Is There Any Truly “Healthy” Food Left In America?
You carefully read the food labels at the supermarket, looking for only the healthiest ingredients. You scour the grocery store for the word “organic” (while turning a blind eye to the usually higher price). You even make it a point to buy cage-free eggs.
But the truth is, finding high-quality, health-promoting food isn’t easy. And it goes beyond food that’s chemical-free and organic. We’re talking about accessing food that has a decent nutritional profile, including vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting compounds that can help prevent disease, aid in workout recovery, and give a boost to looking your best. Finding truly healthy food starts with knowing where to get it, how to determine which food has the best quality, and how you can incorporate healthy food into your daily life.
The Impact Of Soil Quality On Food
Nearly all organic crops sold at the supermarket, even at high-end places like Whole Foods, come from single-crop farming systems, which means a single crop is grown on acre after acre after acre. Basically, it’s factory farming with organic pesticides.
With a single crop system, the soil doesn’t have the biodiversity needed to sustain a rich, healthy soil food web, and biodiversity equals healthy soil. Nutrients are absorbed by the plant roots, which can eventually leave the soil completely void of nutrient content. Simply put: Crops that don’t have the nutrients to be healthy can’t provide those nutrients for you to be healthy. In addition, crops that aren’t healthy attract pests, which then require the use of pesticides. All of which means that single-crop products can lack the nutritious value you’re looking for.
Age Can Affect Crops
After the crop is picked from the root, the nutritional profile of that crop begins to decay and lose nutritional value day after day. The crop you purchase at the supermarket could be a few days or a few weeks old; some produce, like apples, can be even months old before they hit the grocery store shelf. Because aging crops offer decreased nutritional value, they’re basically just empty calories – even if certified organic.
You may be surprised to learn that Whole Foods produce is typically nutritionally inferior to that of Walmart. Why? According to Dan Kittredge, executive director of Bionutrient Food Association, the supply chain at Whole Foods is slower and the produce you see sold at Whole Foods typically comes from the same exact farms that sells to Walmart. But since the supply chain at Whole Foods is slower, their produce might be 5-10 days old when it hits the shelves, whereas Walmart, with its faster supply chain, could be offering crops and produce just 2-3 days old.
America is the only country that allows hydroponic crops to be certified and sold as organic. Hydroponics involves growing crops without soil and in containers where nutrients are fed through an IV drip system. Chances are that the tomatoes, blueberries, and bell peppers sold at your grocery store are hydroponically grown – yes, even the organic ones.
Given that the earth has gone through 4.5 billion years of extremely complicated evolution to form the type of soil we have today and that allows the growth of certain crops, substituting hydroponics for soil doesn’t seem like a particularly good idea. Bypassing soil nutrients probably surely won’t add to the nutritional component of crops.
When it comes to small farms and produce from farmer’s markets, finding high-quality foods can be hit or miss. You don’t know what practices the farmer is employing in terms of crop growth, what the soil consists of, and if pesticides are used. You can, however, take some steps that will provide you with more information and enable you to make better choices. You can some tools to assist you such a refractometer, spectrometer, or a microscope.
With a refractometer, you can squeeze the juice of a certain crop and the reading will indicate the crop’s nutrition density. One negative: You have to buy the produce before you test it, so if you decide the nutritional density isn’t to your liking, you’re still stuck with the product.
Supplied by bionutrient.org, a spectrometer allows you to scan the crop and access the nutritional profile of that crop right at the store. You can use it at the supermarket or a farmer’s market before you make the purchase.
You can purchase a microscope, go to the farm where you’d like to purchase some produce, ask for a soil sample, and test that soil at home. Keep in mind that soil quality changes throughout the year and that soil quality ratings differ depending on crop type.
Free-Range, Organic Eggs
Let’s take a look at what “free-range” actually means. When you see “free-range” on an egg carton, it basically means factory farmed, which means the eggs (even if they’re labeled organic) came from an operation that houses 50,000 or more hens that roam “free” on a concrete square for “x” amount of hours daily.
An undercover investigation conducted by Direct Action Everywhere revealed the industry norm: Typically, 99% of the hens are kept inside while a mere handful are allowed to walk around on a small outdoor concrete pad. Raising hens indoors necessitates that the farmer bring food to the hens, instead of hens eating from natural food sources outdoors such as bugs and insects. As a result, hens’ diets consist mainly of corn, soy, and other grains that destroy the nutritional profile of the egg.
When chickens are fed primarily grains, it significantly increases the omega-6 content of their meat, which can then cause inflammation in those who consume it. Some research has indicated that more than 90 percent of all diseases arise from chronic inflammation. All of which means that when you purchase and consume chicken that you believe is health-promoting, you could actually be promoting an increase in your body’s inflammation.
Truly pasture-raised hens roam outside 365 days a year and are rotated onto fresh, well-managed land daily, allowing them access to worms, insects, and nutrients found naturally in the ground. Pasture-raised hens produce nutrient-rich eggs, all with the added bonus of living a healthy, peaceful life.