by Dina Eliash Robinson
Part 1 — WHY BOTHER?
Why would a society obsessed with youth, beauty and fitness, consume huge quantities of toxic, nutrient-poor foods that hasten aging, spoil looks and promote ill health?
Answer: Multiple studies cite habit as the main reason for this paradox. Caused and supported by an environment flooded with seductive advertising and inescapably accessible junk food, this insidious habit often careens into full-blown food addiction, the studies also show.
Fortunately, consumers are learning to protect themselves and make better choices:
1) To keep up with increasing demands on their time and energy—both at home and in the workplace—more and more people realize they have to stay healthy. As a result, nutritious fare is pushing salty, sugary, greasy ‘comfort’ foods off plates and restaurant menus.
2) Organic farming is taking off. In fact, a week doesn’t go by without some University research center making headlines with conclusive evidence that organic fruits and vegetables pack much higher concentrations of nutrients than do conventionally grown produce.
3) Organic agriculture is also gaining traction against genetically engineered grains— which, by the way, are being locked out of most European and Asian markets. (Let’s hope the organic food industry will also stand its ground against the meat and dairy products obtained from cloned cattle, swine and goats, which—according to some sources—has been quietly fed into the U.S. food supply for years. More information about this will be posted here as it becomes available.)
4) Soaring healthcare costs are forcing the Government to face the connection between profit-driven industrialized farming and production methods and the nation’s growing epidemic of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Fortunately, public pressure manifested in lifestyle changes, preference for organic foods and other pocketbook-driven behavior, is slowly—much too slowly, alas—changing the way foods are grown, produced, inspected and regulated. This snail’s pace, however, is downright criminal when food-borne illnesses sicken 76 million Americans and kill 5,000 of them every year. What’s more, inadequate inspections and toothless or un-enforced regulations by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are costing the food industry and taxpayers a fortune in recalls and waste.
Urgently needed are health- and environment-protective measures—such as a stepped-up production of organic and other whole and nutritious foods, and elimination of transfats (still present in commercial baked goods), bio-engineered and genetically modified foods, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and livestock raised in deplorable conditions with toxic feed, growth hormones and antibiotics.
The first baby step to acquiring better eating habits is to choose real foods when shopping or dining out.
In the words of Hippocrates, “Make food your medicine.” Highly regarded in ancient Greece for his systemic approach to healing, Hippocrates came to be called the Father of Medicine. He understood that well-balanced nutrition, not potions (such as today’s pharmaceuticals), is what forms the building blocks of a healthy body. How puzzling then that, while physicians are still being sworn into their profession by reciting the Hippocratic Oath, many seem to have forgotten that healthy food provides far more, and longer lasting benefits than pills, Botox shots or cosmetic surgery.
(a) Follow the shopping list at the end of this article, as best you can.
(b) Read… Read everything you can get your hands on about the connection between health and foods. Read labels, magazines, newspaper articles, books, newsletters… Find reliable sources of information on the Internet and learn some more. Above all, learn to tell the difference between hype (i.e. self-serving marketing) and reliable, expert information. Read opposing views and use both intellect and instinct to draw your own conclusions. Have fun figuring out how to improve (maybe even save) your life. Tell us what you have learned, and if you give us permission, we’ll post it on the FreeRangeClub blog. Another worthy activity—albeit a thankless and frustrating one—is to pester others to follow your lead.
(c) As soon as it all begins to make sense, you won’t need to remember our suggestions, except as guides to developing your own food-shopping lists. Be aware of how each food makes you feel—in body, mind and mood. Check out the ingredients to make sure you’re not just reacting to a temporary sugar-high, for instance.
(d) Once the toxic additives, sugars and artery-clogging fats are driven out of your system by high-fiber produce, whole grains and lots of water, you’ll notice an increase in energy, faster and clearer thinking and more optimistic outlook. Now is the time to pay attention to your body’s reactions not only to what you actually eat, but also to the foods you touch while shopping. Close your eyes, imagine eating them, and pick only what feels good.
(e) Eat healthy food for at least four months to give your body a chance to kick bad eating habits, and to give yourself a chance to develop an emotional relationship with nutritious foods.
(f) Remember that some people don’t know what it’s like to feel good. They are so used to digestive difficulties (i.e. bloating, cramps, irritable bowels, etc.) that these symptoms’ disappearance causes an uncomfortable sense of loss. That’s when temptation to recapture the missing misery with some junk food, is strongest.
(g) The next danger zone is when distrust and fear set in. Reassurances are needed that it’s possible to break bad eating habits, “one day at a time,” and that there is no reason to fear the return of digestive problems as long as one keeps on track.
(h) Buy locally grown fruits and vegetables—preferably organic—at farmers’ markets and stores that support reputable regional growers. The shorter the distance between farm and table, the longer fruits and vegetables spend ripening and absorbing nutrients. What’s more, the transportation of foods over long distances causes massive environmental pollution.
(i) Once your body gets used to good nutrition, junk food will probably make you gag. This is the time to REALLY listen to your body. Because, as with all addictions, even a bite or two of your once-beloved fare could plunge you right back into self-destructive eating patterns.
(j) Buy WILD-CAUGHT fish, shrimp and scallops whenever possible. With rampant over-fishing stripping the oceans, that luxury may not be available to us for long. While we strongly advise to avoid eating imported farm-raised fish and shellfish—especially from China —there are some aquaculture businesses that produce safe seafood by using futuristic science and environment-friendly technology.
One such high-tech aqua-farm, located off Hawaii’s Kona coast, claims that its succulent fish known as KONA KAMPACHI™ is as safe and healthy to eat as any wild-caught seafood. We tasted it, both raw and grilled, and found the Kona Kampachi™ light, flaky and delectable.
An even bigger problem than toxic fish-farms is the prevalence of mercury in most of the Earth’s waterways, and in most seafood.
The silver lining around this dark cloud, is that certain fish and shellfish have low enough levels of mercury to make them safe to eat in moderate quantities. For example, sardines, anchovies and herring are safest to eat, since they contain only negligible amounts of mercury.
Still in the safe range—and rich in healthy Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids—are the wild-caught North Atlantic salmon, Atlantic mackerel and a
several other oily fish. Shrimp and some scallops seem to contain less mercury and pollutants than other shellfish. Mercury concentrations are high, however, in most tuna and some other large fish. More complete lists of both safe and toxic seafood can be found on the Web.
One source of information about seafood safety that seems reliable is the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention (in the Dept. of Health & Human Services’ Division of Environmental Health). Another is the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s West Coast Seafood Guide (updated annually), at www.seafoodwatch.org . Interested in supporting sustainable fishing? The Blue Ocean Institute has an on-line Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood at www.blueocean.org .
(k) Food-shopping can be both fun and a source of great pleasure for all the senses. Feast your eyes on colorful produce. Inhale the aroma of warm breads, exotic cheeses, fresh-ground coffee, herbs and spices. Crunch store-offered samples of nuts and seeds. And imagine the flavors you’ll bring out of the fresh meats, fish or fowl you select for your latest recipe.
(l) Just don’t assume that the reputable healthfood establishment you frequent carries nothing but healthy foods. It couldn’t stay in business if it did. So, be aware that many questionable products lurk among the finest produce, organic grains and other delicacies displayed on shelves. Think of a minefield when navigating the aisles of food stores, and check ingredients and sources.
Following is a list of brands and foods we have researched, and used for months or years, and found both delicious and healthy:
Liquid Seasonings: “Organic Tamari Soy Sauce”— by EDEN
“Biologique Sauce Worcestershire Végétalienne (Sans Anchois—without anchovies)”— by THE WIZARD.
Organic Salad Dressings, Oils & Marinades:
“Sesame Tamari Organic Vinaigrette (1 carb per serving)”— by ORGANIC VILLE
“Organic Lemon Tahini Dressing”— by WHOLE FOODS 365 ORGANIC
“Organic Dijon Mustard “ ————– by WHOLE FOODS 365 ORGANIC
“Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil—Cold Pressed”—by WHOLE FOODS 365 ORGANIC
“Organic Sesame Oil (unrefined – for medium heat)” —by SPECTRUM
“Organic Olive Oil Mayonnaise” with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Dairy: “Organic (cow) Yogurt – low fat or non-fat, plain or fruit-flavored)”—by WALLABY or HORIZON
“Organic Unsalted (or salted) Butter”—by HORIZON ORGANIC
“Organic (cow) Cottage Cheese (low-fat, plain)”—by HORIZON or other organic producers
Various goat cheeses, such as a hard yellow cheese by ALTA DENA
A goat Feta cheese by KAROUN DAIRIES in Sun Valley, CA
Creamy goat milk cheeses (“Plain” or with “Basil & Roasted Garlic”)— by CHAVRIE
Various organic soy, “Veggy Vegan” and rice ‘cheeses’ (individually packaged slices)—by GALAXY NUTRITIONAL FOODS.
Herbs & Spices: Organic Brands: SIMPLY ORGANIC == THE SPICE HUNTER == WHOLE FOODS 365 ORGANIC == FRONTIER ORGANIC ==
Products: Dill Weed; Tarragon (leaves); Turmeric; Thyme; Rosemary; Basil; Garlic (chips & powder); Onion (chips & powder); Paprika (sweet); Cayenne Pepper (hot); Parsley (leaves); “Herbes de Provence”; Cinnamon; Ground Cumin; Vanilla Extract (liquid); Sea Salt.
Breads, Crackers, Cereals, Power Bars, etc.: Brands & Products:
RUDI’S ORGANIC BAKERY (wide variety of organic whole grain breads)
FRENCH MEADOWS BAKERY-ORGANIC (whole grain spelt bagels)
WHOLE FOODS 365 ORGANIC (“Org. Wheat Square Crackers”; “Org. Hearty Whole Grain Toasted O’s” –crunchy whole wheat & oat cereal; “Org. Rice & Lentil Pilaf—Gluten-Free”; “Org. Spanish-Style Rice—Gluten-Free”; “Org. Cinnamon Graham Cracker Sticks”)
PAUL NEWMAN’S ORGANICS (pretzels, cookies, etc.)
(various brands: Whole Wheat and Spelt English Muffins, spelt tortillas for wraps)
CASCADIAN FARMS (power bars, “Org. Sweet Orange Marmalade”; “Chewy Granola – ‘Harvest Berry’ and’ Fruit & Nut’ Bars”;)
ARROWHEAD MILLS (“Organic Spelt & Cranberries Whole Grain Cereal”)
EDWARD & SONS (“Baked Brown Rice Snaps with Org. Brown Rice—Vegetable, Toasted Onion, and Plain”)
NATURAL PATH (“Org. Toaster Pastries” – Blueberry – NOT frosted)
HEALTH VALLEY (“Org. Tarts” – low fat, blueberry, red cherries, etc.)
Soups: HEALTH VALLEY and WHOLE FOODS 365 offer a wide variety of organic canned soups, ranging from chicken-noodle to tomato, minestrone, vegetable, mushroom-barley, etc. (Good to have in the pantry for busy or rainy days.)
Dried Fruits: JUST TOMATOES of Westley, CA offers “Org. Just Blueberries” and other dry fruit
PAVICH (organic raisins, “Jumbo Thompson Seedless,” etc.)
WHOLE FOODS 365 ORGANICS (organic apricots, cranberries, prunes, etc.)
Condiments: MEDITERRANEAN ORGANIC (“Org. Black Olives—Tree-Ripened”; “Org. Wild ‘Non-Pareil’ Capers” etc.)
Honey & Syrups: VIRGIN ORGANIC (“Multiflower Honey”)
WHOLE KIDS (“Org. Honey” – in Teddy Bear container)
FLAVORGANICS (“Org. Amaretto, Raspberry, French Vanilla, Caramel, Irish Cream” syrups for coffee & dessert flavoring.
Canned Fish: CROWN PRINCE (“Wild-Caught Brisling Sardines in Pure Olive Oil” – 2 layers, hand-packed, naturally wood smoked—good source of calcium & protein). NOTE: Always choose sardines—and when available, salmon— WITH their skin and bones, for added nutritional value
WHOLE FOODS 365 (“Wild-Caught Red Sockeye Salmon”; & “Wild-Caught Pink Salmon” – both canned WITH skin & bones. Great for pseudo-tuna salads—with hardboiled eggs, organic olive oil mayonnaise (see above), lemon, garlic and onion chips, red paprika, dash of cayenne pepper, with such herbs as dill, parsley and basil, and Dijon mustard.)
BUBBA’s sliced herring and onion rings in wine & vinegar
Teas: Various ORGANIC teas are available from EDEN FOODS
BANCHA (great organic Green Tea)
UNCLE LEE’s TEA
TRADER JOE’s (see “Org. Spiced Rooibos ruby Red Chai”)
CHOICE ORGANIC TEAS (see “English Breakfast”)
DR. ANDREW WEIL (“Gyokuro,” “Turmeric,” “Green White,” “Darjeeling,” “Jasmine White,” etc.)
ITO EN – OI OCHA (“Sencha Shot Green Tea, brewed teas: “Tea Pear White Tea,” “Tea )
***Check out ORGANIC YERBA MATE (traditional & medicinal, herbal calmative & digestive)
Chocolates: DAGOBA ORGANIC CHOCOLATE comes in various flavored and plain versions, and are always high in cacao content
GREEN & BLACK’S chocolates also come in a variety of flavors, from “Mayan Gold,” to “Espresso,” “Cherry,” etc., and are high in cacao content
Alcoholic Beverages: THE ORGANIC SPIRITS COMPANY – “The World’s First Certified Organic Spirits—London & Scottish International, Ltd.” (“Juniper Green Organic Gin,” ”UK5 Org. Vodka,” “Papagayo Org. Rum,” “Highland Harvest Org. Scotch Whisky.”)