Lies and Ties
Everyone shopping for food in a grocery store wants a healthier food system. We all want to buy products that make us feel good, not bad; that help our families flourish; that don’t contain ingredients known to cause us harm.
Alas, many of the companies responsible for creating those products on the store shelf have a different goal. They want to make lots of money, which means creating food we can’t stop eating even if it’s really bad for us. (Bonus points if the processed food is cheap to produce.) The end result is a broken food system, full of unregulated food additives and chemicals that only improve the bottom line of food and biotech companies while damaging our health.
How do these companies get away with it? By telling us lies. By deliberately confusing us, making sure we don’t know how to eat right. They will fight anything and everything, from scientific information to independent reports, that threatens their profit margins. They will lobby the government, influence scientists, pay for front groups, and generally do whatever it takes to persuade us to do exactly what independent nutritional science (and even common sense!) tells us not to do.
Nutrition really isn’t that complicated. We know that we should be eating more whole foods and avoiding junk food and processed foods. Alas, in this world of Big Food propaganda, eating real food that’s good for us is bad for business. After all, if we all ate real food … Big Food would practically be out of business.
If you find all of this troubling, wait until you learn more about how the food industry, front groups, trade associations, and other guilty parties are spreading their lies, inundating us with misinformation and falsehoods about the foods we eat every day.
To separate the truth from the bull, Vani suggests the following:
- Scrutinize the source of the information, the source’s possible agenda, and the evidence provided in the message. If possible, ask: Is the evidence science-based? Who funded the science? Does the evidence logically support the claims being made? Does it seem like relevant facts or context have been left out? Remember that commercial pressures shape the form and content of research and news—and exert massive influence.
- Determine whether all representative viewpoints, for and against an issue, are presented. If everything is squarely on one side of an issue, you can bet that you are not getting the whole story.
- Diversify your sources of news and information.
- Check to see if the headline matches the facts in the story. If not, it could be a biased, less-than-truthful story.
- Determine whether the story can also be found on several credible news outlets. (Try Internet searching the story headline or people’s names associated with the article to see if there are other news outlets running the story or refuting the claims.)
Someone once said “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
It’s often hard to figure out the facts. However, when it comes to your diet and health, it’s absolutely worth investing the extra effort and time to determine what’s real and what’s not. At the end of the day, it’s nobody else’s responsibility to tell you what’s true. You alone are responsible for the news you consume. If you want to be healthy—and don’t we all?—determining which foods are actually good for you is imperative.
Sugar: The Bittersweet Facts
Sweets are one of those guilty pleasures especially after dinner or on special occasions—and let’s face it; those special occasions seem to pop up all the time. What makes a sugar habit even harder to kick is that sugar is everywhere, often hiding in foods that are supposed to be good for you. Nevertheless, this is one bad habit worth kicking: sugar is so toxic in large amounts that giving it up just might change your life. Here’s how to do it:
- Eat at a regular time every day.
- Balance your meals.
- Introduce healthy fats.
- Use spices.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Take your mind off cravings with exercise.
- Enjoy fermented foods.
- Boost serotonin levels naturally.
- Use fruit to satisfy a sugar craving.
- Avoid using artificial sugar substitutes. Please do not reach for Splenda, Equal, Sweet’N Low, or other low-calorie sugar sweeteners with their false promises. They will only create real cravings for real sugars. Instead use small amounts of natural sweeteners back into your diet. These include dates, coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup, or stevia.
The good news is that if you give your body a break from sugar, you’ll eventually develop a distaste for very sweet foods. The reward areas of your brain will reset and those cravings for sickly sweet products will disappear. What’s more, you’ll naturally eat less sugar in the long run because your body is getting real nutrition from food that hasn’t been chemically altered. What a wonderful habit to develop and keep for life!
Soda: Sipping Sabotage
BREAK YOUR SODA HABIT
Big Soda should not be trusted. If it were up to me, we’d make the soda aisle disappear. These drinks are not only a waste of money—they’re making us sick. Being aware that you’ve been fed lies about soda is important. But it’s even more important to just stop consuming this garbage.
even those zero-calorie ones that pretend to be healthy. Before you can kick the habit, though, it’s important to be honest about how many sodas you drink in a week. Add them up by keeping a food diary for seven days. For sticker shock, use a calculator to add up how many calories and sugar grams you’re guzzling in that period. Take some time to think about the negative health consequences that you might suffer from drinking all that soda. Create a strong desire in your heart and mind to stop drinking soda and sweetened drinks—this is a very important step! If you really want to quit, you will succeed.
Here are some alternatives to soda:
- Organic raw kombucha
- Sparkling or soda water + lime juice + organic cranberry juice (with no added sugar or additives)
- Filtered water + fresh cucumbers + fresh or frozen strawberries
- Sparkling or soda water + fresh lemon or lime juice + grated ginger; consider adding melon, cucumbers, or berries for different flavors!
- 100 percent raw coconut water
- Organic unsweetened green and herbal tea (iced or hot); peppermint and ginger teas are great for satisfying cravings for something sweet
- Fresh pressed green juice; keep it low on the fruit, carrots, or beets
- Unsweetened coconut, cashew, or almond milk
- Coffee (iced or hot, with no sugar
Avoiding soft drinks—even diet drinks—sends Big Soda a message that you’re onto them. You know how to see through their lies. Instead of guzzling soda, you’re going to stay hydrated with drinks that save you money and don’t harm your vital organs.
What is sweeter than that?
Flavor: It’s Not Natural
The food industry’s flavor trickery makes it really important (and hard) to be a smart consumer. When looking at your food, ask yourself, as Mark Schatzker expertly says, “Did someone engineer this to be delicious or did nature engineer this to be delicious?”
Remember that the word “natural” on a product is virtually bogus. It doesn’t equate with good. Take time to read the ingredients list found on the package, and read the fine print. If they list artificial or natural flavors, put those foods back on the shelf and look for an alternative. Feel free to call up a company and ask questions. Look for products that use real food to flavor their products. Above all, let’s stop food companies and flavor factories from getting us hooked on processed foods.
Fortified Food Fraud
CHOOSE FORTIFIED FOODS WISELY
Fortified foods are cleverly marketed to moms and dads who want to make sure their children are getting enough vitamins and minerals. But there’s a hitch. The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit health research and advocacy group, analyzed the vitamin and mineral content of 1,550 brands of cereal. Out of those, they found that 114 of them were actually fortified with excessive amounts of vitamin A, zinc, or niacin. The guilty cereals include some that you may even have in your kitchen cabinets right now: Kellogg’s Krave, Total Raisin Bran, Smart Start, and Cocoa Krispies. Likewise, they evaluated 1,000 different snack bars and found 27 of them that are over-fortified. Some of the worst offenders were Balance, KIND, and Marathon bars.
Overdosing on these nutrients over time can lead to some health issues, such as liver damage, skeletal abnormalities, osteoporosis, and impaired copper absorption. The EWG also advised that pregnant women especially monitor their intake of fortified foods, because they are commonly already taking prenatal vitamin supplements and too much vitamin A is associated with birth defects.
Along the same lines, calcium is being added to more and more foods; it’s more than possible to inadvertently get far more than the recommended 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams a day—especially if you also take a mineral supplement. High doses of supplemental calcium may increase the risk of kidney stones. On the other hand, foods naturally rich in calcium seem to protect against kidney stones. Crazy, right?
The moral of the story: it’s best to obtain your vitamins and minerals in a natural state—and that means from whole foods.
BUY USDA CERTIFIED 100 PERCENT ORGANIC FOOD.
Any food claiming it is organic and that has the USDA Organic label on it is not allowed to have GMOs in any of the ingredients.
Be careful when choosing animal foods, too, since a majority of livestock in the U.S. are fed GMO grains, or are treated with the GMO bovine growth hormone rBGH—another Monsanto product. Do you really want to drink “Monsanto Milk” or eat “Monsanto Butter” derived from animals that have been fed GMO corn and soy heavily sprayed with harmful weed killers?
MAKE FOOD CHOICES TO AVOID PESTICIDES.
We definitely need to eat more fruits and vegetables. The evidence is strong and overwhelming that they help protect against heart disease and cancer, ensure a healthy microbiome, and allow us to maintain a healthy weight. So keep produce front and center on your plate.
Some organic fruits and veggies can be rather expensive and are not always available, so if you can’t go 100 percent organic. In that case, it’s suggested to stick with those fruits and veggies that generally have the least pesticide residue.
Make these foods a priority on your organic shopping list because conventional versions of these foods have been found to have the most pesticide residues:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
The following foods, organic or not, are least likely to contain pesticide residues:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet peas, frozen
- Honeydew melons
Three Questions That Will Transform Your Health
Head into your kitchen right now and give these three questions a try. Yes, really right now. Go ahead and open up your fridge or pantry and grab one of your favorite food items. Now let’s take a closer look.
QUESTION #1: WHAT ARE THE INGREDIENTS?
This is probably the most important of the three questions. Know what is in your food. For starters, you must read ingredient labels. If the food contains any additives or preservatives, ask yourself why they are used and whether they’re really necessary. If you don’t know what an ingredient or additive is or how it can affect your health, put the product back.
Try to stick to whole foods with simple ingredients lists. The fewer unnecessary ingredients added to your food, the better. The more real whole foods you eat, the healthier your body will be. Examples: fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, and lean meats—all organic if possible. Choosing real food is the simplest way to answer this question without having any doubts.
QUESTION #2: ARE THESE INGREDIENTS NUTRITIOUS?
Marketing terms like “diet,” “light,” “free,” “natural,” and “healthy” are blazoned on food packages that are filled with controversial additives that provide the body with zero nutrition. What kind of viable nutrition does your body get when you nosh on Yellow #5, carrageenan, and natural flavors? The answer is none.
Instead of focusing on the quantity of calories, fat grams, or carbs we eat, it’s more important to emphasize the quality of those calories.
QUESTION #3: WHERE DO THESE INGREDIENTS COME FROM?
Unless you do all your shopping at a local farmers market, the produce you buy has generally made a journey from grower to packer to distributor to supplier to grocery store. Preservatives were probably used to extend shelf life, or the food was cultivated with pesticides, chemicals, fertilizer, antibiotics, and growth hormones.
Still, there are ways you can trace your food back to its source. Look at its PLU (price look-up) number. A 9 at the beginning of a five-digit sequence indicates the produce is organically grown. A four-digit code beginning with a 3 or 4 means it was conventionally grown and may be GMO if it’s a GMO crop. The current list of GMO crops includes corn, potatoes, apples, zucchini, yellow squash, and papaya. You can also use apps like HarvestMark for more tracing.
As for animal proteins, it’s best to avoid meat from animals raised on conventional factory farms. Buying animal products directly from the farmer is becoming increasingly common. The same goes for fish: make sure it’s wild caught and not farm raised.
We all want to eat food that makes us feel good. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded that we can: it only requires that we read the ingredients and investigate what’s really in all those packaged and processed items. Because it’s time to stop outsourcing our food decisions to Big Food. It’s time to stop feeling awful. It’s time to stop getting sick and gaining weight. It’s time to take back control of our food supply from these companies that just want our money and don’t give a damn about health.