats Italian Pork Sausage), cooked and sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 Bell peppers – we used red and green
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6 diced organic tomatoes or 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • real butter
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Melt butter in a large pan or pot (we use stainless steel), and put in garlic and onions to sautee for about 2 or 3 minutes.
  2. Add in bell peppers, tomatoes, meat and seasonings.
  3. Stir and turn up heat, stir, and allow to simmer for 3 – 4 minutes.
  4. Turn heat down to low, covered, and cook until your ingredients are well-sauteed and have all the flavors mixed in, approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Serve with a green salad.

Serves 3 – 4 people.

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Eating Disorders – A Product of Modern Society

Has anyone ever asked you whether you have an eating disorder? These days, everyone seems to know someone with one, but eating disorders are much more common than people think. In the 1980s we saw an enormous surge of teenage girls described as having bulimia (binging and purging) and anorexia nervosa (starving oneself to death) in order to keep from being overweight. These were extreme examples of eating disorders.  But there are other eating disorders which may masquerade themselves very sneakily – so difficult to detect in fact, that you may not even realize you or someone else you know has it. The whole way our culture has evolved to regard and consume food can indeed be categorized as one enormous eating disorder. Why is this true?

On the go, no time to eat

Consider the way people live life in modern society – we are constantly taxed and on the go, doing more things each day than is humanely possible to accomplish. Our jobs are demanding and provide little opportunity for breaks, vacations, or rest.  Because we are so busy, that leaves little time for much of anything – especially preparing a nutritious, home-cooked meal.

Unless we pay attention to what we buy and are mindful of ingredients, even those of us who do prepare “home-cooked” meals can easily end up preparing food that is virtually devoid of nutrients. What we wind up eating, most of the time, falls into the category of convenience foods – foods that you don’t prepare from scratch and which come out of a package, can, or box.  And these foods are not natural nor nutritious. The convenience foods are, in fact, one of the main problems in our eating disorder. We have come to depend on and accept these foods for so many years, we believe them to be just fine and healthy to consume.

So what’s the result? Fatigue, weakened immune systems, shot adrenal glands, and susceptibility to health issues and disease. That describes our society very well. It goes without saying that when people become tired, they look for something quick and easy to eat – and that’s seldom a home-prepared meal with healthy and organic ingredients from scratch. Most of us reach for something easy to prepare out of a can, package, or box.

What many of use eat are “quick” foods like food bars, crackers, pretzels, cookies, muffins, processed bread (full of dough conditioner, high fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, etc.) with peanut butter (containing hydrogenated oils), shakes and smoothies with little to no real nutrition (loaded with artificially-produced carbohdyrates, denatured proteins, and a variety of other chemicals), conventional dried fruits (treated with sulfur and often containing pesticides), popsicles, fruit roll-ups or fruit “snacks”, and many other similar items. These foods are highly processed, devoid of nutrients, and if eaten regularly, will cause weight gain, irregular blood sugar (which can lead to diabetes), a disturbance in metabolic processes, and chronic health issues.

How have things changed since the last 160 years? Prior to industrialized society (mid 1800s), people generally ate foods off the land. They hunted, gathered, and prepared foods from their own homes and cooked from scratch. Literally everything people ate was from their own regions and made from real foods. There were no supermarkets, fast food restaurants, or processed, packaged foods. There were very little toxins, chemicals, or preservatives applied to foods. You either ate the food now, or it spoiled soon after. People who lived back then had relatively little incidence of heart disease. It wasn’t until the 1920s that heart disease began to surface as noticeable problem. Right about that time, processed vegetable oils and refined carbohydrates became more prevalent on the American market.

We count on the fact that many of the foods we purchase can sit on the shelf for months or years and we are able to consume it a long time after purchase. But here’s the important question we should all be asking: is this practice a good idea, and is it healthy? This question lends itself to the old saying – just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it.

Eating disorders, dissected

When we hear the term eating disorder, we automatically think of a shrinking young girl who has taken to starvation or eating a lot of food and then purging as a way to stay thin.  But there are other ways in which eating disorders manifest. We have grown quite accustomed to making foods that have some component of convenience to them – such as bottled dressings and sauces, packaged side dishes, pasteurized dairy products of all types (cheeses, milk, sauces, butter and “butter” products), bread and grain products, powdered foods that we add to water, soups, broths, juices, and canned fruits and vegetables. We use these items in our kitchen and mistakenly believe we are eating healthy because we are cooking something at home; but what we fail to realize is that we are not really eating healthier than if we were eating at a restaurant or some other place where we don’t know how the food is prepared or where it comes from.

When we eat substances like this, we are effectively eating the same as we would elsewhere because we are using unnatural, convenience foods of all types and harming our health. When you use packaged foods which have become such an integral part of our modern life, we are consuming substances of which we don’t know their origin nor understand how they are created.  And many of these same types of foods are the same found in restaurants which serve food that is not typically healthy. This is just one component of our collective eating disorder.

Then there are the foods which seem natural and whole, but have a complete constituency of substances in them that are virtually “hidden” to the naked eye which are toxic and harmful to consume – meats, dairy products, grains, and fruits and vegetables. In the average grocery store, these foods are wrought with chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, steroids, pesticides, and a number of other undesirable, health-issue-causing additives.

The food may appear acceptable by appearance, it probably even smells and tastes normal – the meat may look robust and red in the packaging, the fruits and vegetables may seem fresh and colorful – but in reality, these foods are laden with toxic chemicals and have been altered from their original state intended by nature due to the use of substances which make growing, manufacturing and production of these foods “easier” and “cheaper” for the food corporations that sell them. But at what cost to the consumer and the environment? Here we have found one more component of the complicated eating disorder surrounding diets in developed countries.

The human body needs nutrients, not synthetics

Although each person’s body is individualized and has its own physiology, basic tenets of nutrition apply to what everyone needs to be healthy. People need fat, protein, carbohydrates, and other nutrients like amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Many foods available in the modern age are typically less nutrient dense due to processing and toxin content, and because they are processed have a longer shelf life. In this instance, shelf life equals deterioration of food quality.

Do you know where it comes from?

Today, we purchase foods from the store that are shipped from all over the country and the world. We literally have no idea how long these foods have been sitting in the store nor where they come from, nor what has been done to them before they are delivered to the store.  Our purchasing and eating habits have so departed from how our ancestors did things, we go through our lives having no clue that much of what we are eating is toxic garbage. This should be disturbing to the average person, but we have become  conditioned to getting whatever we want whenever we want it, and having it taste just the right way (possible, of course, through the magic of taste engineering done in labs by scientists) – and we place that value far and beyond anything else when it comes to providing food for ourselves, that we don’t even stop to think about it.

Our focus has become centered upon how much fat and calories we consume, and less about the content of the foods we eat. So if we eat artificially-produced, processed foods, it really doesn’t matter how many calories or fat the food contains. Those nutrients (calories,proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) are empty and not nutritionally-dense. What’s more, those “foods” contain substances that are harmful to our health. Because they cannot be recognized by the human body as anything real, these synthetic substances become stored as fat in the cells and they also get absorbed into our bloodstream and affect our bodies in a negative way. Then they are able to cause damage in the form of free-radicals in the body.

How we are affected by our environment

As human beings, we desire to feel and look “right” according to the standards set forth by our expectations and culture. We are susceptible to the influence of many factors such as what  Mr. Jones down the road does or says, what the latest ad on television or a magazine tells us, and the rhetoric put forth by health and medical communities. We are totally unaware that most of what we are told to do by these parties is patently wrong and misleading. We spend money on fad diets, exercise regimens, health club memberships, advice, books, DVDs, treatments, and advice from so-called professionals or experts. Yet, we are some of the most unhealthy people on the planet and our obesity, heart disease, and cancer rates are rising each year.

People seldom stop to consider that all these compulsive things we do have a profoundly negative effect on health. We have been convinced and conditioned by media, experts, even our friends and family, that these are the right things to eat for our health. We don’t acknowledge that all of these things are completely unnatural and have undesirable consequences to our health – until we are forced by some serious illness or disease to do so. When we are diagnosed with something critical, we take it even one step further and go about treating it in the most unnatural way and the affects on our body can be devastating. We take dangerous drugs or have medical procedures that are costly. What we do to our bodies when they are compromised and sick can actually hinder the healing process completely and cause further complications or death.

The answer to our eating disorder

What can you do if you have an eating disorder? Remember, eating disorders can apply to those who are not in the extreme category as bulimia or anorexia. If you are eating real, whole foods containing fats, protein, and calories produced the way nature intended, your body recognizes these substances and the nutrients are real as well. Further, you don’t have to worry about “counting calories” and fat grams. Because the nutrients are real, your body can use them in a way that is helpful to the body, and is therefore life-giving. It has become unfashionable to eat real food, and now our stores and grocery centers are filled with a plethora of products to “make our lives better”, “healthier”, and more convenient. Because we have lost touch with where our food comes from and how it is grown and produced, we have in turn lost an important part of ourselves – our health.

The way to disable the eating disorder and get our health back is to start learning about where our food comes from and how the producers produce it. By making blind purchases at the grocery store and believing labels we read and advertisements we see or hear, we are falling victim to the marketing schemes of the modern world. We are allowing ourselves to consume food that is not really food. As a result, our health declines. And low and behold…we find ourselves right in the midst of an eating disorder without even realizing it. Good rules to follow are to read labels and don’t buy anything with more than five ingredients or containing something that you don’t recognize. When we return to real food, we return to health. Here’s how:

  1. Get to know local farmers, food growers, and merchants. Pay a visit to your local farm or farmer’s market.
  2. Do some research in your local area to find out where else you can purchase real food. Check the Internet, newspaper, and with people you know.
  3. Stop buying packaged, processed foods, or at the very least, reduce your buying of these items considerably.
  4. Look for natural, healthy foods at your local store such as grass-fed meats, organic fruits and vegetables, and whole grains in bulk.
  5. Educate yourself about how to prepare foods from scratch. There are a wealth of resources available on the web, at the library, and within your local community for free. Check out our recipes on this web site.
  6. Commit to yourself and your family to take time for these important activities. They may take extra time and a bit more effort, but the end result is better health and state of mind.
  7. If you find that making many changes all at once is overwhelming, select two or three things to change about your lifestyle, approach to eating, and overall health mentality, and build on those choices over time by adding a few more things each week or month as you are able. For some ideas about building your homekeeping skills, read: Embrace and Perfect Your Homekeeping Skills.
  8. Do look at organic, whole, traditional foods as your body’s friend. They are nutritious, wholesome, and deliver the right health benefits to your body. Avoid old thinking patterns about foods you may have been taught over your lifetime such as fats, cholesterol, and calories are unhealthy. The only fats, cholesterol, and calories that are unhealthy to consume are those that are artificially-produced. Read this article: The Importance of Dietary Fats. For more information about types of foods, read: How Well Do You Know Your Food? Find Out!
  9. Keep in mind that in general, the modern way of life is neither how our bodies were designed to be cared for nor the way we were intended to maintain our environments and look after nature. Do everything you can to scale back your lifestyle efforts so that you can defeat eating disorders, care for the earth, restore health, and return to a more natural way of existence.

This article is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit Food Renegade and read the other real food articles linked there.

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