By: Matthew Smith, DACM, MSOM, Dipl.Ac., CPT
***Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be used as grounds to claim a cure of any disease. If you are thinking about using an herb, supplement, or therapy of any kind please first consult your primary care provider ***
Most of Us Are Not Hunter/Gatherers
So you need food, you are not a hunter/gatherer so you are slightly at a loss for the quality of your food. Why? Because now you have to rely on companies to do all the dirty work for you. Good, wholesome, food is essential to your health, but how do we know if it is good for us or not? You have probably heard it a million times, “eat more fruits and vegetables” right? Well sure, that is a really good start. Fruits and vegetables get you necessary dietary fiber, vitamins and nutrients that are essential for your physiological functions. But how do you know the difference between the organic watermelon versus the conventional watermelon versus the packaged and freeze dried watermelon chips? Seems like a perfectly valid option if they are all in fact watermelon in the end right? Well… not exactly…
A nice quick tip I like to give my clients is to shop on the outer edges of the grocery store. The reason for this is because most of the whole foods that are available tend to be on the periphery, and most of the processed, packaged foods tend to be placed in the aisles. I am not saying never go into an aisle for some things on the list, but when it comes to real food we are talking about a few staples.
As humans we are omnivores by genetic makeup. This means our bodies have the ability to eat both plants and meats. If we go back to the basics, these are what we ultimately need to survive in the world. Unfortunately not everyone today has the ability, time, luxury, or space to tend to a garden for crops or go hunt for meat on a regular basis. Modern day technology has simplified a lot of this for humans, but in many cases, there is reason for caution.
Not All Food Is Created Equal
Not all food is created equal. Since we may not need to physically grow and forage our own food, in a way we still do at the grocery store or the market. As humans in a modern day society we still need to decipher what foods will make us feel good and ultimately fuel us to go about our daily lives. In the end we can save a lot of time, energy and resources to maintain a job, home, gym memberships and social gatherings with friends. If we need something, we can hop over to the closest store and there is practically a 100% chance you will leave with something along the lines of what you were looking for.
Freedom At Last
Healthier alternatives are hard to come by these days. Between allergies, food sensitivities and maintaining good taste; that can be a hard combination to create. However, that is an opportunity to create a goldmine for companies. Advertising that states you can eat a food you normally cannot have is an automatic niche market for a company. For example, look at the ingredients on a homemade loaf of wheat bread. They tend to be minimal, but for someone who suffers from celiac disease cannot eat wheat bread. A company that creates a bread that is gluten free, resembles regular wheat bread, and tastes really good automatically interests anyone with a gluten intolerance or allergy. As a result this niche population is ready to buy that product as soon as it hits the shelf regardless if there is a laundry list of ingredients that may not necessarily be in their best interest when it comes to their digestion and health. But it provides that one feeling in the form of a food they have longed for to find for so many years since developing that allergy or intolerance. Freedom at last…
Processed Food Advertising
This is the game of the processed food market. A company can make more money off of processing a product, creating an enhanced taste, and giving it a fancy looking label to catch your attention. Compare this to a farmer who specializes in selling a handful of crops. You are not going to find the same amount of patented processes for growing a crop (unless it is genetically modified which is a rabbit hole we will save for later), and thus, it is less unique, and as a result, is less of a niche market to sell to. For simplicity sake, a wheat crop is a wheat crop (again, not talking about GMO's here), nothing else. But a wheat cracker with sea salt from the dead sea, rosemary from morocco and sundried tomato from Italy all with under 5 calories per serving sounds a lot more appealing and "healthier" doesn’t it? Well, looks can be deceiving because we did not discuss preservatives, shelf life, rancid oils or nutritionally stripped wheat that may also be in those very crackers. These crackers can be marketed, sold and advertised in a beautiful way to convince you why they are not only unique, but actually healthy for you, without giving you all the information (Santana, M. O., et al, 2020).
You Are Your Food Within Two Days
Let’s keep it really simple, the less scientific looking names on the food label, the better it is probably going to be for you. Our bodies are designed to digest foods in their natural form. When we focus on processed foods, there are elements that are taken away, altered or added. This may be to remove a certain protein allergy, improve the flavor, or to match a specific calorie goal. It gets very complicated! So what is the point to all this and what happens when we are eating food that we cannot break down? I am sure you have read numerous articles that talk about “you are what you eat” and yes that is actually true. What you eat actually becomes “you” in 35-40 hours (Riccio, P., & Rossano, R., 2019). Let’s put that into perspective for a minute… This means that the snack you ate or the supplement you took, or the drink you consumed, becomes you at a cellular level within two days. Compound this for multiple days, weeks, months and years, and the changes become more and more apparent. This shows in your lab results, and how well you age.
You Have The Freedom To Choose
Everyone wants to look young, live pain free and ultimately thrive in their lives with the body they have been given. So is it going to be in your best interest to eat from a box or directly from the earth? Well, the choice is ultimately up to you, that is the beauty of having choices. Food should be enjoyed, it should be fun and you should be excited about what you eat! It is a dance between flavor, fuel and happiness. All it takes is a little learning, weighing your options and ultimately choosing what your goals and needs are when it comes to the food you eat.
Riccio, P., & Rossano, R. (2019). Undigested Food and Gut Microbiota May Cooperate in the Pathogenesis of Neuroinflammatory Diseases: A Matter of Barriers and a Proposal on the Origin of Organ Specificity. Nutrients, 11(11), 2714. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11112714
Santana, M. O., Guimarães, J. S., Leite, F., Mais, L. A., Horta, P. M., Bortoletto Martins, A. P., & Claro, R. M. (2020). Analysing persuasive marketing of ultra-processed foods on Brazilian television. International journal of public health, 65(7), 1067–1077. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-020-01456-6
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Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, Coach, Professor, and competitive strength athlete, Matthew Sabey Smith DACM, MSOM, LAc., Dipl.Ac,, CPT is the owner and founder of Strength Smith Training Systems LLC. With an extensive background in integrative holistic health, training and coaching, Dr. Matt uses his knowledge to help individuals improve their training, boost their recovery and maintain optimal balance as they chase their athletic, fitness and health endeavors.