We seem to have this obsession with living to 100, looking like we’re 30, and acting like we’re 20. Everything that passes our lips and ends up in our digestive system has come under scrutiny – from the way it’s grown to the way it’s processed right up to how we eat it. And I’m tired of it all. It’s far too much thinking for me. Every time I go to the super market I have to read labels and check packaging. A trip which used to take me thirty minutes now takes 90. That’s an hour I could be spending with my family, or writing or just having some kind of general fun somewhere.
Over the past few months I’ve been listening to mommy conversations (most of the people I know are mommies); and they all talk about GMO’s and organic and not eating fast foods. Sorry, with two busy teenagers and a busy Caveman and myself, I just don’t have time to think about every little thing which goes in to our bodies. When I start thinking about it, my head is 3, 2, 1, EXPLODE!! Often when I’m stuck in one of these conversations, I’ll sit very quietly with my thoughts to myself. My thoughts are not of the agreeable type. I start thinking things like: what breakfasts are the kids getting? Is the family taking vitamins or medicines? Are they recycling? Are they reading food labels? Do they know what those food labels are telling them? Do they know where the packaging came from? Instead of being rude, I keep my mouth firmly shut. NO MORE! I tell you, NO MORE!!
I fell into the low-fat, no carb, no gluten, decaf, low salt trap some years back. In my efforts to ensure that I and my family have sparkling eyes, strong bones, white teeth and the highest IQ’s on earth, I went there. It’s a dark and complicated world. What follows is my own research and understanding of all this madness. (If anything is incorrect or untrue, blame the interwebs.)
Salt is lovely. It makes potatoes perky and adds flavour to many meals, especially the meals which taste not-so-great. So we’re told that large amount of sodium aren’t good for us. Noted. Switch to low sodium salt. Until you find out how it’s made… this fascinated me – I wanted to know how low-salt salt is made. Look! What is that? Chemicals… salt, the proper table stuff we’re used to, is 40% sodium and 60% chloride, thus its name = sodium chloride. According to the FDA low-sodium salt isn’t actually a food at all, because it needs to be at least 97,5% sodium chloride to be food grade. What happens when sodium is taken out? It’s replaced with potassium; making it a mix of sodium and potassium chloride. If you don’t know, potassium chloride is the ingredient in lethal injection (think death row prisoner). It stops your heart. Dead-like. Obviously in large quantities, but why would you want to then put it into your body? Rather just cut your salt (the normal table variety) intake; or go for organic, natural sea salt. This type of salt is usually hand-harvested, solar (by the sun) dried and unrefined i.e. no chemicals. It has no additives AND it still contains some important-for-humans trace minerals. Even so, moderation.
I don’t drink it because I believe in coffee. The pure kind. No mocha vanilla what whats, just pure coffee in the form of espresso or cappuccino. In our quest for health so many people have turned to decaf, but do you know how it’s made? I’m going to share the most common (and cheapest) method. The still green beans are soaked in boiling hot water. Then a solvent is added to extract the caffeine. The solvents? Methylene chloride, ethyl acetate and pressurized carbon dioxide. The beans are then rinsed with water and steamed. Apparently the rinsing and steaming remove the chemicals. Ok, but then why was the industry forced to switch to the afore mentioned chemicals rather than the previously used benzene and chloroform, among others?
Gluten free bread and products
So the big THEY get clever and take the wheat flours out… Fantastic! Clever people! What do they replace it with? Rice flour, potato flour, corn starch or tapioca starch. These are, most of the time, more refined than gluten-free foods i.e. more processed. These flours are low in vitamins and minerals and contain very little fibre, which is important, which is why we see those ads on TV about constipation. They often contain more sugars, preservatives and refined oils.
I’m just convinced that it’s a good idea to avoid, as much as possible, bready starchy foods. Except potatoes. I love them. Especially baked and topped with a dollop of butter. And fries/ chips. I love them. I have dreams about potatoes.
The ones you buy in a bottle which promise health and longevity. I take them. Especially my iron and vitamin B’s. My original wondering was what are they coated in. I thought it would be an easy find. Then I stumbled on how they’re made. JOH! I’m not so sure if I’ll just be picking ‘my usual’ off the shelf anymore.
Most of our ordinary off-the-shelf vitamins are made with a lovely chemical process, or seven. It involves petroleum extracts, coal tar derivatives, chemically processed sugar and other acids and chemicals (like formaldehyde).
Natural: from foods or mineral sources. They are heavily processed before making it into a lovely pretty bottle that says “All natural”. But how was the stuff farmed? Where does it come from? Were the workers underage?
Nature-Identical: these are lab-made, with an identical molecular structure. Kind of how we think of identical twins. It’s the most common method, due to cost i.e.: cheaper. e.g.: vitamin C- the form we most commonly find in supplements is ascorbic acid which is derived from corn starch, corn sugar or rice starch. (Are you still on that gluten free diet?)
Synthetic: these generally start with a base of coal tar, petroleum or acetylene gas. These are lab-manipulated to copy the structure of the vitamin. e.g.: the base of Vit B1is often coal tar, which comes from coal, which is a fossil fuel. Think about that…How GREEN are you?
There are a few others, but the above 3 are the ones which really caught my attention and intrigued me.
The coating!!! Hell, now there’s another blog post all on its own. Which I won’t do because I’m not THAT scientifically or mathematically minded. There’s words like polymer, polysaccharide based, plasticizers and pigments. None of this sounds good. Rule: If you can’t spell it or say it, it isn’t good. A polymer is basically a type of plastic. From plastic to polystyrene to biopolymers (which are natural, like DNA or proteins).
Polysaccharides: these are long chains of monosaccharides, which make molecules of polymeric carbohydrates. Monosaccharides are basically our simple (natural) carbohydrates. There are more than ten monosaccharide units in a polysaccharide…
Plasticizers: the one we all know, our most common, is PVC. Yes, the fake rock-chick in fake-leathers look. It’s flexible and durable. It’s used in concrete, gypsum wallboard and rocket propellants, among other things. If you do a search on the webs, you’ll see that people and groups of people have raised concerns about the health effects of plasticizers.
Pigments: as a hobby painter artist person, I love pigments for all the colours and saturations I’m offered. As a vitamin swallowing consumer, I’m not so keen. On my search through the World Wide Web, the making and processing of pigments is, I’ve found, a whole ‘nother universe. Let’s just say that it involves chemicals, chemical processes, mixed with other chemicals, to make a lovely wonderful acceptable colour for your eyes.
Butter vs Margarine vs Olive Oil Spread
Butter: take some full fat cream, maybe add a pinch of salt, and blend until you have butter. I’ve done this a few times. Easy.
Margarine: I’ve never made it and there’s a reason why- I don’t have a lab hiding in the back of my closet. Margarine is made using vegetable oils, emulsifiers, colourants and some other stuff which I can’t spell or pronounce. To make it in to a block of non-melting stuff, it’s hydrogenated. Apparently this process turns the vegetable oil (liquid at room temp), into that solid mass. Also into Trans fats. Aren’t those the bad guys?
You can opt for an olive oil spread. Read the label- many are cheap varieties which are made in much the same way as margarine. You can also make your own.
Low fat foods
This is my favourite rant. I did this low fat thing a few years back, because fat is so bad for you. Until the day we threw some lovely low fat feta into a salad. Now you know that in an Italian household, there’s no such thing as store bought salad dressing. All we do is use extra virgin olive oil, a splash of wine vinegar, salt and maybe fresh crushed black pepper. This salad was so salty that we let it see the inside of the dustbin. On my next shopping trip, I decided to read the low fat labels. Way more sugar and salt than the full fat options. Yoghurt, mayonnaise, salad dressings, cheeses and many other products.
Look, we don’t gorge ourselves on all these foods, we eat them in moderation, so I tell myself that it’s ok. I do understand that there are people with health problems who have to make alternate choices, so this rant is not for them.
I’m tired of the conversations revolving around food and GMO’s and organic and whatever. It’s so difficult nowadays to avoid every bad evil Satan-inspired food or food additive. It’s also difficult to be an even 50% tree hugger hippie with multiple bins for recycling. I buy fair trade coffee beans. They come in one of those foil bags; our awesome coffee machine needs water and electricity to get it from bean to cup. The grounds go into the garden. The empty bag into the recycling bin (which is funny because all my recycling efforts, often go into one garbage truck.) the milk is UHT pasteurised and has probably never seen a cow in this life, but I don’t take sugar. Who knows how the sugar was grown and processed? Sometimes I eat rye bread with a smidge of butter, not often because it’s not a favourite. The butter comes in a plastic tub, the bread in a plastic bag. I’ve given myself an extra few healthy minutes on the earth, which I’ve taken five years away from by using plastic. I go to gym, which has electricity and water. I’ve given myself a few years, but taken them from the earth.
Although some people like to call me a hippie, I’m not that much of one. I do my best to read labels and think about packaging, but let’s be honest, it is difficult to avoid baddies 100% of the time. There always seems to be some compromise. Don’t worry, if we all do our best, we’ll live to be centenarians, but we might not have a very good earth to actually live it on.
I guess I’m not going to be cutting my shopping time down,