First let me start this week’s blog entry on cancer prevention (and my gradual adoption of a healthier lifestyle) by mentioning two documentaries you should watch that, taken together, pretty much lay out the story of what is wrong with our society at present and how the “system” was hijacked over the past 20 years or so, such that we no longer (in some ways) live in a society built to serve the interests of the greatest number of citizens.
The first is Inside Job, the highly regarded and award-winning expose on the finance and mortgage loan crisis that led to the most recent US recession; it connects all the dots of what was actually a conspiracy and virtually a coup d’état in the US, against which the Occupy movement protested.
The second, which I just watched on the weekend on NetFlix, is entitled Food Inc., and it does for the American industrial food system pretty much what Inside Job did for Wall Street, and just as well. Even though I had read Michael Pullen’s excellent The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Pullen is interviewed throughout the movie, much of which picks up the themes of his book) I have to say I, um, really had no idea. It’s one thing to read about this stuff, quite another to see the size and scale of some of these food processing plants via footage from cameras smuggled inside.
And the final section on Monsanto and how it has treated farmers in the context of its GM soy bean product, well… just watch the movie…
All of which brings me to one evening in January when I attended an evening class on “stoveless cuisine” presented by Alexi Bracey – former personal chef to super-fit actor Wil Smith and possibly the emerging Martha Stewart of the raw and organic food movement. (See www.stovelesscuisine.com) The evening was a step in my personal journey to get off the industrial food gravy train and detoxify my body, which I’m chronicling in detail on this blog over the next six months or so, in a kind of reverse version of Supersize Me (another doc you really must view, by the way).
Bracey taught us to prepare dishes from uncooked fruit and veggies, preserving nutrients destroyed by the temperatures in normal cooking.
Bracey teaches that raw and organic foods can taste as good or better than the processed and chemical-laden fare we usually eat. I can attest that the “pasta” dish she served — made from vegetables and pureed nuts – indeed tasted like creamy fettuccini Alfredo with bacon bits! And don’t even get me started on the non-flour raspberry ganache chocolate cake… (I will write about her techniques and recipes in detail in future posts.)
That evening I learned much about the common mistakes people make when trying to eat healthier. In addition to Bracey’s teaching, the conversation around the dinner table was awesome, as the people who had come out for this were very “up” on their understanding of the North American diet and what’s wrong with it. (Read the article I posted in this space last week for more on that.)
I feel compelled to share this information with readers, because our government is definitely not protecting us. Given the rise in cancer, diabetes and other diseases where prevention is the best cure, what you don’t know really can kill you!
Here are some highlights from my recent learnings, to help you reduce the carcinogens and “obesegens” in the bodies of you and your family members.
Most people are aware of animal cruelty, growth hormones and antibiotics in products from the industrial meat production industry, so I won’t belabor the point that we should reduce meat in our diet. We should also eliminate nutritionally-bankrupt processed foods that are may contain a vast array of artificial colors and flavors, processed grains, sugar, and (lots of) salt. These should be replaced by real foods that people ate in ancient times: fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, seeds, and legumes. Buy organic, non-GM foods at health food stores and farmer’s markets.
We should also avoid anything with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sugar or artificial sweeteners like aspartame (that increases sugar cravings). Agave is also to be avoided as it’s highly processed and contains high fructose. Look instead for dessert ingredients like e cinnamon, vanilla, and stevia. (Interestingly, the sugar industry is currently engaged in a legal tussle with the producers of HFCS, claiming the latter seeks to confuse HFCS in the minds of consumers with real sugar.)
Want to lose weight? Don’t just avoid fats: your body needs some healthy fats (in moderation) derived from nuts, seeds, coconut oil and avocados. The powerful dairy industry has taught us that we need milk, cheese, and yogurt for calcium and as a source of cultured probiotics. However, anything but a modest dairy consumption can contribute to health problems; dairy slows digestion and creates mucus in the body, setting the stage for disease. We should instead seek calcium from dark leafy greens and sesame seeds, and cut back on acid-forming dairy and soft drinks.
An unfortunate side effect of the Neolithic revolution (which moved us from being hunter-gatherers to settled village dwellers) was that it ultimately set us on the path of filling our bellies with white rice, flour, and refined grains for which our metabolisms are poorly adapted. These break down quickly, have little nutritional value or fibre, and cause blood sugar spikes that lead to cravings, which boost obesity. Yet they are now the bulk of our diet!
Grains such as wheat are difficult for humans to process because they contain gluten (to which many of us are also allergic). We must supplant these with high-fibre super grains like millet or quinoa.
I already knew that colorful, natural vegetables contain high vitamin levels. But I was surprised to learn that soy is not a healthy protein. Soy is a trypsinogen and goitrogen-blocker that slows thyroid function and can block the full assimilation of proteins. It’s extremely mucus and acid-forming, and is often genetically modified. In place of tofu, soymilk, soybean oil, and other soy products, we should seek better vegetable sources of protein such as quinoa, nuts, and seeds.
The point of all this is to say that Alexi Bracey’s stoveless cuisine perfectly addresses these problems. It goes beyond vegetarianism in also promoting that we buy organic, and prepare without heat! Again, more on this in a future post, but it has a lot to do with chopping the vegetables in certain ways, and covering them in yummy sauces that satisfy our desire for all things creamy, yet are actually made from things like almonds and other nuts that have been soaked overnight in water, then liquefied in an industrial blender. (Yes, there’s a learning curve, like anything worthwhile, in order to know how to do this, but having tasted the result and being convinced of the merit of the exercise, I feel I simply must learn!)
On a related note, I now buy canned tomatoes and tomato sauce only in glass jars, as the resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A and the acid in tomatoes can cause 50 mcg of BPA per litre to leach out. Another no-no is microwave popcorn. Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans and liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer in animal tests. Microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize into your popcorn. (It makes me ill to think how often I’ve served this to my kids almost all their young lives.)
Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t touch a non-organic potato, or serve one to my kids. Same goes for apples, farmed salmon and corn-fed beef. (Again, you needn’t listen to me; go watch Food Inc.)
I hope I haven’t depressed you! My goal is to inspire you to conduct your own research and move toward a healthier diet. In the next edition I’ll address alternatives to toxin-laced home and personal care products.