Fear the food and eat it anyway

Some not-so-scary greens.

Some not-so-scary greens.

Food. Four letters, one syllable. How can such a simple little unassuming word cause so much angst and confusion?

This question sits at the heart of why I’m so passionate about dedicating the time to dig through the mountains of conflicting information and advice about what we should eat and, bigger than that, how to obtain that seemingly elusive goal of being vibrantly healthy.

What’s considered the ideal diet changes with every season: Low fat, high carb? High fat, high protein, low carb? Vegetarian? Organic? Sugar-free? Paleo? I’m sure I’m not the only person who finds it bloody confusing! I’ve talked a bit about the conflicting advice on this blog in the past but today I want to peel off another layer and talk about our fear of (real) food.

A couple of days ago, I talked about a post on Facebook (if you haven’t done so already, head on over and like the page to keep up with everything that’s happening in this little community of ours) that the beautiful Amy from OtherWise Living shared. The post talked about taking a common sense approach to drinking raw milk. Here’s a snippet, if you missed it:

“What is it about milk straight from the cow that gets people so wound up? From this week anybody providing raw milk for consumption will face a fine of up to $60,000 (in case you were wondering the penalty for distribution of small amounts of the drug “Ice” attracts a $45,000 fine)….Drinking raw milk has risks associated with it but we do many things that have risks attached – we drive cars, swim at beaches, skydive. If you’ve ever done a food safety course you’ll know we eat many foods that we need to be careful with; rice, chicken and leafy greens are common foods most responsible for recorded food-borne illnesses. The thing is we don’t ban them we take a preventative and educative approach.”

This got me thinking. Why are we so scared of real simple food but so trustingly assume that the stuff sold to us by big corporations is perfectly safe to eat?

I don’t drink cow milk (never really liked it) but I this post caught my attention because I find it fascinating that on one hand milk is referred to affectionately as nature’s perfect food, and on the other we have a situation where we are terrified of drinking the stuff in its natural form! Don’t get me wrong – it is devastating that recently a child died after drinking raw milk. No parent should ever have to go through that hell.

But when we consider that people die on our roads every day, yet people still put their kids in cars, surely it must nudge us closer to the truth that there are inherent risks associated with simply being alive and sometimes really shitty things just happen. 

As the original post said, rather than rushing to ban raw milk, might there be more value in taking a measured approach of implementing safety procedures and educating people about safe transportation and storage of milk? Our safety is important, yes. But let’s stop underestimating our own ability to make safe choices for ourselves. Us humans are a lot smarter than the rule-makers give us credit for.

This is bigger than raw milk though. It’s just one of the telling signs of the mess we have got ourselves in when it comes to what we eat. Our modern food-production system favours food that is processed and cheap to create in large volumes. It tricks our taste-buds into wanting more than we need by layering sweet over salty over fatty. It confuses us with its multi-million dollar marketing strategies designed to take advantage of the part of our brain that associates green with healthy; and the part of our brain that sees a list of what a product doesn’t include (no sugar, no dairy) and forgets to check what it does include (artifical sweeteners, processed soy).

We have been conned into thinking that eating fresh, healthy food is dangerous, and that’s simply not true.

I have seen this fear in others: being greeted by wide eyes when talking about how I drank spring water straight from the source, rather than treated tap water.

I’ve seen it in myself: being too scared to drink the first batch of kombucha I brewed because I didn’t trust that I had the skills not to make myself sick.

Enough’s enough. Let’s start taking back our power. Let’s start trusting that Mother Nature actually does know best – she definitely knows better than humans do. Let’s stop assuming that because it comes in a package it’s OK to eat and start questioning why it needs a package to begin with.

Let’s eat real food, even if we are scared.

Laura xo

Organic vs. conventional produce: is there really a debate?

Do we really know better than Mother Nature?

Do we really know better than Mother Nature?

One of the biggest and most noticeable turning points on my path to wellness was when I made the decision to switch to a mostly organic diet. The improvement I saw in my health was huge and it happened so quickly that I can’t see myself ever switching back. I haven’t done the math (it never was my strongest subject so I’d probably give you bung figures if I tried) but I would hazard a guess that I between 80% and 90% of what I put in my mouth is organic (Mind. Gutter. Get out.) these days.

Even before switching to organic, I was confused by the message we have been fed that organic produce is somehow a luxury item that isn’t really necessary, and that it’s the unusual choice. Organic fruit and vegetables are simply in the form that Mother Nature intended them to be in. Our bodies are designed to get their nutrients from food, especially fruit and vegetables. Conventional produce is a bastardised, stripped back, chemical-laden and, quite frankly, poor substitute for the real deal.

Farms used to be diverse places, with an abundance of different fruit and vegetables that all worked in harmony to maintain the ecological balance and ward of pests. When farmers switched to one-crop farming, they destroyed the soil’s mineral content by continuously planting the same crop and only feeding the soil with a mix of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (because they’re absolutely the only things we need in the soil our carrots are growing in, right?).

They also quickly found that insects and pests were a huge problem due to the lack of diversity on the farms. What to do? Introduce a Molotov cocktail of pesticides and fungicides that have been proven time and time again to cause all manner of illness, of course.

So, how bad can conventional produce really be? I found the answer while I was studying for a recent assignment. I came across a journal article (which I can’t, for the life of me, find again to link here!) that found you would have to eat more than 30 of today’s conventionally grown apricots to get the same amount of vitamin A as you would have from one apricot in the ’50s. 30. That’s bananas! (Or apricots, as it were.)

When I switched to organic, I did notice a difference in the cost of my grocery bill but it wasn’t out of control and I took a step back and realised that, for me, saving my health (and by extension, my life) is more important than saving my money. And, it actually isn’t that much more to buy organic. The trick is to shop local to avoid the shipping and storage fees that are whacked on to the tiny little organic range at your local Woolies or Coles.

Having said all of this, I 100% understand that not everyone is in a position to buy organic produce all of the time but I do have to honour what I know about food and not shy away from the truth. If you want to start transitioning from conventional to organic but don’t have the funds to go the whole hog, I recommend checking out the dirty dozen and clean fifteen (i.e. a list of which fruit and vegetables are the most toxic when not organic). Another way you can reduce the chemical load is to soak your produce in a bowl of water with 1/2 a cup of vinegar for 15 minutes before eating them.

Eating organic is simply food in its real form. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Laura