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A Little New Year’s Food For Thought

All silliness aside…I thought it would be fun to tackle some of the head spinning information about eating real food…what it is or isn’t and what we should strive to eat. Please keep in mind this is written for an audience that is food secure. I wouldn’t presume to know what choices would be best for someone who faces food insecurity day in and day out. My hope is that by bringing awareness to first-worlders, in my little corner of the world, of the food issues that affect everyone, a new just food system can be created; a system that puts people and the environment over profit.

Rules To Eat By

Only you can decide what to feed yourself, but there are food/food products that are generally agreed upon as healthful or not. I’m not talking about meat or no meat, butter vs. olive oil, or whole grains or not. You will need to dive deeper to determine if these foods are appropriate for your health at this moment in time. What I want to tackle is how to make food choices easier or at least more understandable when we are bombarded with so much information, advertising, and a seemingly endless amount of food options every single day. We have the ability to change our choices for better health and well being at every meal. The choice is yours.

mix veggies

1. The first rule of eating should be to step away from the industrial food.

I think it’s safe to say that it is generally agreed upon that industrially derived food is a failure in regards to human and ecological health and should be avoided when possible. There are advocates for its continuation in order to supposedly feed the growing world population, but it is proving to be a disastrous experiment that supports population growth, not necessarily well-being. I would argue that those of us who can, should withdraw support for this system and support life-affirming alternative food systems instead. Michael Pollen’s working definition of industrial food: “Any food whose provenance is so complex or obscure that it requires an expert to help ascertain.”

Some examples of industrial food: meat and dairy from CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) – almost all meat found in grocery stores; products derived from mono-crops – most grains and corn; and products that are heavily processed – most anything in a box or a bag with unidentifiable and unpronounceable ingredients or aforementioned mono-crops. I’ll stop here because I know this will take a bit of processing. By the way, CAFO meats are grain-fed, so they are just another vehicle for consuming large amounts of industrial mono-crops layered within the industrial nature of CAFO’s – it’s a double whammy.

At first look, you may be feeling quite deprived and wondering what in the world to eat. Lucky you, if you’re reading this and you’re a first-worlder, able to make ends meet, bob around on the interwebs, and don’t live in a food desert, you have the opportunity to explore a world of other options, which I would encourage you to do.

2. Another good rule is to eat food that has the ability to rot, die, or attract critters.

This is what is meant by life-affirming. These foods are alive and can provide the best possible nutrition for living beings. Those deer and rabbits that want in your garden; they know there is good stuff in there. Some studies indicate that given the choice, animals won’t eat GMO’s, so why would you? Real food is perishable and all manor of other beings would like to eat it. Want to see this exemplified in a picture? Check out these images by David Liittschwager, a portrait photographer who has been capturing whatever he could in a square foot metal frame, placed in all sorts of ecosystems.

I’ll leave you with one more rule for eating real food and that should give you plenty to mull over.

3. Stay away from most commodities.

What are commodities? A commodity is a marketable good to satisfy a want or a need that is supplied without qualitative differentiation. In other words, it is a resource that loses its differentiation (specialty, uniqueness, brand, quality) as a result of efficiency of production. Organic, Fair Trade, and Free-Range are examples of product differentiation. Why is eating food commodities so troublesome? Commodities are traded on the open market for profit. Prices can fluctuate wildly and depending on whether you are in the global North or the global South, traded commodities can flood the market with goods like cheap corn or elevate the prices creating food insecurity. In other words, if you are eating commodities instead of real food, you allow Wall Street and large corporations to feed you for their profit instead of for your health.

A recent example of this is in the scare over the doubling of the price of milk during the “fiscal cliff” brouhaha. Conventional milk is produced from cows that are fed grains, a commodity. Without the subsidies provided in the farm bill for commodities like wheat, soybeans, and corn, dairy producer’s costs would increase, thereby increasing the cost of milk. On the other hand, fully grass-fed cows would not be subject to the same price fluctuations. This is an over-all picture and we could go on to debate all the minute details of eating dairy, the pros and cons of food commodities, and the farm bill, but I think you get the idea. Commodities are for profit, not health.

If this is new information, you’ll have to get creative in figuring out what exactly to feed yourself. Knowing what to stay away from can actually be liberating and make shopping for food an easier task. By shopping at farmers markets and only the perimeter of the grocery store, your mind is free from the clutter of all the other food choices. The only real dilemma is to figure out how to assemble these fresh items into tasty meals.

Now, go and eat something nourishing. You deserve it and your body needs it!

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