Food – we can’t live without it. It’s what our body uses as fuel for energy and it’s what our body uses to repair and rebuild itself. We have more food choices available to us than ever before in history, with more information available about nutrition than every before (we’re bombarded with it) and yet there is much confusion about what is healthy and an epidemic of nutrition related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and many more.
The answer is huge corporations that are only concerned with profits, that use the mass media to misinform and confuse their target customers with both blatant advertising and not so blatant advertising disguised as ‘education’ and ‘news’.
Most of us shop for food these days primarily in a supermarket. Within these supermarkets, we have a vast choice of foods – some fresh – but the majority in packets, cans, bottles, plastic containers and the like. All of these foods are processed – they are prepared and packaged in a factory somewhere and will last often in their packaging for years (or maybe forever who knows?).
We’ve been educated by the food industry and the mainstream ‘health’ industry to look at the labels on these foods for the nutrition panel, and to look for the amounts of saturated fats, salt, calories or carbohydrates depending on the reason you’re looking and what health issue you’re trying to prevent or resolve. However, much more important are the ingredients in these products.
Companies will create and advertise for example a ‘healthy’ alternative that is ‘low fat’ to convince you to buy it thinking you are doing the right thing for yourself or your family. Usually these products are loaded with sugar to compensate for the lack of fats along with a barrage of artificial additives that have been created in a laboratory and that our bodies were never designed to consume. This is a the problem.
For me it has been commonsense to read ingredient labels on foods. I don’t buy much in the way of packaged foods and those that I do buy, I have chosen because I know (for the most part) what the ingredients are. If there are numbers, artificial flavours, preservatives etc I generally leave them on the shelf. It’s been a standing joke for years about how long it takes me to shop – this is why. Because my health is important to me.
However we have realised recently after listening to a talk given by Sunshine Coast nutrtitionist Cyndi O’Meara that when including ingredients on labels, there are often hidden ingredients because there is no requirement to include additional ingredients used in the preparation of a particular ingredient that is later used in a product you might buy off the shelf. For instance, if coconut is used to make a packet of biscuits, the coconut may have been processed using a preservative or emulsifier or flavour (or all three!). When this coconut is used in the biscuits, only coconut is included in the ingredient list – not the chemicals that were added to it when it was processed initially. That’s something to be concerned about! Because even foods that appear to only contain real foods, may be loaded with who knows what sort of additives.
The answer of course is whole fresh foods – organic if possible. This is what we are designed to eat. Whole, fresh foods contain the nutrients and building blocks that our cells know what to do with and that our bodies can use. The chemicals and additives in the processed junk being sold under the guise of food, are things that our cells don’t know how to handle. They are created in laboratories to excite our tastebuds or to make ingredients behave in a certain way, but are totally foreign to the billions of cells that make up our amazing bodies. Today it is extremely difficult to avoid processed foods altogether, but by minimising our consumption of them and getting educated on what to avoid, growing as much of our own produce as we can and using common sense will go a long way towards keeping us healthy, disease free and living our lives.