PESTICIDES AND PROCESSED FOOD ARE SLOWLY KILLING US

What do you think about food?

Thinking about food is something we all do every day. We think about where to go for lunch. We think about what to make for dinner. We think we’ll have a bedtime snack.

But it’s what we don’t think about food that is far more important. We don’t think that drinking diet colas is bad for us. (After all, they’re low-calorie and that’s a good thing, right?) We don’t think about why apples are so much shinier these days than they used to be.  And we probably never give much thought to all the chemicals listed in the ingredient labels on processed foods. It’s a fact: what we don’t think about food can make us quite unhealthy. Learn about 3 common foods that can make you sick.

Now is the time to start thinking about food in a new light.  According to the CDC, autism now affects 1 in 50 children; 36% of Americans are obese, 74% are overweight; and deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased 71% since 2000, affecting 1 in 9 people over 65 years of age. And that’s just a scant list of horribly unhealthy situations … most of which we’ve brought on ourselves.

“All disease begins in the gut,” Hippocrates said 2,500 years ago. In light of modern research, it seems he was absolutely right that gut health holds the key to longevity. Hippocrates is probably rolling over in his grave to see what things modern humans have been doing to create havoc for the gut.

Why Today’s Food Can Make You Sick

If it’s true that “you are what you eat,” then we have good reason for concern because much of the food we eat contains chemicals foreign to the body.

Two of the worst contributors to the unhealthiness of the foods we eat today are pesticides and processed foods.

PESTICIDES

Did you ever hear of glyphosate? You’re not likely to ever see it listed on a food ingredient label. Nonetheless this dangerous chemical is routinely found in many plant foods and in animal meats.

Glyphosate, the most widely-used agricultural chemical in history, is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.  In 2014, farmers sprayed enough Roundup to apply .8 pounds of it to every acre of cropland in the U.S.  Its use is not limited to widespread use on farms. It is the most widely-used weed killer for lawns, schoolyards, playgrounds and other public spaces.

The highest concentrations of glyphosate in food are found in wheats, oats and barley because these types of crops receive a dose of Roundup immediately prior to harvest. Rather than wait a few weeks to harvest the grains after they dry naturally, farmers realized that applying Roundup would kill the crop and hasten the drying process (a process called desiccation). Shortly after harvesting, these grains appear in the grocery store as bagels, bread, cereal and cookies.

Other crops that are commonly desiccated include peas, corn, flax, millet, sugar beets, potatoes, and sunflowers. No one is keeping track of how many other crops are routinely desiccated with glyphosate, but it’s safe to say our food system is saturated with it.

What problems does glyphosate cause?

Glyphosate in the body disrupts normal functions and induces disease by enhancing the damaging effects of other food-borne chemicals and toxins. It causes extreme disruption to the body’s gut bacteria, affecting their function and lifecycle. It preferentially affects the beneficial bacterial in the gut, allowing pathogens to take over. These pathogens produce their own toxins which the body must then contend with. Chronic inflammation sets in, creating the right climate for developing chronic and potentially debilitating diseases.

Some of these diseases include, but are not limited to:

  • Autism
  • Allergies
  • Cancer
  • Gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, colitis and Crohn’s
  • Cardiovascular disease
    Infertility
  • Obesity
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Depression
  • MS, ALS and more

Why is Glyphosate allowed in our food?

The link between glyphosate and disease is well established. What hasn’t been established is why its use has not been regulated, or better yet, banned.

Monsanto has claimed that the glyphosate in Roundup is harmless to humans and animals (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary). Their scientists have determined that the mechanism that enables Roundup to kill weeks is absent in humans and animals. This mechanism is called the shikimate pathway, a seven-step metabolic route used only by bacteria, fungi, algae, plants and some parasites. Therefore, Monsanto says, there’s no danger to humans or animals. They have failed to take it one step further … to the millions of bacteria present in the gut … so many in fact that for every cell in your body, you have 10 bacteria of various kinds. Gut bacteria, like all bacteria, use the shikimate pathway, so they will all respond to the presence of glyphosate.

Government oversight is sorely lacking. The US Department of Agriculture National Residue Program is tasked with monitoring pesticide residues in our food supply. Yet, mysteriously, it does not test for glyphosate residues. This, despite the fact that the World Health Organization conducted its own research in March 2015 and determined that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen.

It’s getting harder to eat healthy.

“Eat more vegetables and fruit if you want to be healthy.” We read and hear that often, yet is that really true these days? The Environmental Working Group publishes an annual list of the “Dirty Dozen” … a list of the top veggies and fruits with the highest amount of pesticide residue. Using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the EWG’s 2017 Dirty Dozen includes an unnerving number of whole foods we take for granted as healthy. Topping the list are strawberries, followed by spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes.

What can you do about pesticides?

It’s not easy or inexpensive to fight this food madness. Growing your own favorite veggie or fruit is one option, and is an idea that is gaining traction. Buying organic food is another, although the term “organic” has not yet been strictly defined. Some “organic” foods are treated with “organic” pesticides. Another option is to avoid chemically processed food, often made from refined wheat, or loaded with “natural” flavors. A proactive option is to start holding the food industry and the government accountable for the quality of our food. That’s a grassroots effort whose time has come.

PROCESSED FOOD

Processed food is tasty, convenient and ubiquitous. And that is the entire list of the benefits of processed food. Maybe those benefits are enough to explain the fact that 70% of American diets consist of processed foods.

Processed foods are also fatty, sugary, salty and loaded with chemicals. Maybe that’s an explanation why obesity, autism and heart disease rates are soaring.

Processed vs. Whole Foods

Whole foods are foods that have been processed or refined as little as possible and are free from additives or other artificial substances. Whole foods are easily identified because the ingredient label on any packaging lists only one ingredient.

Most everything we eat has been processed in some way: apples are cut from trees; butter is cream that has been separated from the milk and churned; peanut butter can be made from freshly ground peanuts and jarred without any additives. These whole foods have been mechanically processed but there’s a huge difference between mechanical and chemical processing. It’s the chemical processing that’s killing us.

It’s easy to spot processed foods. They are usually packaged and are always accompanied by an ingredient label, often lengthy.

How “healthy” foods can be processed into unhealthy foods … the story of almonds

Almonds are one of the trending “super foods” and for good reason. They are rich in fiber, protein, magnesium and vitamin E. The health benefits of almonds include lower blood sugar levels, reduced blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels. They can also reduce hunger and promote weight loss.

These benefits are awesome, but beware. Almonds’ soaring popularity has triggered an unhealthy reaction by the food industry. Now almonds come in many varieties: salted, chipotle style, sriracha-flavored, lime & chili, wasabi & soy sauce, jalapeno-favored, and chocolate-covered, to name a few.

The following is the ingredient list from Blue Diamond’s sriracha almonds. Note that almonds are listed as the predominant ingredient, followed closely by doses of three unhealthy additives: vegetable oil, sugar and salt.

Ingredient label from Blue Diamond’s Sriracha Almonds

You will Ingredient label from Blue Diamond’s Sriracha Almondsstill derive nutritional benefits if you eat such doctored-up almonds, but you’ll also get the undesirable effects of adding more vegetable oil, sugar and salt to your diet. Plain old good-for-you almonds come in packages with “almonds” listed as the only ingredient.

What makes processed food unhealthy?

Sugar. Processed foods are often high in sugar or its ugly cousin, high-fructose corn syrup. Sugar contains “empty calories” with no essential nutrients. Aside from the weight gain it causes by increasing fat accumulation in the liver and abdomen, it wrecks havoc on metabolism, creating insulin resistance, high triglycerides and increased bad cholesterol.

Artificial Additives. Processed foods often contain chemical preservatives to keep food from rotting, chemical colorants to make food more visually attractive, chemical texturants to provide crunchiness, crisipiness, etc. and artificial flavor to appeal to the taste buds. Artificial flavor? What is that? Only the food manufacturer knows for sure because they legally don’t have to disclose their “proprietary” blend of chemicals.

Refined Carbohydrates. Carbs are an important part of nutrition. The trouble is most processed foods that are high in carbohydrates contain refined carbohydrates which turns them into “simple” carbohydrates. Simple carbs are quickly broken down in the digestive system, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. When blood sugar levels go down shortly thereafter, a craving for more carbs occurs causing the phenomenon known as the “blood sugar roller coaster.” If you want to get nutritionally valuable carbs, get them from whole, single-ingredient foods.

Nutritional Emptiness. Processing destroys many of the essential vitamins and minerals the body must have. So the food industry adds synthetic vitamins and minerals to compensate … not a good replacement for the real thing. Whole foods contain many trace nutrients that are indispensable for a healthy body which are also destroyed by processing. The more processed food you eat, the less natural vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential trace elements you get.

Lack of Fiber. Food’s natural soluble fiber is often lost during processing or intentionally removed. But aside from being a means to avoid constipation, fiber has the job of feeding the gut’s friendly bacteria. A good level of fiber in the diet also helps maintain a healthy weight as it makes one feel fuller, longer. In a diet heavy in processed foods, it’s easy to see why obesity is booming.

Lots of Bad Fat. Processed foods are usually loaded with unhealthy vegetable fats, such as processed seed oils like soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn and canola oils. Many of these fats are hydrogenated which makes them even worse. Hydrogenation (as well as partial hydrogenation) turns a liquid fat like vegetable oil into a semi-solid, more shelf-stable fat that creates harmful trans fats that raise bad cholesterol levels. These fats are nasty, containing excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids which promote oxidation and inflammation in the body. The more you eat of these bad fats, the higher your risk of heart disease. Choose instead the good fats such as found in butter, coconut oil and olive oil.

Addictive Qualities. Processed food is both rewarding and addictive. Our appetites naturally gravitate towards foods that are sweet, salty and fatty because, at healthy levels, such foods provide the energy and nutrients the body needs. The food industry figures that if a little is good, more is better. Thus we find processed food loaded with sugars, salt and trans fats at higher and higher levels. To further entice the taste buds, colorants and synthetic flavors are added, as well as preservatives to increase shelf life. (Maybe you remember the days when a loaf of bread got moldy in 3 or 4 days. Not so today. Mold-killing preservatives make most of today’s bread last for weeks.)

Processed foods are engineered to be “tastier” than their whole food counterparts, thus eating them becomes incredibly rewarding to the brain. These tasty processed foods cause the brain to release dopamine, the feel-good chemical that is activated when something good happens. We like that feeling and want more of it. Dopamine has hijacked our brain biochemistry, making withdrawal difficult.

What can you do about processed food?

The best thing you can do is stop eating processed food and start reading food labels which hopefully should scare you into a healthier way of eating.