Has anyone ever told you to eat healthier? Well, what does eating healthier actually mean? Healthier for our bodies, our relationships, or our planet? Throughout the years, humans have been growing, harvesting, cultivating, cooking, fermenting, preserving, and eating their own foods. As new technologies are discovered and new research is done, we have changed how we produce our food. For better or worse (and it's normally worse), the food we are consuming is affecting our bodies and how we live.
If you have any friends or family members that are vegetarian, then you are already familiar with why some people choose to cut meat from their diet. Whether it is because they do not like meat, care too much about the animals too, want to state a point that meat-eating harms our environment, or anything else, vegetarianism is widely spread throughout all cultures. Research from the Harvard University has shown that limiting our meat intake helps to reduce our consumption of fat. However, many people do not know another danger of consuming too much meat. Have you heard of chickens being administered steroids? Sadly, the chickens we usually eat are not the ones in picture books running around in big fields, pecking the ground for cracked corn and other natural food items. The chickens we eat don't lay eggs in little nests made from straw and grass. Instead, the chickens we eat lie in wired cages so small they can't even walk around, and worst of all, they are injected with steroids, a drug that enhances their growth. The quicker they grow, the faster they can be sold for money. A month less of chicken feed for hundreds of chickens is an awful lot of money. On the downside, steroids are awful, sometimes even deadly, for the chickens, so imagine what steroids are doing to your body when you consume these factory-farmed chickens. Similarly, cows, pigs, ducks, geese, sheep, and even fish are being raised with detrimental chemicals solely to make more profit.
The worst part is, these harmful chemicals are everywhere, not just in animals. For example, take a look at the way our bread is made. There may be up to 5 different chemicals in just one loaf of white bread. Whole wheat bread is a lot better for our health, containing a lot fewer additives. White bread is bread made from white flour, and that, in turn, was made by refined, and often bleached, wheat. You see, a single grain of wheat has three parts to it: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. First, there is the bran which is the outside layer of the wheat, a part that is packed with healthy fibers. Then there is the endosperm is the largest part of the wheat, a part containing most of the starches. Finally, there is the germ. The germ is the nutritious nucleus of the wheat, the part that is usually consumed. Whereas whole wheat flour uses the entire grain, white flour only uses the germ, depriving the flour, and therefore the bread, of a lot of nutritional value. Furthermore, white flour is sometimes bleached with bleaching agents such as chlorine dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, calcium peroxide, and even chlorine, to make it whiter and "purer". So how does this tie with the profit the food industry makes? Well, most people prefer the soft texture of white bread, thus more people buying it. The more people spend on purchasing the bread, the more companies earn.
If you are thinking of not eating anything other than vegetables for the rest of your life, think again. Many fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides, insecticides, and other nasty chemicals. Hiring people to go through the plants and pick away the insect-bitten leaves of crops uses money, so many companies opt to buy harmful substances that can kill the bugs quickly and efficiently. While bug-free veggies may sound like a good thing, imagine what could happen if the pesticides are consumed by a human. That's not all. Many vegetable and fruit crops are known to have genetically modified versions of the natural plant. GM foods are foods that have had their DNA altered using genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is the process in which scientists extract DNA from other organisms and put it into a plant or animal to create a modified organism. Although this might produce crops more efficiently by raising healthier plants, many people are afraid of the possible health risks it might cause. For instance, modifying a plant's genes might accidentally result in a harmful and unexpected genetic change. Genetically modified and pesticide-ridden foods might be cheaper and easier to mass produce but think about what it could be doing to your body.
The things the food industry is doing to our bodies is quite horrifying, but do not despair. There are many ways in which we can choose to eat and drink healthier. One way to stay healthy is to buy and consume organic or locally sourced products- these often contain less harmful substances than the norm. Even better, try growing your own garden or raising your own livestock (if you've got the space and money). But even if you don't have much time or space, try to learn a bit more about what you are eating and what went into making it. Next time you buy a loaf of bread, check it's materials to make sure there aren't any bleaches. After all, we are what we eat.