The joke: HEAVEN is where the French are the chefs, the Germans build the cars, the Italians are the lovers, the English are the police and the Swiss make it all run on time. But HELL is where the English are the chefs, Germans are the police, French build the cars, Swiss are the lovers and Italians try to keep it on time. Oh, profiling! Don’t you love it?
According to the joke, English gustatory sense leaves much on the table. With the possible exception of shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, and various beers, the stereotype is accurate. English food is not an epicurean’s delight. That’s why publishing a study on food in the British Medical Journal is the ultimate irony.
Webwide headlines spouted something like this: “Healthy Eating Adds $2K Yearly to Family Food Bills.” Let’s ignore the further irony that a journal published in the country lending its name to the language blithely misuses the word “healthy.” (For the record, a diet, habit, food or any other thing cannot be “healthy.” Things are healthful. People and living beings are healthy. There is a grammatical difference. Thanks, Amy.)
So, triple-stink on the BMJ article: It abuses the language, the research is inherently flawed (more on that), and it’s an English publication covering food! (In fairness, the primary researcher lives in Boston.)
Real food v. faux food Here’s one weakness of the meta-analysis and the sweeping statement that a healthful diet costs more. The researchers used antiquated institutional definitions of healthful diets, based in some cases on caloric intake. Think for a moment: skinless chicken will have far fewer calories than regular. Therefore, it will take more skinless chicken breast to reach 200 kcal than fattier, skin-on chicken. The study also defines “healthy food” in an antiquated way, ignoring such realities that nutrients are the point, not calories; there are good fats and bad fats and many other outlier nutritional realities. The research also compares fast food meals versus home cooked. Of course a 99-cent burger is cheap. But a 99-cent burger isn’t really food anyway, in any sensible definition of the term.
This debate that healthful or organic food costs more has been going on for years and it’s complete nonsense. Is an organic box of juicy-juice for your kid going to cost more than a conventional one? Absolutely! But an organic juice box is junk food just as much as the conventional cheaper version. Neither one should be going into your shopping cart. If you buy organic processed food you’re going to get high-priced processed food! But if you buy produce in season, wisely and only pay for organic when it’s necessary, you can eat a nutritious and poison-free diet for the same cost or less than a supermarket spree. With meats and animal protein, healthful versions are nutrient-dense so require less per meal. A healthful diet should be less meat-centric.
Pay me now or pay me later, or “Spend less on food, spend more on healthcare.” What you should know: a healthful diet does not have to cost more than a standard American diet. In fact, it can often be less. Secondly, such a study ignores that in the long term, eating a cheap-food diet will cost you much more in healthcare dollars and years off your life.
Forty years ago, Americans spent roughly 20 percent of our income on food and 10 percent on healthcare. Now, those numbers are reversed. We have cheap food but spend twice as much on healthcare. If food prices exploded as much as healthcare costs have since 1945, a dozen eggs in 2013 would be $55! So much for stupid, misleading headlines.
Healthful holiday food faves. Everyone has favorite foods over the holiday season. Which should be organic or a smarter choice?
Turkey Commercial turkeys are cheap but barely qualify as food: raised in horrible conditions, pumped full of questionable feeds and with chemicals injected into the muscle before market. Cheap commercial turkeys are “enhanced” with “flavorful brine” injected into the carcass. Conversely, a pastured, well-fed, humanely raised turkey from a reputable farmer will cost more. In this case, you get what you pay for. And while we’re at it, are you using it wisely? Do you toss the carcass or do you simmer it in a stainless steel stockpot for several hours extracting delicious, nutritious broth for turkey vegetable soup, rich in calcium and minerals from that noble bird?
Cranberries The cranberry is a holiday delight when simmered with sugar and jellied up. Cranberries are packed with phytonutrients, antioxidants and Vitamin C. They help prevent cancers, urinary tract infections, ulcers and more. But conventional cranberries are pesticide-polluted Christmas crops. Buy the organic ones.
Sweet potatoes Truly a superfood. Bake them until soft then scoop out the inside and you’ve got instant mashed with all the nutrients that are ordinarily boiled out otherwise. Samples show 18 pesticides on conventional so buy organic.
Celery Good flavors, good stuff but conventional has 67 pesticides in the test sample. Go organic.
For more food info, visit ewg.org.
Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit HeartlandHealing.com for more information.