The past few months have been such a whirlwind for me. I dove into Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats; purchased and studied all 27 presentations of the Real Food Summit (worth every penny); joined a natural parenting group and foodie co-op, watched informative documentaries, such as Food, Inc. and the list goes on. What I didn’t expect was to have a complete paradigm shift in my perspective.
As an example, I saw a school menu the other day, including milk, sloppy joes, carrots and apple juice and my food brain kicked in! Before, I would’ve thought, Hmm, sounds tasty, but now, I think: pasteurized milk laced with growth hormones and antibiotics, mystery meat derived from animals fed an unnatural diet of grain with antibiotics and injected with growth hormones, chili sauce with possible MSG (monosodium glutamate) and other unnatural ingredients, carrots drenched in pesticide and herbicide residue, and pesticide/herbicide-laced sugar drink with synthetic vitamins and no living enzymes. . . and that’s not including the “snacks”. *Sigh* I have become a food snob.
I didn’t mean to cross over to the other side, really I didn’t. It was just that the more I learned, the more my thinking changed, followed by my behaviors, and soon, habits. You see, I started seeing things for what they really were. According to the dictionary, the term natural means “existing or caused by nature” or “not made or caused by humankind.” When looking at it from this perspective, I found that what the food industry terms as “natural” is really not that natural at all. That’s made more sense to me as I’ve heard more and more talk about eating “real” whole foods. And so I had to ask, what exactly is real food? Here’s what I found.
Real Food: Grass-finished Beef
When it comes to beef, the first thing to understand is that cattle were designed by our wonderful Creator to eat grass. In their natural state, they would be left to roam on pastures, absorbing the wonderful Vitamin D from the sunlight. Their manure would be used to fertilize the grass naturally, and their symbiotic relationship with the land would allow the pastures to prosper.
Their meat would be naturally lean, filled with CLA, a cancer-fighting and fat-fighting anti-oxidant, and a balanced ratio of 1:2 omega 3 (the good kind) to omega 6 fatty acids. The fats would be an excellent source of cooking oil, and the organs, especially the liver, would be nutrient-dense.
In conventional practices, however, the cattle are not fed their natural diet of grass and are cramped in a barn, barely able to move. They are fed grain, including genetically-modified corn and soy, laced with antibiotics to keep them “healthy”. Because of the cramped living conditions, the cattle are forced to live in their feces for hours at a time until it is carried off as toxic waste. It is because of this that the medications are necessary in order to prevent the spread of bacterial infections. The cattle are also injected with growth hormones to speed up the growth process, and are oftentimes slaughtered in inhumane conditions for better efficiency.
The beef of a conventional cow is very different than one that is fed its natural diet. For example, a conventional cut of meat would not be filled with as much cancer-fighting CLA, and its omega 3 vs. omega 6 ratio would be 1:18! This would make the meat extremely inflammatory and acidic to the body. Conventional beef has also been found to have unnatural fillers.
Natural cuts are a bit safer since the cattle are not injected with growth hormones, but they are still fed GMO grains and given antibiotics.
Organic cattle are still fed grain, but they are given organic, non-GMO grains and are not given antibiotics or growth hormones.
Real Food: Raw Milk from Grass-fed Cattle
Real raw milk from grass-fed cattle is unpasteurized and non-homogenized. It is filled with living enzymes that help digestion, probiotics with gut-healing properties, and an extensive amount of nutrition. It is life-sustaining and includes beneficial fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamins A, D, and K. You can read more about the safety and nutritional benefits of raw milk here.
Milk sold on store shelves is pasteurized and homogenized. Lucky us, right? With all of those horrible pathogens, we surely wouldn’t want it any other way, right? The reality is that current sanitation practices make pasteurization unnecessary. The process of pasteurization kills all of the living enzymes in milk, which is why many have since become intolerant to milk. As far as all of the wonderful vitamins? Many are stripped during the process and replaced with synthetic versions, including that calcium they brag about. What got me was learning that calves fed pasteurized milk didn’t always reach maturity. What??!!!
The other sad reality of conventional, “natural” dairy is that the cows are given hormones that make them produce a completely “unnatural” amount of milk, many times causing mastitis. This can lead to pus and blood entering the milk. Thank goodness you have nothing to worry about, because they pasteurize the milk, remember? Top that off with a good round of antibiotics that go directly into you, and it’s no wonder we are a nation of gut issues.
And then, as if that’s not bad enough, we take it even further and push the low-fat and skim milk versions, which are completely unnatural, and just strip the milk of its brain-boosting properties.
So, why do we continue to process the milk? Because if the consumer wanted raw milk, they would go to the farmers to get it. This leaves the processor, or money-maker, out of the equation and can cost millions (or billions?) in profits. You can bet that the industry will keep fighting this one with fear tactics that keep everyone begging for their “wonderful” processing techniques.
Real Food: Pastured Chicken and Eggs
Chickens, in nature, forage out in green grass and sunshine. They are natural “pesticides” and eat a diet of insects, seeds and sometimes, a small amount of non-GMO grain. Their manure is extremely beneficial for the land and farms, and their meat is nutrient-dense and free of antibiotics. Their eggs have large, bright orange (not pale yellow!) yolks and are filled with nutrition and healthy omega 3’s. Pastured, organic chickens are also slaughtered humanely.
Conventional Chickens and Eggs
These poor chickens are cramped in a barn, much like their cattle counterparts, fed nothing but genetically-modified (GMO) corn and soy grain, rarely ever seeing sunlight. It is true that they are not given growth hormones, (because it’s not cost effective), but they are fed antibiotics to keep them “healthy” from the bacteria found in their feces. The meat and eggs from these chickens lack vitality and nutrient density that is many times visible to the naked eye.
Natural cuts of chicken are now available in stores, but what exactly does this mean? These chickens are not fed antibiotics. Definitely a step up, but it has nothing to do with their unnatural diet of (likely GMO) grain and their cramped living quarters.
Now, do you see what I mean? And this is just the common animals we eat. The list goes on and on once you walk into the produce section. Since when is an apple topped with pesticide and herbicide residue and “food-grade” wax natural? Or a tomato that is picked green and ripened with methylene gas? Don’t even get me started on the aisles of boxed “all-natural” concoctions. Ha!
The industry has deceptively desensitized us to accept more and more things as “natural” as we fill our plates and our families with their so-called “foods”. Their idea of natural is so far removed from nature and the way God created this wonderful world.
This makes a lot more sense when we hear that “this food” causes cancer and “that food” causes cancer. It gets frustrating keeping up with the latest research. What I’ve come to understand is that it’s not “this food” or “that food” that actually causes cancer, many times, it is what the industry has done to “this food” and “that food” that’s the problem. Our bodies are part of this natural world, and filling them with synthetic chemicals and altered imitation food has consequences, some worse than others.
So, what exactly is real food?
Real food is unadulterated, grown organically and sustainably, and pure. It includes organic fruits and vegetables and nuts, wild-caught fish (with scales and fins!), grass-finished beef, pastured chickens and lamb, etc. It does not include a list of unpronounceable ingredients and oftentimes, does not even require a label. Real food is wholesome; it is nourishing; it is life-giving. Real food is natural.
If we look back to what is truly natural, caused by nature, NOT by humankind, then I think the industry has simply taken a term we trust, convoluted our understanding of the foods we eat, and meshed the two together.
It’s ultimately about seeing things for what they really are in order to make better choices. Does this mean we never eat out or at other people’s homes? No, we are not at 100%, but eating unnatural foods has become the exception, not the rule.
So, what exactly does this all mean for you and your family? That, naturally, is up to you.
Photos by Pixabay.com
I shared this post at Let’s Get Real Friday