Taking Root #18

Nov. 19, 2014

Taking Root

What the heck are we eating?

By Gini Bramlett

For the Calapooia Food Alliance

Recently, I watched a program on the History Channel about the history of opium, morphine and finally heroin, and its effects on various cultures over the centuries, and even more so, the 20th century. I was particularly amazed to learn that when morphine was first introduced it became part of the mainstream as a common ingredient in early 20th century “medicines.” The public was grateful for something to alleviate pain and suppress coughs, for sleep aids and any other illnesses/issues that drug manufacturers could think of to sell more medicines.

Being ignorant of the serious side effects (manufacturers were just as unaware as the consumer, at least to start with) problems arose. Babies spent much of their infancies in oblivious stupors from their nursing mothers taking “medicine” to get them through sleepless nights, and factory workers were given remedies for aches and pains to keep production up, resulting in a good part of the population in the U.S. functioning on morphine. Labeling regulations were soon instituted.

I know that comparing this to what now constitutes food might seem far-fetched to some, it is not all that far off track. So much of what is eaten every day in this country comes from a sealed package loaded with sodium, chemicals, corn syrup, sugar, and various other unpronounceable ingredients that most of us have no idea what the short- and long-term effect could be.

We are seeing the long term effects of this kind of diet all around us right now. You don’t even have to read statistics, just look around you and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.

Growing up in the Midwest, rarely were kids overweight. Most of us were slim and got plenty of exercise. Now, the percentage of the youth I see who are overweight astounds me. Don’t tell me it isn’t their diet, or at least a good part of their diet. What in heaven’s name are we feeding our kids?

Take a good look at the ingredients list on the back of some of the processed foods in your pantry or on a grocer’s shelves. What the heck is ferric orthophosphate, and what is it doing in a package of chicken and mushroom rice? Even just the line “contains artificial flavors” should garner suspicion. What are those and are they good for us? I sincerely doubt it, but that’s my opinion.

Cancer is rampant. In spite of all the research and the advances with treatments, cancer still touches most of our lives. When I had cancer, according to the American Cancer Association one in four would be touched by cancer. Now, only eight years later, that stat is higher.

I believe cancer has been around long before we started manipulating our food, but in spite of medical advances, the numbers are still on the rise. Is what we eat part of the problem? I believe it is, and I am a survivor, so I feel I have the right to speak my opinion.

I researched some of the mostly-unpronounceable words I found on package backs and found that many, eaten in small quantities are said to be pretty safe (I might debate that), but that large amounts could be dangerous, especially to babies, nursing mothers and those who may be ill. Don’t like that either. Some of the other ingredients added up to salts and various relatively unpronounceable words such as disodium inosinate and tocopherals (preservative).

Now let’s look at the sodium levels in processed foods; just a ½ cup serving of processed packaged instant mashed potatoes contains 390 mg of sodium. The Institute of Medicine recommends that 1,500 mg. of salt per day is adequate for most adults. You do the math. I think I’ll cook my own potatoes, thank you.

I guess this column boils down to what I have been saying all along. Eat real food! It’s as simple as that. Grow a garden or buy your produce at a farm market or somewhere that sells healthier foods. Read the labels and make better choices. 

Next Munch Night is Friday, November 21 from 6-9pm at The Corner Café in Brownsville. This month the film is “Learning from Nature” a collection of short films. Janine Benyus shares her experience with “biomimicry” where we can learn from designs in nature, and Paul Staments shares how mushrooms can save the world.

Come and enjoy a home cooked meal, a stimulating film followed by a lively discussion and good company. Donation of $10 is suggested. All are invited.

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