Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What are we supposed to eat? Part 1 - get rid of processed foods.

 I've been reading about food, diets, what we need as human beings and what we put in our bodies that do more harm than good.

It turns out that ... wait for it ... the best things to eat are ... ready?  Foods that are not changed in major ways from how they occur naturally.

Take grains for example.  Unless you live under a rock, you've heard that consuming lots of wheat flour is bad, mmkay?  Wheat is heavily processed before it arrives on your door step.  The plant looks NOTHING like the flour we get at the store.  Before:

*photo credit:  wikipedia

Close-up of the actual grain - does this look anything like what you eat in wheat products?  Be honest now - even if you eat wheat berries, they are INSIDE of this apparatus.  Even if you're super fancy and you add wheat germ to your smoothies, etc., it doesn't look like THIS:


Here's a great illustration of what comes out the other end of the processing.  Do you eat any of these middle-stages of wheat processing aside from the white four?  

The point I'm making here is that to get to white flour, or even "whole wheat flour,"  the plant has to be severely deconstructed.  You could make your own - thereby reducing the need for chemicals in processing, but really?  Could you imagine picking apart these grains to get out the berry and germ to grind your own flour?

Should we be eating foods that need machines and chemicals to make them edible?  

Now for a good example: Maybe you have heard of Quinoa - the new "super grain" which boasts less carbohydrates, no gluten and higher protein than other grains.  But what does quinoa look like?

Here's what it looks like before its fooled around with - can you see the little seeds on top of the stalks?  That's the part we eat.  In fact you can eat the leaves too but for some reason they are hard to find in stores.

*photo credit:  http://www.ccbolgroup.com

The part of the plant that we actually eat is the seed, which is separated from the grain by various mechanical processes, commercially.  HOWEVER, you can just chop the stalk off of the top of the plant, let it dry and separate the seeds from the planty bits and you've got perfectly good quinoa.  It requires NO processing aside from cooking to be edible.  

Amazingly, the only "processing" that quinoa requires (aside from removing the planty bits) is to remove the saponin layer that it naturally has.  Saponins are a detergent-y chemical that make the seed taste really really bitter.  Commercial quinoa usually has been treated to at least partially remove the saponin, but if you buy yours from a health food store that specializes in non-processed foods, you may have to soak it in water or toast it over heat to get rid of that bitterness because it's largely un-fooled-around-with.

That's a good story of a grain that you can eat pretty much as-is except for some cooking (but hey, we cook meat which is technically processing it, right?).  Quinoa is better than wheat.  BUT:  Should we even be eating quinoa?

One cup of cooked quinoa sports 222 calories, 39 g of carbs.  Subtracting the fiber (5 g) that gives you 34 g of net carbs.  The reason its advertised as so "healthy" for you is because of the protein - 8 g per cup is amazing for a grain!  But is 34 g of carbs in one sitting and in one cup of food a good idea?  We used to be told that yes, low fat, high carb high protein foods were the KEY to retaining health.  Then everyone started to get diabetes and DESPITE our low fat diets, we all got high cholesterol (not me, but that's only because I have a thyroid disorder that naturally controlled my cholesterol in the other direction - my counts are actually too LOW).  So maybe we should eat high fat?  Maybe we should all be eating bacon at every meal?  (Ick, I actually hate bacon) Nope - thanks for playing - taking in that much nitrate is also really bad for you in the long run.  So if you're on Atkin's I hope you're eating nitrate-free bacon.

Are carbs the devil in disguise?

This is something I'm struggling with at the moment.  We will have to discuss this fully over time, and I'd LOVE to hear from you on whether or not this is something you think about and what your thoughts are.  It has been predicted that by the year 2030, 50% of Americans will be morbidly obese and 350 million will be living with Type 2 Diabetes.  Whoa.  That is staggering if you think about it!  The "obesity epidemic" and the "diabetes epidemic" can be traced right back to our own lifestyles and we have only ourselves to blame for it.

Is low-carb the way to live?  For those with pre-diabetes, hyperinsulinemia (ME), metabolic disorder, syndrome X, insulin resistance, etc., is ketogenic the way to go?  We shall discuss, my friends, because I'm totally confused and ready to get some answers.

If you want to start living a cleaner life with less chemicals and less processing of your foods, check out this website:
Lisa is fantastic - she has some basic pages of where to start and how to convince your family to get on board.

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