Seemed easy enough, grocery store tour for two young parents with a pretty sick kid. At 18 months he had been to every specialist, suffering from an inexplicable autoimmune type disease yielding hives, anaphylaxis, chronic rhinitis, fatigue, leg cramps, constipation, irritability, multiple ear infections, sore throats. Symptoms were all of unknown origin, at least unknown modern medicine origin. My goal was simple; I wanted to eliminate any food sources that may be contributing to his ailments or his young body’s ability to fight them. Many processed food substances contain ingredients and genetically modified proteins that can contribute to pervasive allergy like symptoms.
I met them at a large grocery in their very modern suburban community.
The store was massive in size, overwhelming in noise and bright lights fraught with buy me attractions. It was a nightclub of deceptive nourishment. Bright colors and sophisticated labels preying on your conscious and your want to eat Smart foods, lean cuisines, be fat free, lower your cholesterol, improve your brain function, feed your heart health, be fit. The modern grocery store is the Hollywood for food. A make believe system of chemicals masquerading as food. Dressed up, with a smart message and a familiarity that cant keep you away. Sophisticated misting systems on cue drawing your attention to glossy, waxed produce not unlike dry ice on a concert stage yielding the allusion of importance. The grocery store like the shopping mall is a for profit business, not a for health business.
The politics of food is as convoluted and complicated as an ingredients label for any processed food. Often on grocery store tours I will have folks read labels of two like substances. A favorite example is Cheese vs Shredded cheese. The shredded cheese label contains an asterisk * which later leads the reader to a statement: ingredients not normally found in cheese. You don’t need to be a nutritionist to know that any type of warning label on your food should raise a cautionary flag. At Pantry Medicine we have simple rules:
If you Cant read it Don’t Eat It TM
All Food Requires the Sun and provides nourishment TM
So if it seems unnatural, go with what nature would have produced. After all, I still have yet to meet the cow that produces skim milk with fish oil. Or the wild salmon that yields its lovely orange hue from eating food coloring pellets.
According to the New Oxford Dictionary:
Any material containing nutrients, such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats, which are required by living organisms in order to obtain energy for growth and maintenance.
In our modern food landscape we certainly have strayed from this definition take everyday examples: Coffee Creamer, Sweet N Low, and Easy Cheese. These food substances do not require the sun to make, and most certainly do not provide nourishment. Our supermarkets are littered with 1000s of examples of these cleverly contrived, tasty, addictive “food substances.”
As a biochemist and a nutritionist the simplest way to put it is our body speaks one language, albeit a complicated one of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. So imagine when you consume man made food substances how confusing this is to your body. Picture a native English speaker lost in Japan trying to board an underground train unable to communicate his needs or find his way back, exasperated, tired, hungry, confused, and unaccomplished. Exactly how your body feels when you eat chemically altered food substances.
At the end of the Grocery tour, we managed to fill the family food basket with whole food substances and not break the bank. As for the kiddo, he is thriving, and is free of all his symptoms and seemed to enter his twos with only the well checks and a strong grasp on every toddler’s favorite word, NO! A great word to employ if you cant read an ingredient. So for this New Year, we ask that you take baby steps to finding whole food solutions to feel your best in 2014. It doesn’t have to be complicated or all or nothing. Take a minute to ask before you buy or bite, would my grandmother recognize this as food?
Happy and Healthy New Year!
From Our Pantry to Yours,
Lea & Emily