Friday, 7 June 2013
You're driving a car blindfolded (I know, I know, stay with me)
being guided by a passenger you really don't know very well
but for some reason this night, you trust him.
You're heading towards an intersection and your light is red but the
passenger doesn't see any cars coming so he tells you to keep driving.
You didn't get in a horrible fatal car accident this time,
but the traffic cam did go off and you get a ticket for running
a red in the mail 2 weeks later.
Crazy story, right?
Now, let's think for a second about how we do our grocery shopping. We're wandering the aisles of our local grocer and we know we don't feel like cooking during the week so we are going to pick up some ready made items that are advertising themselves as: "Gluten-free", "Healthy", "Fat-free", "Sugar-free", "Zero-calories", "Fortified with..."... Healthy, right?
Did you actually look at the list of ingredients? Probably not. So now you're kind of like the blindfolded driver from my earlier scenario. The package tells you it's "healthy" and you trust it.
Let's take yogurt, for instance. You like your yogurt sweetened right? I don't blame you... natural yogurt flavour is bitter and to be quite honest: I'm not a big fan myself (I generally opt for the full fat unsweetened option and add raw honey, in case you were wondering). So you (and me too!!) want sweetened yogurt, but your latest fad diet told you fat and sugar is a big no, no. Maybe you haven't really given much thought to what gives natural yogurt it's creamy texture, I'm going to tell you... and the answer might make your corneas explode for a second: it's FAT. *gasp*. So, if we're taking the fat content out of our yogurt how are we going to replicate that creamy texture? Here are some options: corn starch, gelatin, pectin, carrageenan. You can argue both ways for these ingredients (and people obviously have strong feelings both ways) and my goal here is not to start an argument, just present a perspective that maybe gets you thinking about this stuff if you're interested but haven't been inclined to think about this stuff before. Technically, none of these items are naturally occurring on their own in nature (anyone harvested a gelatin tree recently?) and as food packages never explain where they have extracted these additives from, you really can't be sure where they came from or how natural they are by the time they reach your lips... or what chemicals were used during the extraction process. The last thing I'll say about these items is that carrageenan is likely a carcinogen that causes inflammation in the digestive system (http://www.nowtoronto.com/lifestyle/story.cfm?content=190988). Now the sweetness. If we're not using white sugar (which isn't great for you anyway), let's look at a few of the additives food manufacturers might use in place of sugar: Aspartame, Sucralose (think Splenda), Xylitol... If you haven't been living under a rock, you are probably aware of the controversy surrounding Aspartame. Aspartame has been linked to cancer, neurological and psychological complications. While many agencies will continue to preach that Aspartame is safe for human consumption "at current levels", it should be noted that many studies are commissioned by the organizations who will benefit from the use and sale of Aspartame. Further, it is 100% chemical derived... meaning it didn't originate in an item that was edible in the first place. Sucralose comes from edible origins, unlike Aspartame, but it is processed using chlorine, which doesn't come from anything edible and is, again, a chemical. Finally, Xylitol, like Sucralose, does have edible origins but is generally extracted from hardwoods or corn cobs and then chemically processed.
So why are we being fed this garbage? The answer is simple: supply and demand. People want to stay thin-ish, but they still want to eat McDonalds and donuts and drink loads of beer and sodas and coffee drinks. So a lot of times, people rationalize their McDonalds, beer and donuts choices on their "cheat" meals and then load their systems up with chemical garbage that satisfies their basic tastes (sweet, fatty, salty) but won't add to their waistline.
So... now I have thoroughly depressed some of you... how do we free ourselves of this cycle? We stop thinking of our relationships with food as a cycle of fad diets and start having healthy relationships with our food (shop the perimeter, cook as much as we can, understand what we're eating and where it came from) and treating our bodies well with regular exercise. This is what our bodies were meant to do. I know I've just made it sound so simple and if you're coming from a place of chips, ice cream, pop and McDonalds every day, I have to be honest: it really isn't going to be that simple to completely restructure the way you think and feel about food. You're not alone. There are a ton of resources available to guide you. A great starting place is +Meghan Telpner Inc. 's UNdiet , in it, Meghan does a fabulous job of taking you through the process of realigning your relationship to food even if you've been in the junk food world for a long time. +Alicia Silverstone 's Kind Diet also does a pretty good job of explaining food and how to get what you need out of food. I should mention that both books are making the case for staying away from animal products and basing your diet on plant-based nutrition and if this is a deterrent for you, I still recommend reading the books and taking what you need out of them in the sense that they provide really solid information about basic nutrition and simple recipes to make your life just a little bit healthier. They will help give you the building blocks to construct a healthy relationship with food, whether or not you choose to follow the instructions verbatim.
Here's a healthy suggestion to start your day!! A delicious smoothie!! .. and this one will satisfy your sweet, salty AND fatty cravings (without aspartame, xylitol, carrageenan or any other chemically derived additive):
1 cup almond milk
1 drop vanilla extract
1 tbsp raw peanut butter
1 tsp raw honey
1 tsp spirulina (optional)
1 tbsp chia seeds
Add all ingredients to a blender, mix and enjoy in your favourite mug, beer stein, sippy cup or slop trough... :-)
Have a happy day!