Health: What are you putting in your mouth ?

It makes good common sense that good nutrition is the foundation of good health; we truly are what we eat.

Whenever I drink a cola, which is rarely, I look at the black bubbling concoction and wonder what my ancestors might have thought of it, and if they would have considered it actual food. I have also wondered how the foods I buy at the grocery store can be a week old (at least), and still considered to be fresh. I also wonder what happens when to food when it becomes ‘processed’.

As I sit back and think about the modern cycle of growing, processing and distributing food, I cringe, wondering how what ends up in my body affects everything, from my weight and my mood, to my current and future health.  Even when I leave meats out of the conversation (and what cooking does to the nutrients in vegetables), and focus just on raw vegetables, I still find the current state of food production and preservation alarming.

When looking at items grown in soil, most farms will fertilize with nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Each of these three nutrients plays a critical role in plant growth; however the soil requires approximately 52 different minerals to restore it to its natural state. Generally, these additional minerals have not existed in most farmed soils for over a generation. As a result we are most likely missing rich minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, etc. in the foods that we are eating.  Modern farms are producing the food we eat with nutrient deficient soil. So we are eating deficient produce, which then leads to a major toxicity problem.

Plants have their own defense against diseases, pests and fungus. When soil is deficient, plants are also weak and deficient, and more vulnerable to attacks by pests and fungus. Farmers combat this problem by treating their crops with toxic pesticides and herbicides. So when grown foods come off the fields, they are already infused with toxins. We have not even considered what might be caused by processing food, and the 10,000 chemicals that are approved by the FDA as being a “safe” food additive.

Looking just at the vegetables we eat, we are in a situation where our nutrition-deficient food has added toxins from pesticides and herbicides, and has added chemicals added during processing.

What we end up with from conventional farming is not just poor soil health and poor plant health, but our food supply becoming deficient and toxic, leading to our bodies becoming deficient and toxic. Even when we think we are eating a balanced diet, our bodies may actually be deficient in nutrients.

So WTF can we do?

There is a ton of information everywhere, and it often conflicts. Finding unbiased info is almost impossible. I have found this site (although heavy with ads and product promotion, and pretty difficult to maneuver) to be a very good jumping-off point for information and discussion on nutrition and eating healthy.


There are 17 comments

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  1. Eric

    Take a multi. I’m a trainer going for nutrition certification and I tell everyone I consult with at the gym to add a multivitamin to their breakfast, regardless of age. They’re not just for old guys!

    Also, many of us are deficient in Vitamin D, which can lead to a host of ugly health problems. One of the main sources of this vitamin, which I read is actually a hormone, is the sun. A typical weekday for many guys: work, then to the gym, maybe a happy hour, then home…all INDOORS! Even in the summer if we vacation, a lot of us slather on the sunscreen. Sunscreen blocks vitamin D absorption. I take in about 1200 IU daily between my multi, D supplement and food (milk, yogurt, some fish). Get some sun in the warmer months! Wait until you’ve had about 15 minutes of sun, then apply your sunscreen.

    I would compare vitamin D to EFA’s; your body needs it but doesn’t make it on it’s own (without sun). Make sure you take in sufficient amounts to keep healthy. Doctors are tracing many illnesses (colon & bone cancers, dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc.) to D deficiency.

  2. MarcBerm

    Well, this makes it sound pretty friggin bleak.

    I get where you’re coming from, Stephen, I really do, but…

    Things that are mass-produced are cheaper, and in this economy, that is a distinction that makes a huge difference.

    I try to grow some of my own vegetables, and shop natural and organic when I can. The gardening takes time and expertise that many folks don’t have, and shopping organic typically costs more money.

    The simple fact is that something needs to be sacrificed somewhere. You can’t have perfect produce and pay the low prices American’s have become accustomed to paying. America’s (and the world’s) current need for food could simply not be met through traditional farming, and I’d rather see people eating mass-produced produce, than go hungry.

  3. Geoff

    You food people are ridiculous. The easiest way to tell if something works is the results, and there have never been as many people not starving to death as there are now. The whole “cooked food/chemicals in them” thing is pure contrariness on your part because you have a good life and need something to bitch about. If you had your way the earth would be mostly un-populated because, well most of us live in places that don’t grow the food we like and need. I live in Colorado, if I had to live off of what was able to be grown around here I would be incredibly malnourished just like the people that lived off the land before me were. The past is the past and we have progressed because it was better!

  4. Marty

    Great essay.
    Would like to see a follow up, part 2, addressing the other things we put in our mouths. You know what I’m talking about.

  5. tlwggn

    Very thought provoking. AND, you didn’t even hint at the large proportion of our food that is bought out of the country where there are little or no regulations. Reminds me of the ban on an infant formula that proved to be causing brain damage because of it’s deficiencies, that was sold anyway, just to a foreign country back in the late 70’s. Big money and government are not our friends. Now we are being bombarded with the much touted “organics” at exorbitant prices. Is there anyone out there dumb enough to think that NOT adding pesticides and chemicals is somehow more expensive than buying and applying these products?….duh Guess it’s the cynical farmboy coming out in me….lol

  6. Jake

    Your comment about pesticides being toxic is a bit over-generalizing. There have been some pesticides deemed non-toxic. Additionally one can modify a crop to be stronger against pests, this is normally done through genetic modification. But be careful about making the comment of pesticides being toxic. Some are, but all are not.

  7. joe randall

    A more important subject regarding what you are putting in your mouth may be that most gay men don’t seem to know that a person can get squamous cell oral cancer from giving oral sex due to some penises and anuses that have the undetectible HPV virus. Except for some varities of anal warts, there isn’t any detectable way to determine if your partner has hpv. So gay men take a serious risk when giving unprotected oral sex. Squamous cell cancer has a high US mortality rate (ALmOST 50% during the first 5 years), AIDS is now treatable as a cronic illness.

  8. Donnie

    No doubt, more truth to the amount of different pesticides and herbicides, we inhale daily, take a look around, were in a era of “lazy fat america”, 70 million people in this country are obeast, only because of processed foods, bad enough when we cook at home, no-less have no idea what were eating at fast food and eating establishments. Being a single gay man, (like most here) grow a small garden, the only ammendment to the soils is maybe a boost of compost or ashes from the wood burner, plus a boost of nitrogen when the veggies are developing, no sprays or poison. Nothing more safe than to be eating your own produce, which freezes very well into the next growing season, I’m from michigan short season, throw in a deer or two(leanest meat)and you’ve beat the processors and label makers out of millions. One can not believe labels of contents, my thoughts are, grow it,harvest it, freeze it and then enjoy it without worry.

  9. D. Saint

    ..the ultimate question is:

    “what can we do about this, Stephan?”

    we, for all 8+billion of us?

    can all omnivores on this planet own their own livestock?
    can all herbivores grow their own produce?

  10. Guy

    What a terribly naive and misguided treatment of a subject which you clearly know just enough about to be dangerously authoritative.

    I agree that there is something wrong with parts of our food system. But put the blame where it belongs. The influence of giant multinational food companies that produce everything from bread to plastic bottles from corn; who have filled the freezer section of your grocery store with vile concoctions of frozen deserts – posing as ice cream, 90% of which are fake chocolate variations of air-whipped cow lard, and less than 5% contain anything nutritious – like fruit. Some mislead you to believe they have fruit ingredients, but if you look at the label its mostly colored corn syrup. But guess what? It’s YOU THE CONSUMER who flocks to this section of the store to fatten up on these disgusting “treats”.

    Now let’s go to the produce section of the store. Well first off – if it wasn’t for conventional farming there would be no produce section, in fact you wouldn’t be in a grocery store, if you were alive at all in your fairyland utopia, you’d likely be a farmer, as would about 50% of the population, because if conventional farming were abandoned and organic farming took it’s place there simply wouldn’t be a way to sustain the current proportion of the population that have been freed from the land to be city dwellers.

    Secondly, how on earth do you think farmers, conventional or organic, could make a living growing crops on nutrient deficient soils? No, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus are NOT the only things that farmers must fertilize their fields with to replace the nutrients removed by crops. In fact crops wouldn’t grow and farmers wouldn’t survive the intense competition amongst produce growers and suppliers world-wide if they didn’t provide nutrients to the soil in balanced and available forms. And not to just sustain the crop but to produce bountiful amounts of the best tasting, nutritionally wholesome food this world has EVER experienced. Farmers adjust at least 13 nutrients in the soil with every new season, and many add materials rich in non- essential elements, while the soil itself produces 100s of tons of new nutrients per hectare per year just through the natural process of weathering. So, no, conventional agriculture does not deplete soils, cheat crop plants, or cause world malnutrition!! Quite the opposite, farmers know that if they are to keep the family farm and pass it on (and about 90% of fresh produce farms are family farms in the USA) they must and DO farm using sustainable practices. And every year they produce the bountiful, healthy, extraordinarily affordable fresh produce. Fresher than at any time in history (just 100 years ago you would be going to the basement cellar around now to get some preserved vegetables and fruits that were from last summer – and at the risk you may get botulism and die, there was no fresh produce available in the winter in most of the USA – just a couple generations ago!) Produce that is pesticide-free, and looking at the comments here a probably should write another long essay on the multiple safety controls that are in place, by law and to meet the grocery chains specific requirements to ensure all your food is pesticide free.

    Lastly, am keenly interested in human nutrition and have no vested interest in the produce industry. I own no land, nor am I invested in any food industry stock. However, I know it very well since I have spent the last 20 years as a professional in public service working with pear, apple and cherry farmers in the Pacific Northwest, as well as citrus avocado, grape, kiwifruit and date farmers in California. As a public employee I have never earned a great salary, but it’s been immensely satisfying to help family farmers stay on their land and produce exceptionally nutritious incredibly affordable fresh produce. I hold PhD in Horticultural Science and Plant Physiology from one of the first Land Grant Universities in the USA, Virginia Tech, one of the many Land Grant institutions that is responsible for developing the technologies of today’s modern agriculture. Agriculture that has freed you to live in the city, and write naive, misinformed blogs about food.

  11. Diego

    Great post! Check out growing power out in milwaukee. Wil allen has been a huge innovator in developing ways to feed people with no access to healthy food, mainly people of color. Working on this stuff is my full time job no joke. Love to see it popping up here as well.

  12. Eddie

    Take it from someone who had a 1st career in farming and a second in horticulture and, like you, defended pesticides as necessary. Still a horticulturist and I think people would be devastated if they knew the truth about toxicity levels and what is is doing to soil, ecosystem, human and animal health. I look at it this way, in the 40+ years I have been in either of these pesticide prevalent careers (and have used most of them!, EVERY pesticide they have told us was safe at the time ends up being taken off the market because it is discovered to have harmful effects on something. Look at the recent research on the most commonly used consumer herbicide, Round-Up being indiscriminately sprayed by homeowners with no protective clothing or eye wear – the effects on liver, heart and kidneys is alarming and it won’t be long before this “harmless” pesticide joins a LONG, LONG list. We are also the only country that has banned DDT – we know the harmful effects of that chemical – long-established – and guess what percentage of your vegetables and fruits are coming from countries that still use it – and not just a little! I am not an alarmist but I AM in a career where I know the truth about what these chemicals are doing to environment, water safety, & human and animal health.

  13. Eddie

    Oh and as follow-up to the same post, most genetic modification in food crops has not been for resistance to insect or dieease damage, it has been to make that particular crop resistant to a chemical being applied to that crop so it kills weeds and not the crop – the most prevalent is Round-Up ready crops – that means you can spray all the Round-Up you want on a corn or soybean crop to kill weeds and not the corn or soybeans. This has INCREASED herbicide use, as you can imagine.

  14. Jason

    For the most part I feel gay men could care less what they put in thier bodies and seem to joke about people who actually do. It seems there is a cult mentality among Gay men that if something goes wrong the doctors will have a pill for that.

    I am gay, I am a veg, and I don’t do vaccines or any part of pharma. I also limit what I drink and I work out. The result is I am healthier than anyone I know gay or otherwise.

    Being healthy is not hard, don’t let anyone tell you different!

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