Returning To Basics: Thinking Of Food As Life

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor


I thought I would share something a little different this weekend, a suggestion that might help each of us in deciding how to go about living healthy lives and returning to what we were given, and respecting who gives it to us. I refer today with one of the most basic elements of the gifts of the Earth–our food.

In my middle age, I have seen how we as Westerners have slowly but resolutely removed ourselves from nature into a humanity centric focus and perspective. We need to begin to devote ourselves to starting a little retrospective about how we used to live, and that somehow we still managed to get by.


There is a saying, “Do not eat anything that your great-grandmother would not recognize.” That statement says more than what appears at the surface. We look at what the diet was only seventy or so years ago and much has changed. Then, most citizens consumed whole fruits and vegetables and meats. Though at the time there was not the general knowledge of heart disease and some of the causes of pathologies as we have today, the quality of most of the food was certainly better in many ways than what the average American consumes today.

Another difference lies in the amount of packaged and heavily processed foods manifest in grocery stores. In my lifetime I noted how people shifted in that they now refer to food in ways consistent with marketed foods. Statements such as “let’s have Burger King, whoppers are on sale” or “We’re having Hot Pockets, Sunny Delight, and Hamburger Helper,” have replaced “I’d like tuna salad, and baked beans,” and “How about some eggs and fruit wedges?” If the food commonly consumed was not so detrimental as a whole toward good health this would simply be a matter of changing nomenclature but it shows however a worrying trend.

The unfortunate result of the marketing of processed food is such that over sixty percent of the food consumed by the American public is packaged. Most processed and packaged food is nutritionally deficient as evidenced by the contents contained.

Compare purchasing a filet of a particular fish such as cod. If the fish is filleted before sale there is little food waste and per dollar both the nutrition and caloric benefit are higher. Contrast this if you will a cod based “fish stick”. The fish stick offered to the public is often breaded with relatively cheap fillers such as flour and corn. Since shelf life, colorings, and flavor enhancers are important factors, a great many additives are included. Since there is little emphasis on the quality bar–though it is above what is considered to be safe in terms of food handling–the consumer has almost no choice as to where the cod originates. With concerns over farmed seafood in other nations having deficiencies, the maker of these manufactured foods care mostly about cost control. That is why fillers are added because pound for pound they are less money. When all this is factored in the actual amount of fish in the case of the fish sticks per dollar spent by the consumer is markedly higher in price than the natural product. He or she receives a nutritionally detrimental food as well.

The two demographics who lose the most in this reliance on processed food marketing is the poor and the young.

One of the strategies that is utilized by large processed food corporations is to offer what is proffered to be low cost foods where a large portion of the cost to consumers is in the form of advertising. The money spent in advertising costs detracts from the quality of the foods sold. The advertising targets these two groups to convince them that theirs is the best choice to offer. And when it is coupled with increasing food prices generally, those having income challenges and their dependent children resort to cheaply priced foods. But in actuality they are paying far more in terms of nutritional value than with ordinary dietary food. With sliding scales of food stamps offered to individuals often the amounts given are low enough that recipients often will not invest in a initially higher priced whole food, but will instead resort to ones for a lower price, with less nutritional value. And, the effects of income challenges can lead to a despair that can result in comfort foods being ordered more often.

Of course the other matter is convenience. We know what this involves so I will not discuss much of it. But anecdotally what greatly surprised me was yesterday I saw a boxed salad containing chicken, butter lettuce, condiments, and a few other veggies. The price was about five and a half dollars, however to my surprise the cost per pound was over seventeen dollars! This is just what happens with those having income challenges, they can afford the five and a half dollars, but to them a chicken breast, head of lettuce, beets, dressing bottle, and a various fruits seems too costly: especially when having to just scrape by each week.

On another note, there is the issue of where we are going with regard to commercial agribusiness.

We have seen the horrors of certain pesticides and herbicides in the past. I understand the need to be at par with market conditions, most heavily dependent upon price, but we have to ask ourselves as a species if focusing on the commodity futures market’s time frame is more of a priority than the health of our world and our individual general health. We averted a near disaster with neonicotinoids as being a probable cause of colony collapse disorder in bees. This could have decimated the fruit industry in areas of Europe and the Americas. Now, we are seeing studies that could be disturbing to human health with the increasing use of a Monsanto product commonly referred to as RoundUp.

Monsanto genetically modified crops to be resistant to the herbicide RoundUp (glyphosate). In my opinion, RoundUp is a scorched earth herbicide that kills nearly everything, except the GMO crop that was engineered to resist the poison. I have read reports of RoundUp being linked to diseases in people.

Eco Watch published recently well referenced article referring to several conditions they allege to be caused by RoundUp exposure. Here is an excerpt:

ADHD: In farming communities, there’s a strong correlation between Roundup exposure and attention deficit disorder (ADHD), likely due to glyphosate’s capacity to disrupt thyroid hormone functions.

Alzheimer’s disease: In the lab, Roundup causes the same type of oxidative stress and neural cell death observed in Alzheimer’s disease. And it affects CaMKII, an enzyme whose dysregulation has also been linked to the disease.

Anencephaly (birth defect): An investigation into neural tube defects among babies born to women living within 1,000 meters of pesticide applications showed an association for glyphosate with anencephaly, the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull and scalp that forms during embryonic development.

Autism: Glyphosate has a number of known biological effects that align with the known pathologies associated with autism. One of these parallels is the gut dysbiosis observed in autistic children and the toxicity of glyphosate to beneficial bacteria that suppress pathogenic bacteria, along with pathogenic bacteria’s high resistance to glyphosate. In addition, glyphosate’s capacity to promote aluminum accumulation in the brain may make it the principal cause of autism in the U.S.

Birth defects: Roundup and glyphosate can disrupt the Vitamin A (retinoic acid) signaling pathway, which is crucial for normal fetal development. The babies of women living within one kilometer of fields sprayed with glyphosate were more than twice as likely to have birth defects according to a study from Paraguay. Congenital defects quadrupled in the decade after Roundup Ready crops arrived in Chaco, a province in Argentina where glyphosate is used roughly eight to ten times more per acre than in the U.S. A study of one farming family in the U.S. documented elevated levels of glyphosate and birth defects in the children, including an imperforate anus, growth hormone deficiency, hypospadias (an abnormally placed urinary hole), a heart defect and a micro penis.

Brain cancer: In a study of children with brain cancer compared with healthy children, researchers found that if either parent had been exposed to Roundup during the two years before the child’s birth, the chances of the child developing brain cancer doubled.

Breast cancer: Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors. The only long-term animal study of glyphosate exposure produced rats with mammary tumors and shortened life-spans.

Cancer: House-to-house surveys of 65,000 people in farming communities in Argentina where Roundup is used, known there as the fumigated towns, found cancer rates two to four times higher than the national average, with increases in breast, prostate and lung cancers. In a comparison of two villages, in the one where Roundup was sprayed, 31 percent of residents had a family member with cancer, while only 3 percent of residents in a ranching village without spraying had one. The high cancer rates among people exposed to Roundup likely stem from glyphosate’s known capacity to induce DNA damage, which has been demonstrated in numerous lab tests.

Celiac disease and gluten intolerance: Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems that are reminiscent of celiac disease. There are parallels between the characteristics of celiac disease and the known effects of glyphosate. These include imbalances in gut bacteria, impairment in enzymes involved with detoxifying environmental toxins, mineral deficiencies and amino acid depletion.

Chronic kidney disease: Increases in the use of glyphosate may explain the recent surge in kidney failure among agricultural workers in Central America, Sri Lanka and India. Scientists have concluded, “Although glyphosate alone does not cause an epidemic of chronic kidney disease, it seems to have acquired the ability to destroy the renal tissues of thousands of farmers when it forms complexes with [hard water] and nephrotoxic metals.”

Colitis: The toxicity of glyphosate to beneficial bacteria that suppress clostridia, along with clostridia’s high resistance to glyphosate, could be a significant predisposing factor in the overgrowth of clostridia. Overgrowth of clostridia, specifically C. difficile, is a well-established causal factor in colitis.

Depression: Glyphosate disrupts chemical processes that impact the production of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite and sleep. Serotonin impairment has been linked to depression.

Diabetes: Low levels of testosterone are a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Rats fed environmentally relevant doses of Roundup over a period of 30 days spanning the onset of puberty had reduced testosterone production sufficient to alter testicular cell morphology and to delay the onset of puberty.

Heart disease: Glyphosate can disrupt the body’s enzymes, causing lysosomal dysfunction, a major factor in cardiovascular disease and heart failure.

Hypothyroidism: House-to-house surveys of 65,000 people in farming communities in Argentina where Roundup is used, known there as the fumigated towns, found higher rates of hypothyroidism.

Inflammatory Bowl Disease (“Leaky Gut Syndrome”): Glyphosate can induce severe tryptophan deficiency, which can lead to an extreme inflammatory bowel disease that severely impairs the ability to absorb nutrients through the gut, due to inflammation, bleeding and diarrhea.

Liver disease: Very low doses of Roundup can disrupt human liver cell function, according to a 2009 study published in Toxicology.

Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS): Sulfate deficiency in the brain has been associated with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Glyphosate disrupts sulfate transport from the gut to the liver, and may lead over time to severe sulfate deficiency throughout all the tissues, including the brain.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS): An increased incidence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) has been found in association with MS. Glyphosate may be a causal factor. The hypothesis is that glyphosate-induced IBS causes gut bacteria to leak into the vasculature, triggering an immune reaction and consequently an autoimmune disorder resulting in destruction of the myelin sheath.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: A systematic review and a series of meta-analyses of nearly three decades worth of epidemiologic research on the relationship between non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticides found that B cell lymphoma was positively associated with glyphosate.

Parkinson’s disease: The brain-damaging effects of herbicides have been recognized as the main environmental factor associated with neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s disease. The onset of Parkinson’s following exposure to glyphosate has been well documented and lab studies show that glyphosate induces the cell death characteristic of the disease.

Pregnancy problems (infertility, miscarriages, stillbirths): Glyphosate is toxic to human placental cells, which, scientists say, explains the pregnancy problems of agricultural workers exposed to the herbicide.

Obesity: An experiment involving the transfer of a strain of endotoxin-producing bacteria from the gut of an obese human to the guts of mice caused the mice to become obese. Since glyphosate induces a shift in gut bacteria towards endotoxin-producers, glyphosate exposure may contribute to obesity in this way.

Reproductive problems: Studies of laboratory animals have found that male rats exposed to high levels of glyphosate, either during prenatal or pubertal development, suffer from reproductive problems, including delayed puberty, decreased sperm production, and decreased testosterone production.

Respiratory illnesses: House-to-house surveys of 65,000 people in farming communities in Argentina where Roundup is used, known there as the fumigated towns, found higher rates of chronic respiratory illnesses.

I have Parkinson’s Disease and I can tell you the condition is upsetting and frustrating. To read that others can develop this disease from simply consuming food is unconscionable and truly inhumane considering all the effort Monsanto and politicians put up to protect the chemicals that cause it. Why are we doing this to ourselves?

Monsanto denies that its product causes disease. Moreover it also claims GMO foods are safe. Apart from that argument that GMO is safe one then consider that with GMO foods it often follows that poisons come along for the ride.

Couple this with how governments, especially our own politicians, seem more than willing to do the bidding of Monsanto and other large food conglomerates to take choices away from the consumer, and to censor whether or not packaged and processed foods contain GMOs.

We featured an article in 2013 highlighting how a Washington State Citizen’s initiative to require GMO labeling of foods resulted in tens of millions of dollars poured in by a handful of large food and agribusiness corporations to defeat the process. Oregon faced a similar fight where the legislature voted to prohibit county governments from refusing the planting of GMO crops. Now, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to prohibit each of the states from enacting GMO labeling on foods. However, depending on the study followed, poll results show that between 60 and 73 percent of the public favors GMO labeling. Despite these clear majorities in the polls, politicians instead pay tribute toward their true constituencies in the matter, and it is not you and I as individuals. We do have government agencies such as the FDA and EPA, founded of course by politicians though legislation in the past. It is the lobbying of these agencies and many of our elected officials that do not have the capacity to say No to poor health and many environmental abuses. It became clear to me that..

You can no longer trust your health to elected officials. Self-reliance is your best option.

I have come to the firm conclusion that it is unfortunately folly to wait for change to happen. After decades of knowledge that certain food products are unhealthy, it was only this year that Trans-Fats–partially hydrogenated oils–were labeled by the FDA as being “food adulterants”, meaning that they can only be included in food with express permission of the FDA, effectively ending its wholesale inclusion in food. It is not enough to wait until this happens, your cardio-vascular system does not have that kind of time.

For myself, I made a commitment to my food health and that of my family. It really is not difficult and can be achieved through changes of expectations of food and to “go back to basics” as is often said of many things.

This is how I try to celebrate life through my food.

I prefer the Pescetarian Diet. Essentially this diet is a lacto-oval vegetarian with the inclusion of seafood. For the seafood I will only eat Wild Caught, mostly salmon, and occasionally other species of shellfish. Each year when the salmon season comes into being, I purchase an entire years supply for my family of fresh salmon, cut it up, and freeze it to be eaten for the next twelve months. I save great amounts of money in doing this as the price increases significantly throughout the year.

I purchase fish due to its inherent health benefits as well as because I enjoy it so much, but on the other hand I do not like what has happened with the beef and chicken industries. Did you know that much of the meat that you buy at grocery stores, specifically the kind provided from big food, has saline injected into it? The purpose behind this is it acts as a preservative and it adds weight to the meat. As previously mentioned with fillers, this is another form of filler to cut the production cost of the food and achieve a par market rate for meat. Most people would say no to the notion of having saline injected into their chicken breasts, that is why you have to practically have a magnifying glass to read the label where it reads that saline is put into the meat. As you know, excessive sodium leads to various pathologies and the water just rips you off.

Add this to all the other manifest reports of conditions of how animals are treated, antibiotics and other strangeness with food–land animals for me are best avoided. It is too easy and tempting for the producer to compromise the nutritional value.

Because of the vegetarian aspect of the pescetarian diet, it makes one more susceptible to impurities and adulterants added or used in the production of food. This is why I only buy organic foods. By federal law, an organic food cannot be a genetically modified product and must adhere to strict quality assurance to maintain trust and liquidity in this niche agribusiness. In doing this, expectations you might have will need to change.

You will need to understand that most organic foods will be smaller and not as pretty as corporate vegetables. Market forces and costs mean that you will pay more, though certainly not prohibitively so. But then you have to ask what “cost” means. Wealth doesn’t matter when your health is compromised.

Consider this: Why is it that we complain that the price of carrots costs a buck more per bag but we then go out to eat four days a week and spend fifteen dollars for one meal, or worse have fast food for eight bucks a meal and punish our bodies with junk food?

One truly rewarding source of food I just started using this year is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). In short this is a local farm, run by locals, and shipped to locals. Their food is completely organic and GMO free. It is harvested and goes straight into boxes for each of the customers. It cuts out all the middlemen such as brokers, fruit sheds, and retailers. Each of these takes a big cut at each level. The farmer gets less in return. For me I bought one “share” for five hundred dollars. This provides my wife and I with vegetables from late May until the end of October. I can tell you, the food quality is fantastic. It tastes much, much better than what you can buy at the big box stores. The taste alone is worth it as you get a variety of interesting vegetables. You eat according to the season, which is what humanity did until relatively recently. Moreover, it keeps money in the local economy. I also like the idea of small owner-operated businesses. I also shop at the Mennonite store several miles away.

So I will conclude with a quick guide that has worked for me, it might be different of course for you based upon your situation.

  • Pescetarian diet
  • Organic, non-GMO fruits & vegetables
  • No food from China, which has had issues with quality
  • use high quality olive oil
  • Do not add salt to food or consume salty foods
  • Avoid refined sugars
  • Do not consume fruit juices (they’re loaded with sugar)
  • Drink water instead of pop, coffee, milk and such with meals
  • Make food from scratch, enjoy cooking, it is Life!
  • Avoid completely processed foods
  • Generally, consider a nutrition label on a food product as a warning label. Buy whole foods instead
  • limit grains and breads
  • limit milk products
  • Only eat at restaurants on a seldom basis. Remember, restaurant food tends to be made of cheaper, wholesale food: even at more expensive restaurants. It also tends to be high in sodium and fats. Restaurants do try to give the best for their customers, most of them at least, but costs and market conditions often influence them otherwise.
  • Enjoy food, for those who believe it is one of God’s gifts of life.

My hope is that you and all peoples will enjoy the great bounty and variety of foods the various parts of the world have to offer you. It is a healthy choice if we can accept alternatives to what modern life forces upon us. Every culture and people contribute to us all with their culinary tastes. We can share a table with each other in sharing these gifts.

Every one of us can share something for the benefit others. My contribution is to suggest wearing a pair of cheap swimming goggles while slicing onions; you can then say goodbye to stinging, watery eyes.

bon appétit !

By Darren Smith


Eco Watch

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

42 thoughts on “Returning To Basics: Thinking Of Food As Life”

  1. Karen, Love the idea. I subbed home economics a few times. Waffle day was not pretty! I learned to always pair boys w/ girls.

  2. Nick – My perfect home ec required course would include school gardens, where the kids grow the veggies, and then prepare them for lunch. It would also have a section on how to draw up a budget and stick to it, the mathematics of interest compared with buying with cash, and how to stay out of debt.

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