Our food supply and our environment are under attack. We are consuming chemicals, such as glyphosate (Round-up) and emulsifiers as well as genetically modified crops whose unintended consequences include increasing our exposure to glyphosate as well as introducing unintended genes with poorly documented consequences into our bodies. Much of the food we eat is nutritionally deficient and most packaged food is filled with chemicals that the human system is unfamiliar with at best, and at risk from more often.
So, how do we take all the information we receive about how to eat and go out into the world and actually eat?
In a perfect world, all the food we eat would be grown organically with minimal chemical input and would be grown from non-GMO seed. Our animal protein would come from animals raised outdoors that get exercise and natural food sources. We would drink mostly pure, clean water and be able to enjoy our coffee, chocolate and occasional desserts or sweet treats. We would walk at least an hour a day in our daily lives and get most of our exercise through activities of daily living. We would have our hands in the dirt occasionally and come in contact with nature at least weekly.
The reality is that living this way is a challenge in our culture. If I try to eat as specified above, even without eliminating food groups, but simply try to eat whole food that has been properly raised and minimally processed, my options would be limited. I would begin to get anxious about where I was going to get my food from. Can I get to the store that has this food available to get what I need in the house? And what about when I eat out? What restaurant can I go to? What can I order? And, visiting friends – they might try to poison me in their ignorance.
Fortunately, most of us possess and amazing amount of tolerance and resilience. So, as with many things in life, there is the need to find balance. It is important to understand the risks of occasional exposures versus regular exposure. For some people, pesticides make them immediately ill and they cannot tolerate occasional exposure; for others, their detoxification system works well and they can manage the exposures. For some people, gluten sets off a 6 month autoimmune cascade that can perpetuate some nasty autoimmune illnesses, for others it will simply cause a spike in blood sugar and increase carbohydrate cravings. And for some people, peanuts will kill them. For those who have severe reactions, it is imperative to identify the foods that that are dangerous, and, equally imperative, to be able to put the other concerns on hold in social situations so as to not create extra stress and social isolation.
For those without these severe reactions, the first thing of importance is to know that eating well most of the time is protective againstmany of the potential ill effects of exposure to foodsthat are less healthy. Whole real food contains many nutrients that support a healthy immune system, a well-functioning brain, and abundant energy. Therefore, it is helpful to eat these foods whenever you can. Second, it is important to not become obsessed with ‘rules’. Rules generally tolerate being bent and even broken sometimes. I have a friend who needlepointed a pillow that says Perfect is the Enemy of Good and I quote this often. Food, good company, a relaxed environment, these are nourishing and life-giving. Stress is a killer, as is isolation, at least as dangerous as consuming some GMO food or food treated with pesticides. It is good to avoid the toxic foods and chemicals in our environment as much as possible, to do our best to minimize our exposures to things that may stress our biochemistry. It is less healthy to create high levels of stress in working towards this. Each of us, in our minds, needs to weigh, to parse all the pieces of the equation and come up with a formula that allows food and eating to contribute to our overall well-being, not to detract from it. The truth is that food is nourishing and nurturing and it is a good thing. Eating should be a pleasure. Relax and enjoy food!
Here are some resources for sorting out the technical and access information:
www.ewg.org - the Environmental Working Group evaluates pesticide residues in produce and provides other guides to food and nutrition
www.berkshiregrown.org - provides information on local farms where you can buy real food