What's eating me about what we are eating: farmers’ markets, meat production, the restaurant industry
I recently wrote about my family's two-week summer relocation to Colorado. I am fascinated by the unique health culture and perspective there. In Aspen, you can get a kale salad on just about every block. They also have a Saturday farmer's market. “Farm-to-table” is the phrase of the day.
It got me thinking about the farmer's markets we have back in my hometown of St. Louis. We went when we returned home, and it was the same stuff happening in St. Louis as in Aspen, CO – just not as mainstream.
But you can seek out “farm-to-table” and make it work for your busy lifestyle. And in working a bit harder to optimize your lifestyle practices for better health, you may be saving yourself a lot of trouble down the road.
What do I mean by this? We can start with how produce, eggs and meat taste better if they’re farm-fresh. We can move on to the projected health benefits of reduced or eliminated chemicals, antibiotics and hormones. Additionally, farm-raised animals presumably live a better life and create a more equitable life cycle in the circle of food production and consumption than animals that are mass-produced.
And then we can take a look at some of the deeply disturbing news coming out about the food industry - and the practices that were once necessary but that now may be becoming parasitic and toxic. Let's take the example of antibiotic use in meat production. As reported in a recent New York Times article, microbiologists are taking a look at urinary infections potentially caused by meat in the grocery store as part of an attempt to understand how antibiotic-resistant germs spread from industrial-farm animals to people.
In other news, there is a big push for calorie postings on restaurant menus—a push I support. But here’s the problem: other news is telling us that these postings aren't having a big effect on our behavior and what we order. A potentially larger issue is that postings are not including a well-rounded group of factors that are important to consider when making health-conscious decisions about what you are putting into your body.
They often don’t take into account, for example, how the restaurant’s food was produced, how nutritionally dense food items are or what (if any) adverse health effects you may be exposing yourself to. Essentially, you could be sacrificing nutritional value for caloric intake.
What eats at me most of all? Eating is a fact of life - a necessity in this world, if you want to survive. The food industry holds tremendous power over how we navigate this fact of life. But maximizing the nutrition and the education needed to arm people with the power they need comes at a price—a price that I am not sure the food industry is willing to pay.
In the meantime, want to take a page from my playbook? Skew toward a plant-based diet, favoring local or organic produce. Keep the food you consume as close to its natural state (whole, unprocessed) as possible. Consider a home garden, and know where all the rest of the food you consume comes from.
Here is a good resource: http://www.eatwellguide.org
For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn’t mean better health. Dr. Haines and Metcalf reveal some of the most egregious problems with a medical system gone awry, opening readers’ eyes to how to better navigate the changes underway. Using solid research, insiders’ insights, and patient anecdotes, they offer cost-effective and potentially life-saving ways to get more out of health care while using less of it.