A beautiful thing would happen: a tomato would grow, and would be picked when it was ready. Simple. It might be eaten right away, or it might be preserved to be eaten in the later, cooler months. That tomato, grown close to home and eaten or preserved when ripest, was in turn working a little magic of its own; cleaning the liver, purifying the blood, detoxifying the body in general, encouraging digestion, and possibly reducing the risk of certain cancers (lung, stomach, prostate) and heart disease due to its phytochemical lycopene (source).
Real food has real health benefits, just as synthetic and highly processed foods have disastrous health consequences; this is not new information. Why then, on a daily basis, are we consuming foods containing things like “brominated vegetable oil”? Brominated vegetable oil is used in soft drinks to keep the flavoring oils well-blended and to provide that “cloudy” look (source). BVO is soybean oil combined with the element bromine and has been associated with headache, fatigue, memory loss, and this one time, a man lost the ability to walk after drinking too much cola and had to have his blood cleaned to reverse the effects.
Clearly, there is a problem. But I find even defining what that problem is to be difficult. Are we merely a culture that values ease and comfort and synthetic food sources?
If you are looking through the lens of poverty, then inaccessibility is a problem. There can be no sound food judgment where there are no healthy food options (i.e., no grocery store within a half mile to a mile, also known as a food desert). Additionally, we happen to be living in a time when a thin wallet means a thick belly; cheap, highly processed and refined foods are fattening us up, making us sick, killing us.
Another very clear problem is the widespread misinformation and false advertising about “food” that exists in our culture. Certainly, no one is touting the wonders of brominated vegetable oil, but synthetic substances like artificial sweeteners and margarine are often encouraged as healthy alternatives.
There are so many aspects of food culture, of our relationship to food. Real food (and perhaps a definition is in order: by real food, I mean food that was grown in the ground and will eventually rot) is healing and nourishing. Eating real, living food will lay a strong foundation in your body to fight diseases, and in many cases avoid them altogether.
I am no expert on health, but I am in charge of my own well-being. I started this blog as an outlet to share the things I am learning about health and wellness and the healing power of food, as well as stories of food traditions and recipes from my kitchen. I will draw often on the following often, as they have greatly influenced the way I think about food, health, nutrition, community, food traditions, eating… ::
Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchford
The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood
The Jungle Effect by Daphne Miller, M.D.
Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food by Wendell Berry
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan
The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Here’s to exploration!