Thursday, February 23, 2012

To eat or not to eat...

Michael Pollan really hit the nail on the head with this one in his 2006 best seller the Omnivore's Dilemma when he asked the big question "what should we eat?" Eating at its most basic and primal level, that is for survival purposes, should be as instinctual and require as much thought as say, should I breath in on the next breath, or breath out... so why then are we a nation of unhealthy malnourished pharma-dependent ticking time bombs?

The truth is our healthy relatively disease free hunter gatherer ancestors did not spend time quandering over this very basic question while lost somewhere between the aisle of frozen packaged science projects and that of prepackaged artificial everything at their local grocery store. No, instead they walked twenty-thirty miles a day in search of something to hunt while possibly gathering along the way. The concept, not necessarily the act itself, was as easy as they come... We see something moving up ahead, so we kill it in order to feed ourselves (our bodies) the protein, saturated fat, and fat soluble vitamins we desperately need to survive... end of story!

Yet modern industrialized civilizations have made satisfying this most basic of urges as difficult as deciding which crook to vote into office.

So back to the question at hand, how do we decide whether something should be part of our healthy diet or not?

Unfortunately the healthy more "perfect world" of hunting and gathering does not exist in our modern society. Sure people hunt; deer season, pheasant season, duck season, Wabbit season... ok that last one might be lost on anyone whose cartoon watching years was post 1980s but I digress... very few hunt as their sole source of protein/fat intake, and the only gathering being done is in the grocery store aisles I mentioned above, and we all know where this kind of diet gets us... copay after copay, doctor visit after doctor visit, prescription after prescription with an inevitable disease ending.

So what to eat?

I think we can come to an easy answer by asking these two simple questions before putting whatever it is in our mouths.

  1. Does the food promote or inhibit inflammation? As we should have learned by now, the root cause of EVERY disease is inflammation of some kind. This goes for the obvious ones like crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic inflammatory disease, all the way to the less obvious ones like autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. So job one in maintaining a healthy diet has to be making sure our bodies are not a fertile breeding ground for inflammation. This means drastically limiting or eliminating anything that promotes inflammation. Easier said than done possibly... our industrialized factory farmed food system promotes an unhealthy lethal ratio of Omega-6:3 of nearly 20:1, where a healthy ratio of Omega-6:3 should be 2:1, 1:1, or anything where we have more Omega-3 in our bodies than 6. So why is this so hard? We live in a world where 90% of the meat available to us is of the grain (corn) and legume (soy) fed verity, and these foods are high in Omega-6 (inflammation). Oh but the "experts" will tell you to eat more fish, but much of the store bought fish is either farmed (fed corn) or depending on the type of fish and the waters it was caught in is so full of mercury and PCB's that they should be avoided on that basis alone. So the question is asked again, what to eat? Simply put, all locally raised organic grass fed and free range meets, eggs, and dairy products have healthy 'inflammation inhibiting' ratios of Omega-6:3, and therefore our diets should consist of only these types of purchased animal food sources. This means avoid all factory farmed animal products. Oh but the "experts" will tell you a healthy diet should consist of plenty whole grains. This would be true if by healthy we meant 'promotes inflammation', but since we know this is not true we should drastically limit or avoid these types of foods (grains and legumes) for the very same reasons the animals we consume should avoid them.
  2. Does the food promote a healthy gut? The 'gut' or digestive tract is the gateway to our immune system; as a matter of fact just as we can substitute inflammation and disease, I think we can safely substitute and healthy gut and a healthy immune system. In order to maintain a healthy gut (immune system) we need to make sure our diet provides and promotes healthy flora and a balanced ph for the environment for which they thrive. This means our diet should consist of foods high in digestive enzymes, healthy bacteria, and a healthy neutral ph. Avoiding foods that are difficult and in some cases impossible to completely digest (such as grains) will go a long way in promoting a healthy gut. I also believe that we should incorporate more fermented foods in our diets; my wife and I do this by making our own sauerkraut. Fermenting foods eliminates anti-nutrients, increases the levels of nutrients in the food, and adds a healthy dose of healthy bacteria. I'm itching to try fermenting milk but I will hold off until I can find a readily available source of raw grass fed milk; not yet legal in my home state.

So the next time you are deciding what to eat, ask yourself the two questions above.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Don't Let Manufacturers Tell You What's Healthy

It seems Walmart will now be labeling what they feel are the healthier foods of those that they sell, with a simple green "Great for you" logo.

Just as the infamous "heart healthy" and "whole grain" campaigns have been and continue to be an abused mess with manufacturers like General Mills and Kellogg to name of few pushing otherwise sugary unhealthy in every way cereals and snacks off as healthy, I feel this will be another misused marketing tactic. It's clearly nothing more than food manufacturers and distributors overstepping their bounds in an attempt to cash in on the growing number of health conscious shoppers by use of misleading and simply inaccurate marketing tactics.

I think it's a combination of retailers and manufacturers' believing the average shopper knows little about eating healthy, and not wanting to spend time at the grocery store making the "smart" decision. In today's society people want everything to be effortless from the food they put on the table to the decisions they have to make regarding meal choices, and food manufacturers are ready to step up and give you a hand. They believe the public is ignorant when it comes to the ins-and-outs of nutrition (unfortunately many are) and they would be more than happy if people would just stay that way. They will tell you what is healthy, you buy it, you eat it, and you pay for it dearly in healthcare.

But how can you trust a system (our food industry) when it is bookend by corruption, deep pockets with selfish intentions, and seemingly conflicting interests with strong influences in both the pharmaceutical industry and government watchdog agencies?

If billions of dollars is pumped into the medical field at the academia level to fund bio-argra-genetic research shaping the young medical minds of the future in a direction that those who can profit will, while simultaneously corrupting the medical field at the professional level by pushing pharmaceuticals like candy at a school yard, then how can the average person be expected to know right from wrong when it comes to their health.

It's becoming more and more evident with every passing food recall and bacteria outbreak, and every failed attempt by the government to "keep our food safe" and "keep American's healthy" despite the rapid dramatically rising dollars spent in healthcare, and with every new person joining the exponentially increasing number of Americans taking some sort of pharmaceutical (for the rest of their life), that the very government agencies and medical community that are supposed to have our better interest at heart are constantly being led in whatever direction the deep pockets of those controlling the food industry take them in.

I don't need a "healthy choice" label on that locally raised grass-fed cow or free-ranged chicken or pastured pig, and I don't need a "great for you" label on those fresh organic locally grown vegetables, and I don't need a "whole grain" label on the locally grown organic whole grains that I supplement my chickens diet with, and I surely don't need a "heart healthy" label put on the resulting eggs from those chickens, and neither do you!

Tell the food manufacturers and retailers to keep their labels and buy locally raised and grown organic food instead!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fresh Organic Free-Range Eggs (part 3)

With my first winter with chickens more than half over and end in sight I have surely learned a lot from both my mistakes and successes alike, for future winters springs and summers ahead.

Composting- After doing some research online in the pre-winter months, I came up with the idea of using the base of the chicken coop as my winter compost pile. Knowing I wasn't going to be moving the coop over the winter, using it as my compost had many benefits. By keeping a good 8+ inches of straw and compost (leaves, last year's grass clippings, and daily food scraps) at the bottom of the coop it has given the chickens a warm footing as well as a source of bugs during the harsher of the winter days. Also since they perch above every night, there is a layer of fresh chicken poop (fertilizer) added daily. All it requires of me is the occasional turning over on the days they choose to find their protein elsewhere, and in return I should have a good 8' x 4' x 8-10" of fresh soil for the spring!

Mobile Coop- Although my first attempt at building a mobile coop was hampered by the early October snow that took down many trees and limbs and (not) so gently placed them on the coop, with a little unbending, straightening, and rigging I have been able salvage it enough to put it to use over the winter. Probably my biggest learning experience yet, I have gained a lot of valuable knowledge from my mobile coop mistakes... The first thing I found was that the 4'x12' of ground space within the coop just wasn't enough for my 9 birds unless of course I moved it every hour to a fresh piece of grass... just not practical. Even my original thoughts of increasing the footprint to 8'x12' would still not be enough ground space for the birds to occupy for 8hrs while my wife and I are at work. The coop has however come in handy on the weekends when I'm available to push it around every so often throughout the day, as well as using it for 'chicken transport' moving them from one fenced in area to another. With the mobile coop not living up to my original expectations, I have fallen back on mobile electric fencing as the best although costly solution. Thankfully with the 200ft of electric poultry fence that I already owned along with another ~150ft that I was able to borrow from a local farmer who wasn't using it, I have been able to use fence rotation to supply them with plenty of fresh open space to roam. I think for the upcoming Spring I will focus on how to make their permanent coop mobile to eliminate the 'common space' (where the coop sits) that I'm left with despite pasture rotation.

Feed- As I posted about in an earlier post, finding local organic whole grains to supplement the chicken's diet with had proved more difficult than originally expected. Thankfully though, through my local organic farming connections I was able to locate a farmer 15min from my house who could supply me with local organic whole corn and wheat berries. A local source of organic feed and a new connection... it's a win win!

So unless the next month or so brings some substantial snow to the north east this year, I think I can say I have fared pretty well for my first winter with chickens. Bring on the Spring!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Grain Consumption within the Human Diet

Based on what I have recently learned (over the past 6mo or so) regarding grain consumption within modern day factory or industrial farming societies, and its adverse effects on human health ultimately leading to many of the illnesses and diseases affecting Americans in epic proportions, I have changed my stance on the importance of such monocrops (grains and legumes) within a healthy human diet.

The human digestive system was not designed nor has it evolved to a point to effectively digest such foods like grains and legumes without the body suffering from its harmful side effects; inflammation and damage to the gut. Since evidence shows inefficient digestion and inflammation are the root cause for nearly all human diseases be it heart disease, diabetes, cancer, crohn's disease, autoimmune diseases, and chronic inflammatory disorders in all its forms, a healthy diet should promote a healthy gut (fermented foods) and be anti-inflammatory based (grass-fed meats and eggs, wild caught fish, fresh organic fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds) instead of high in foods promoting inflammation such as grains, legumes, and factory farmed meats, poultry, fish, and eggs.

I believe that if consumed, grains and legumes should be eaten in minimal quantities and preferably in fermented form. (this is my opinion)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

McDonald's Mistery Meat

So if you were ever wondering what's in that burger you have been getting from your favorite fast-food chain all those years, mystery solved!

According to today's headline "pink slime" seems to be one of the technical terms... McDonald's drops use of gooey ammonia-based pink slime in hamburger meat. Yummy!

What is it doing in ground beef you ask?

Deemed "safe" by the USDA it's widely used to "sanitize" otherwise bacteria ridden meat. As I've posted about in the past, unhealthy and unsanitary living conditions for nearly all commercial livestock in this country results in animals (your future dinner or lunch) to stand, eat, and sleep in piles of their own... well you get the picture. And since ground meat typically comes from the lesser desired parts of the animal, plus some better left unmentioned extras, there's a high probability that this unhealthy and potentially deadly bacteria will find its way into your burger.

This is where our wonderful government has stepped up and said, instead of solving the problem at the source (eliminating factory farming) they have decided to "treat" the end product before it ever gets to the consumer in hopes that they (the consumer) will never find out... But to ensure the consumer doesn't become suspicious and or concerned, they (USDA) deems this treatment of the meat as a 'processing procedure' and not an ingredient and therefor the consumer never knows that their burger contains ammonium hydroxide; also found in chemical fertilizer, household cleaners to name a few.

So is this a win for the consumer now that McDonald's is eliminating this toxic ingredient?

Since the are still using the same potentially bacteria laden beef, your trading off one toxin (ammonium) for another (bacteria, e coli...), and they haven't mentioned anything about stopping the use of it in their chicken products.

I think there is only one real solution, eat locally raised organic grass-fed meets!

Support your local sustainable farmer!

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