Monday, July 18, 2011

The Foundations: Food

I haven't really wanted to talking about my personal food philosophy, but I am starting to realize that so many of the things I would like to tell you about won't make any sense to you unless you understand some of the background thinking and research that I have been doing for the last four or five years. I want you to understand that the changes and understanding came slowly, and the choices we are making now as a family reflect a fairly long process of life change.
Grilled cheese with turkey and apple slices
To start off, if this information is new and shocking for you, then don't make any sudden life changes, especially big ones. Remember to always keep your priorities straight, and don't let food come before God or your family. Ever. Period.
Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.
1 Corinthians 6:13

So with that disclaimer lets dive right in. I come from a family that is pretty health conscious. My mom mainly cooked from scratch and taught us to do the same, really cooking not just following recipes. We didn't eat a lot of sugar, and I remember often wondering why I couldn't just be like the other kids have fruit roll-ups and gummy snacks in my lunch. I was almost an adult before I ever took any antibiotics, because mom always took care of our colds at home. So I thought I was pretty healthy, as far as lifestyles goes. But I was always sick. Always. Anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact. I got whooping cough at 24. Seriously. This and the fact that I was becoming a wife and mother spurred a deeper interest in researching and understanding the foods I ate. I was surprised to learn when I was already pregnant what a large roll the foods I (and my husband) ate BEFORE I was pregnant would play in the overall development and healthy of my future children. I would HIGHLY recommend the documentary The Ghost in Your Jeans, as a way to help you understand how the choices you make today (not just food, but so many choices) affect not just your children, but directly link to many generations after you. You can watch much of this documentary for free on YouTube, in little ten minute segments. This is a slight rabbit trail, but it is very interesting to watch it in light of verses like: Ex 34:7 and 1Cor 6:16-18. So we all have the opportunity to heal and harm the genetics we have and will pass onto our children. I started to realize how wide ranging the ramifications of my choices could be. In addition to that, as a wife and a mother I am the gate keep of my family's health, a job I take very seriously. Good healthy is a gift that cannot be bought, and is a huge asset if used properly in the kingdom of God. Generally speaking my kids will only eat as good as I allow. My kids can't make their own dinner, and even if they could they wouldn't have the wisdom to make choices that would bless them.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
1Corinthians 6:19 & 20

So this obviously brings us to the questions what is healthy food? First eggs would kill you science said, then they are the amazing miracle food. Some people think being a vegan is healthy. Others think eating a high protein (low-carb) diet is healthy. Some think fats are bad, or salt is bad, or...the list could go on and on. There are so many opinions out there, and there is a lot of propaganda, a lot of flaky "science". So how do you know what to believe?
That's a tough questions and one I have asked myself and other quite frequently. The best answer I have found is to hold it up to the light of God's word, which might sound kind of obtuse, when it comes to something like food science, but the Bible has an amazing way of keeping us balanced and helping us to keep our world in perspective. It also talks a lot about food. Second I have learned to question my sources. I learned that food manufacturing is THE largest industry in the US. Stop for just a second and mull that over. The largest in of the wealthiest nations in the world. We are talking about a lot of money.
It's easy for us as modern day Americans to think that science is this unbiased, factual, objective machine, and that my friends is a load of bull crap. Everyone has a history and we all view the "facts" through that history. Science is no exception. You know this if you have looked honestly and openly at the science behind evolution. Science can have an agenda just like everything else, and most of them time that agenda doesn't really care about what is best for you.
"A good example is Harvard University where Dr. Frederick Stare, head of the nutrition department for many years, began his career with several articles delineating nutritional deficiencies caused by white flour and a study on Irish brothers that positively correlated a high intake of vegetable oils-not animal fats-with heart disease. Soon after he became department head, however, the university received several important grants from the food procession industry. Dr. Stare's articles and weekly newspaper columns then began assuring the public that there was nothing wrong with white bread, sugar and high processed foods. He recommended one cup of corn oil per day to prevent heart disease..." Nourishing Traditions.
So there is a LOT of money to be made or lost depending on what you believe and what those beliefs will cause to you to do, because it reaches into money made off of our poor health as well. Understanding that fact will help you to filter in the information you come across. The main aim of the food industry is to make money. Not to keep you healthy, not to say that they are all evil and want to make you sick (though I'm sure that is the aim of some), but that your healthy is not their main goal.
For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil...
1Timothy 6:10

When I was trying to sort out all of these issues, I kept running across references to the book Nourishing Traditions. I hear about it on People's Pharmacy, from healthy nuts, from bloggers, from religious conservatives. It seemed to be popping up everywhere. So I decided to get a copy. Much of the book is simply a cook book, but it has a lot to say about food science and seems to be a very well researched fairly well balanced book. You can read a shortened version called Healthy 4 Life for free here. Other resources that affected my thinking include the documentaries King Corn, Food Inc., and Super Size Me. I also have found Real Food by Jessie Hawkins to be helpful. All of these resources have their own agendas and biases. It's important in any issue to listen to the arguments at both extremes. 
More more than any of these, it has been simply paying attention to the world around me. It was hearing it a news cast that Toco Bell was being sued because their all beef tacos because they contain more "meat filler" than beef. Or learning from neighbors and friends who raise cattle that they had problems with some sick cow (often times it was cancer) and would take it to be slaughtered. I finally asked (fearfully) if the meat from a sick cow was set aside for non-human consumption. I was told according to the law if the cow could walk it could be eaten (though they did tell me the cancer spots where cut out...not that this helps me much). Yum! It was hearing stories from the chicken processing plants in the town where my parents lived (I talked about some of them at the end of this post). It was reading about the link between a low fat diet and depression. It was hearing from a friend that her daughter had constant yeast infections until they switched to organic milk. If you want to be healthy you have to learn to think for yourself. You have to learn to pay attention to the world around you. Learn to learn. Knowledge is power! You can't blindly trust the world around you with no ramifications. The world does not have your best interest at heart, not in any area.
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.
Matthew 10:16
I know, this was a lot of some of you take in. Lord willing next time we visit this topic I'll try share some of the concrete conclusions I have come to about our diet and life style, and what it means for our family, but I know that our diet will continue to change as our understanding changes, and as we learn more.


  1. This article really captured my interest and it was very thorough. I now follow a whole foods diet after looking out my back window onto fields being sprayed and began wondering where my food came from and if it had any of that stuff on it. I wouldn't even let the kids out to play while it was being sprayed, but I'd eat it? I try to think logically about all my food choices. I also read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver and that really opening my eyes too. Thank you for sharing this great article with us :)

  2. Thank you! I really hoped it would be useful to someone, and I tried really hard to be balanced. I know of the book you mentioned, but haven't read it. I read about 1/4 of "The Omnivore's Dilemma"...but didn't get to finish because of being pregnant and moving at the time. So I don't know the book well enough to recommend it, but did find it useful.