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Posts Tagged ‘michael pollan’

Salt, or sodium chloride, has been used by humans since the middle ages.  It allowed humans to preserve foods for many months and allowed it to travel over long distances.  It really increased our food supply.  Salt also became a seasoning, as it enhances the flavors of other foods, and this is mostly how we use it today.  Some salt is iodized, and was promoted greatly in the 1920’s as a way of preventing goiter, which was a widespread health problem in the United States during that time.  Salt is very inexpensive today, but this was not always the case.

Salt, and more specifically, the sodium part of sodium chloride, has come under some scrutiny recently. As most of you are aware, America’s health is pretty poor, soaring rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc.  This epidemic is on everyone’s radar from insurance companies, politicians, government agencies, drug companies, and even food companies.  But, you may ask, why sodium?  Sodium is a mineral that is essential to humans in nominal quantities.  We can usually get enough sodium through vegetables, meats, beans, nuts/seeds, and fruits in their natural form.  But as with lots of things, Americans seem to be over-consuming sodium, in such amounts that can be detrimental to health.  Excessive sodium intake can increase risk for high blood pressure and heart disease, among other things.  Another problem with our sodium intake is that we are not consuming enough potassium.  Sodium and potassium are meant to be consumed by humans in a roughly 1:3 ratio, respectively, but a average American diet is quite the opposite, and likely worse.  We are probably eating 5 times as much sodium as potassium.  Its pretty apparent to me the reason…Americans are eating more and more processed foods and less of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are our main sources of potassium.

So, again, instead of promoting less processed foods and dining out, the FDA is being urged to target one nutrient, Sodium, and establish maximum levels for sodium that can be found in processed and restaurant foods.   I agree that we eat too much sodium here in the United States, but I am not sure how forcing restaurants and food manufacturers to decrease sodium levels is going to improve America’s blood pressure, heart disease, nor a list of other problems.  Should we take table salt off the shelves as well?  I have seen people put salt on a deli sandwich, which the bread and cheese alone would be 750mg of Sodium.  They actually are adding more sodium.  One tsp of salt contains 2400mg Sodium, which is the suggested level of intake for most people.  We actually need much less than this, but the government doesn’t want to ruffle the feathers, or the dollars, of the food companies and restaurants.  That’s big business!!!!

Okay, I will stop ranting and give you the numbers.  The chart below indicates where the sodium is coming from in the standard American diet (SAD).

These percentages are not shocking to me at all, but maybe to some it gives a nice visual.  The thing that is more shocking is the FDA’s recommendations based on this.  I have listed them below based on their question: “What steps can I take to lower my salt intake?”  Remember, these are NOT my recommendations.  I will give my recommendations later.

  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Consume foods that are rich in potassium. Potassium can help blunt the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The recommended intake of potassium for adolescents and adults is 4,700 mg/day. Potassium-rich foods include leafy, green vegetables and fruits from vines.
  • Flavor food with pepper and other herbs and spices instead of salt.
  • Choose unsalted snacks.
  • Read food labels and choose foods low in sodium.

Okay, these aren’t bad recommendations, right?  I agree with all of them. However, I still find it laughable.  From the chart, anyone with a kindergarten education can see that most of the sodium in a standard American diet comes from processed and restaurant foods, but I didn’t see any of those mentioned in the FDA’s recommendations, did you?  And, still we want them to regulate the sodium in these foods? Ha, ha, ha!!!

So, let me say what the FDA, USDA, and DHHS won’t: stop eating so much processed and restaurant foods, these contain obnoxious amounts of sodium.  Let’s stop attacking wee little nutritents and start eating more whole foods from fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts and seeds.  Sodium and ingredients like trans fats and high fructose corn syrup, that we may eat in excess and contribute to a host of problems, can be found in high quantities in processed foods.  America, I will give it to you straight from the words of Michael Pollan: Eat food.  Not too Much.  Mostly Plants.

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Steroid usage by baseball players and other athletes has been all the media rage in the last few years. Jose Canseco released his book entitled “Juiced,” where he told his story of anabolic steroid use and other players that he personally witnessed being injected with steroids and human growth hormone. Americans were up in arms about the messages that it sends to today’s youth who are looking to become professional athletes. Baseball and other sports were thrown for a loop on records and titles that were given to individuals and teams that used steroids, should they be taken away? is it fair? what to do for the future of the sport?, etc. Personally, it’s a no brainer issue….steroids are illegal in sports, users should be ejected from the league, no pay out, blah, blah, blah, but it is never this simple and I am really not interested in debating the issue of steroids in sports.
What does intrigue me is the media attention that this got and yet, everyday, our food supply is injected with hormones, which then we eat if we are not careful about our purchasing decisions. Estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, zeranol, trenbolone acetate, and melengestrol acetate are the six hormones that are legal for use in food production in the United States. Where was Canseco on that one? Now, I realize, there are multiple books that detail the hormone usage in our food supply, however, Americans average a 3rd grade reading level. I am not sure they could read, let alone comprehend, the “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, which is a highly recommended read, but above the average Americans’ reading level. I am aware that this issue is all over the internet, some wacky sources and some reliable scholarly sites, but it is absent from the everyday media. I rarely see nightly news coverage on the hormone usage in our food supply, a newspaper or People magazine article entailing such. Now, I have theories on why this might be, but I won’t voice them here as I am now probably being watched by the likes of Monsanto and Phillip Morris.
I am not going to go over all these “legal” hormones that are used in food production, injected into cows to produce more milk, injected into chickens to produce more eggs, injected into chickens, pigs, and cattle to gain weight and produce more meat. I don’t need to. Most people can do the math…inject hormones into animals and that means the meat, eggs, and milk will also contain those hormones…it’s not rocket science. The first three hormones listed, estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone, are all sex hormones. Could this be the reason that females are reaching puberty at a younger age? I don’t know for certain, but kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? Could our obesity epidemic have a little to do with this? Maybe, but I am not certain. Could this be the reason for increase in cancers over the years? Maybe, but again, I am not certain. These hormones probably are not the only reason for such phenomena, but could be a likely attribute.
Now, what to do? Well, I am definite that Major League Baseball is not going to do much about the hormones used in our food supply. And, I am pretty sure the government isn’t either, and if they even thought about it, there would be protesters in the streets with signs that America is turning “socialist” and “I have a right to have hormones in my food”, “don’t kill corporate America”, and other ridiculous responses. And, honestly, we don’t have to wait for anyone to regulate this. We, as consumers, have purchasing power. But, unfortunately, these hormone laden foods’ prices are kept low by our tax dollars. But, isn’t your health more important? You have a vote with every dollar you spend on food. I don’t expect that everyone has enough income to buy all organic, but when you can, use your purchasing power to buy organic eggs, milk, and meat, and better yet, buy them from local sources. Most of our local farmers may not be “certified organic,” but that isn’t because they don’t use organic methods, it’s more likely because its costs a lot to have this certification. Ask your local farmers how they produce the food and they will probably invite you to their farm. So, the way I see it is that we have two options:  We can either wait for “America’s War on Hormones” or start using our purchasing power to tell these big companies that we do not want hormones in our foods by buying organic, and better yet, local.

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Eve here. As a dietitian, I get bombarded with questions about food and eating from patients, family, friends, and even people that I just meet. I understand the reason for their inquiries due to all the confusion in the media with regards to food and eating. The media is out to make a sensational story; I am here to make eating sensationally simple. In the words of Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

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