Reflections on Processed Foods and Gluten Sensitivity
First of all, I want to state that I am not a health professional, but after being involved in the food industry for 40 years, including involvement in farms, processing plants, restaurants and distribution, I have developed a reasonable amount of knowledge regarding the farm-to-plate food cycle.
As Michel Pollan discussed in his book, In Defense of Food, many things that are sold today as food, really have very little in common with what has sustained humanity before the advent of the 20th century. (Pollan, 2008)
Today’s “processed foods” serves the interest of the manufacturer first and the consumer’s convenience second. Health benefits are only a marketing tool in response to the latest fad. It is my belief that nutritional value is inversely proportional to the amount of processing of a food product.
The extraordinary supply, and variety of additives, colorings and conditioners, allows for radical transformation of raw materials into strange things. These strange things then become unattractive microbial life, microbial life is a form of life and if it is unattractive to bacteria on shelves, it may also be unattractive to our guts.
An intense marketing pressure is placed upon today’s food scientists. These food scientists are the new alchemists in search of a magic formula to turn a handful of commodities, into an endless dollar stream.
As a result, many of us have developed a distorted view of food. A sad consequence is that we are sacrificing on the altar of convenience, healthy nutrition, and pleasure.
Most of our food is removed from its natural state, which is when it is at its most nutritionally rich and best tasting. Too few of us are experiencing the simple pleasure of eating a broccoli snapped off the plant. Instead, we consume instant dehydrated broccoli soup with a list of ingredients that require a PHD in chemistry to understand.
The more we consume processed, unnatural food, the more we expose ourselves to a cocktail of chemicals whose effects are too complex to be studied. Health problems and gluten sensitivity is a direct effect of the poor nutritional quality and ingestion of chemicals the processed foods contain.
Recent studies are also showing that there are transmitted genetic effects of what our parents consumed, which is scary. Epigenetic principles are being established, and show the dramatic consequences of poor nutrition. The studies also show how their effects are transmitted from one generation to the next via DNA. You can check out the studies at the link below. HTTP://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1952313,00.html
We are what we eat and if we eat well, in terms of nutrition, we should be well.
Pleasure is also an important component, and we need to learn to really enjoy food, instead of fleeting towards the feeling of a full stomach. We need to open ourselves to the pleasures, and complex flavors, of a crunchy carrot, or the intense fragrance of a lemon that is fresh off the tree.
It is a question of personal choice and perceived luxury. Most of us can choose to play tennis, baseball, and football, or we can start a backyard garden to get the freshest, most delicious and nutritious, healthy vegetables.
No pill, supplement or medicine can make up for fresh food eaten with pleasure, nor will it be a substitute of the radiant smile on a child’s face while pulling a carrot out of the dirt and eating it.
In China, the Taoists developed a dietary guideline that said “eat only food that will rot, but eat it before it does,” in other words, eat only fresh food that support life, but eat it as close to its natural state as possible. This simple principle has worked for each generation that preceded us, and our presence validates it. Lets hope that we shall have the wisdom to pursue it.
Unless we are willing to consider ourselves as a commodity, we should not consider our food as such either. It is very comforting to know who grew the vegetables, fruit and grains, raised the animals, and prepared the meals we eat.
Eating local products, growing some of our own vegetables, and knowing your farmers are greatly satisfying, and securing, strategies when dealing with food. The slow food movement attests to it. Which you can check out at www.slowfood.com
What are you to do? Eating a majority of fresh fruit/vegetables, preferably organically grown, and fresh meat/seafood, is a proven recipe for better health.
Avoid overly processed foods, and ingredients you do not understand. You should eat local as much as you can. Also, you should take the time to grow and prepare what you eat.
Sacrifice some TV time, it’s worth the trade.
What has all this to do with gluten intolerance? Well, it is my belief that if we, and our parents, ate more food in their natural, fresh state, and if we had kept wheat closer to its original gluten/protein content, we would have less incidence of gluten intolerance.
Would we eliminate gluten intolerance? No, because there are some severe and unavoidable cases, unfortunately, but there would probably be far less cases of gluten intolerance.
And what about pleasure? Well, I do believe that pleasure is what makes life worth living. Any sensible and sustainable diet must incorporate pleasure. This is where GateauOchocolate comes in.
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