We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Wednesday, October 9. 2013
Toward the end, the instructor decided to discuss healthy foods. She correctly pointed out what you eat can impact how you feel throughout the day. While I believe this, what I got was a lecture on food 'toxins'. The minute I hear someone talking about toxins in food, my eyes glaze over. Another nut talking about their perfect diet. Which is exactly what we got. I decided to play along, because being snarky can be fun.
The instructor admitted alcohol is a toxin, but we all need to unwind, so you should be careful about what kinds of wine or beer you choose. Obviously, fewer preservatives is 'better'. I told her I brew my own beer, and I prefer craft brews to standard national brands. I was lauded for being so careful about my food choices.
However, when she moved into chocolate, caffeine, and other standard fare, the word 'toxins' became more common. I asked her if she ate almonds. She replied almonds are very good for you, very natural. I then pointed out wild almonds (and to a significantly lower degree domesticated almonds) contain cyanic acid which can be toxic, since it is the basis of cyanide. So my question was, how much of my natural diet could be too much? Unaware of this fact, she stumbled a bit, and mentioned moderation.
So I did a bit of research, and sent her a list of natural foods which contain toxins (I particularly like this link - the politics of healthy eating - as if politicizing food choices can save us all from ourselves!). Some I was aware of, others not so much. I pointed out what she considers 'toxins' (usually preservatives) enable a much larger percentage of the world to eat. In fact, it allows them to eat good foods and healthy foods, and is part of the reason why the world is a better, healthier place in general. If we were to move to an all-natural farming structure, eating only natural foods, not only would we likely starve half the world, but we'd be spending far too much time farming.
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I like toxins - they are yummy for your tummy and good for you.
I'm glad you made that point - everything is toxic in some way.
The human body is an amazing filter. To your point the secret is moderation, don't overwhelm your system to the point of harm.
Toxins are not toxic until a certain amount is reached with in a certain time frame. There are numerous "scares" over toxicity of foods that did not mention the quanity of that food needed to make someone sick. The original scare was the radioactive cranberries of the 60's. It took several hundred pounds of cranberries to reach any significant level of concern.
I wish it were true that there was "healthy" food and unhealthy food and we knew which was which. But there is zero agreement on what is healthy and what is not. It is all conjecture, superstition and bias. There are no experts but there are indeed very educated people whose specialty is food. They have their own biases which may or may not agree with the biases of the "organic" or "natural" community. Then there are all the authors and speakers who sometimes sound reasonable and other times appear to be radical food nut jobs. The only thing they all seem to have in common is they are all wrong. Some are probably 100% wrong while others are merely 50% wrong. We may never now what a healthy diet is.
I once had to cool a relationship with an acquaintance who became obsessed with using enemas to "cleanse the colon of all the toxins that build up." She was way too interested in discussing it in vivid detail at every opportunity. If I even hear the word toxin I assume I'm on the verge of hearing a rant. But I actually feel much the same way about the word "nutritious," which has a meaning for most people that communicates absolutely nothing to me, along with the expression "empty calories." I really wonder sometimes what people think is in food.
I can understand the concern regarding food, particularly processed food. I just think it's all misplaced.
I usually reply "so food companies are in the business of slowly killing people off? Sounds like a great marketing strategy."
One person keeps hounding me on aspartame, how it's toxic over 87 degrees F, thus can kill you once in the body. I have to keep reminding them that A) this would ruin the company if it was true, so seems highly doubtful and B) I'm still alive and I have several helpings of aspartame each day in diet sodas. Then there are the millions of people who use it daily...and are shockingly alive!
I'm certain maybe someone, somewhere, got sick or died from drinking diet soda. But I'm not going to freak out over a .001% chance that it can hurt someone. If so, then peanuts should be illegal.
It's not as though I didn't have strong feelings about what sort of food is better than other sorts. My shopping cart tends to be filled with what I call real food, not Hot Pockets. I like cooking from scratch and I work hard on keeping a lot of fiber in my diet (not from faith in some kind of abstract food theology but because of its proven practical effect on my daily wellbeing). I have no doubt about the value of trace minerals and vitamins, or the dangers of antibiotics and hormones in meat and milk.
It's just that most loose talk about "empty calories" betrays a complete lack of information about what calories are and how we digest and benefit from food. To hear people talk, all carbohydrates and fats are evil, and even proteins are suspect, as if there were some fourth category available for the truly discriminating.
Given the time, I'd prefer to eat as you do - and I usually do have the time.
But I actually like a Big Mac every now and then. Hot Pockets? Not so much, though my boys snack on them and they are so skinny, I try to make them eat more!
They work out, then come home and make ice cream shakes with protein.
I've got nothing against burgers, though I prefer Sonic. Nevertheless, the scratch-cooking I'm talking about doesn't take much effort. Every few days you chop up some vegetables and throw them in a pot with dried beans or lentils and water or stock. The rest of the time you pop a bowlful at a time into the microwave. How hard is that? I make yogurt once a week, at the cost of about 10 minutes of effort; the little microbeasties do the work. And it's pretty easy to eat an apple or grill a steak.
Of course I agree with you that it's annoying to be lectured about food. I honestly don't care what other people eat. I reserve the right to be amused if they say a lot of ignorant things about it. I never get over the wide-eyed stares of friendly check-out clerks who ask what I'm going to do with some of the stuff in my cart. "You mean you can make whipping cream at home?" Some of them are scarcely able to identify a raw vegetable more exotic than a carrot.
I love making my own whipped cream. Tastes better than anything you can buy, but my arm sure gets tired (I don't like to use a mixer, though my wife will if it's a rush job).
I used to make my own yogurt back in the day. I would consider doing that again, but I never much liked the taste of the homemade stuff. Maybe I should give it a shot.
Yogurt can taste very different, depending on what culture you use, what milk you start with, and how long you let the culture work. I like a tangy yogurt, so I go at least 15 hours and sometimes more. I use ordinary whole milk from the supermarket, and a culture I order through the mail that contains L. bifidus.
I have to laugh at the idea of making whipped cream by hand. Now there's an area where I surrender to modern laziness and impatience! I always use an electric hand-mixer.
This whole conversation makes me giggle. It's so difficult for me to keep a straight face when I hear someone begin a food rant. I'm an unabashed meat eater - in fact, I have a small serving most days of the week and I inevitably crave a good piece of grilled red meat just about the time PMS kicks in.
What I'd like to see explained is how genetically modified foods (GMO) are any different than those foods produced from seeds which have been manipulated to grow in different climates or soil conditions. For example, out here in CA, we get good corn but it's nowhere near as sweet and satisfying as the Butter & Sugar and Sugar & Gold varieties common to New England gardens. And those varieties are probably different than what's considered New Jersey sweet corn. Haven't those varieties been genetically modified to succeed in their respective environments? If so, what's the fuss all about?
GMO's are not the same as Mendel's pea experiments. Or forced genetic modifications through intensive breeding. That is not what GMO's are.
GMO means that the genes have been DIRECTLY engineered, inserting new DNA material into the genetic structure of the original species. Such as inserting spider DNA into goats so they will produce milk with silk in it. Or, putting bacillus thuringiensis into the DNA of corn to make it insect resistant. There are other forms of GMO corn, by the way.
So that's what the 'fuss' is all about. Make of it what you will, it is probably here to stay, whatever the consequences.
There are significant differences between GMO and Mendel - but not dramatically so. Natural defenses develop for a variety of reasons and just because corn fights off an insect, and we meld that gene with another plant that has trouble fighting off that same insect doesn't mean it wouldn't have developed over time as part of the natural course of evolution.
So, in that sense, it's very similar. I've eaten plenty of GMOs, and I even used to drink Parmalat (radiated milk), which people used to be scared of. Aside from the clone growing from my side ;), I'd say the effects of GMO foods has been a net benefit.
Most of the claims laid against GMOs are very similar to those laid against the food production during the Green Revolution of the early 60's. All hype, designed to scare people. Not dissimilar to the rapidly deteriorating AGW movement.
Back in my young days I was a food chemist for a large poultry producer. Part of my job was to use thin layer chromatography to test feed products for aflatoxin, which is a carcinogen at high enough concentrations. The test procedure allowed us to say that a feed sample contained, at best, less than, say, 6 ppm afltatoxin. Some farmers would be very upset that we could not say NO aflatoxin was present, but such a test did not exist. At
That is very true. I first learned about (an earlier edition of) this book more than a dozen years ago and have to keep it in mind whenever listening to speakers (or reading authors) like the one referenced in this post.
OK, I'm slow today:
At LESS THAN 6 ppm or whatever the actual number was, the product was considered safe for use.
I would never think less of someone, for their food choices. Some will pay more for their health insurance even if the science is bad (Obama-care).
I would like to point out not all of the science is in, and once it is in, what is good will be bad a year later and then back again etc..
It has been a relatively short time since science thought the world was flat and the sun rises. (It is amazing how many people actually think the sun rises, still to this day)
As for me, I am going to minimize man's input in my food source, at least as much as possible. I don't have much trust in others. (A character flaw on my part I guess)
I know I can count on you not to think less of me for my food choices.
Well, I stated as much. I have no issues with people who love the 'natural' diets. I completely agree you should eat what works for you.
But I have tons of issues with people who eat the natural diet and spend time criticizing what I eat.
I don't jump on fad diets, and I discount almost all of what I'm told is 'good' or 'bad' for me. A balanced diet, delivering the minerals, calories and vitamins I require on a daily basis, is sufficient for me. I don't care if it's processed, GMO, anti-biotic or hormone infused. (my wife thinks the early development of puberty in girls is a result of hormones in food, but I remind her girls were of childbearing age at 13 way back olden times...the later onset of puberty was probably a result of poor diets through the 1800's and early 1900's, and we're just moving back to the norm)
Nope, I don't judge. That instructor is welcome eat whatever she chooses, but really needs to rethink her rhetoric. If she'd stepped up and said "I've found these things work for me..." and outlined her vision of healthy eating, I'd probably have just said "OK" and be done with it. But telling me I'm ingesting toxins? Seriously?
Dihyrogen monoxide (DHMO) is an EXTREMELY dangerous chemical compound. Help spread the word about its negative effects and let's get laws on the books banning its further use!
Go to Japan and pay to eat dirt:
"Better book your flight to Japan now, before all the other fancy-pants foodies find out that chef Toshio Tanabe is serving up "soil cuisine" at his Tokyo restaurant "
Sounds like emperor's new clothes cuisine to me.
Allowing the poor to eat and eat well is the horror of the "health food experts".
They're eugenics adherents, the lot of them, thinking along Malthusian lines of "starving the poor to death and letting them succumb to disease is a good thing in order to improve the gene pool".
Even if they're too stupid to realise that's what they believe in, they do (their minders of course put it in different words, like "we must keep the tribal people in touch with nature and make sure their quaint culture is not destroyed by western imperialist materialism".
It is true that fussing about constituents of food is a bit of a first world problem. We are so wealthy that we can be picky.