GMOs, Heavily Processed Foods, and the COVID pandemic – Oh, my!

What do all of these have in common? I’ll give you a hint — our government’s excuse for posterity, health, and economic renewal. “But wait” — you ask — “the COVID pandemic has only been around for a year so how does that relate?”. Keep reading to find out more.

In my previous journal post, I touched on GMO foods and how they came to be in this country. GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are living organisms that have had their DNA modified through natural (pollen to flower) or lab-induced mutation (syringe and RNA injection). GMO foods were introduced to the United States in the 1970’s originally, under the guise of normal crop seeds for farmers. These genetic modifications weren’t approved until the 1980’s for consumer consumption. To add, television dinners were also coming into the foreground of the food supply at this time. I remember my parents talking about these TV dinners mostly as “special treats” when their families had money to splurge on a pre-made concession. Mind you, this was also a time when the husband and wife were out of the house more, compared to the 1950’s and prior where the wife was at home most often. My parents also had decent sized families, my mom with three sisters and dad with one sister, so having more mouths to feed meant saving wherever the family could was worth every penny. In perspective, this meant minimal meals outside or not from the home. For other families that were able to splurge or didn’t share the same values as my parents’ families, pre-made processed foods were a regular staple in those homes.

Processing of whole foods began this monopolized lifestyle, one which influences sloth and complacency over tradition and wholesome nutrition. I speak with the utmost sincerity when I say that I have fallen one too many times into this societal pitfall of convenience foods. However, my passion for food allows me to pull myself out of that rut, realizing that the positive experience with food I get is from enjoying the food from seed or farmer’s market to table. Even when I was working two jobs and had college classes, I still found time to made homemade meals. It breaks my heart to hear individuals declare that they don’t have time or the skills or the ability to cook wholesome meals at home. Not because I have sympathy for lacking skills, but for our known traditions, culinary rituals, and agricultural symbiosis that continues dwindling at an alarming rate in this country.

I remember hearing stories from my parents about going to the local butcher in town, picking produce from the farm, and — my personal favorite — the milkman. How vintage, having parents who grew up with milkmen delivering milk. But there was more of a connection there than picking up a gallon at the local Wal-Mart, not thinking twice while you step out of self check-out how many cows’ milk is in that one container. There is more connection with purchasing directly from your local agriculture producer than supporting big-chain grocery store monopolies. Furthermore, you won’t know anything about that product other than it came from the store. There is no connection to the Earth or understanding of how our food arrive to the table. Without this appreciation for food, we fail to fully recognize our bodies’ nutrition needs. We fail to be compassionate for the farmer’s who don’t have a day off during the year growing their crops to feed the public. We fail to have perspective for our health through our everyday nutrition intake (what we eat).

Allow me to frame this very real scenario for you. You go to the mass-chain grocery store to pick up food for the week, right? Probably not reading the nutrition label on everything that has one to ensure all ingredients are genuine, no artificial items, and making sure that all products are GMO-free, possibly organic (organic does not mean GMO-free, and vice versa — I’ll cover this in a future journal). There is most likely some form of heavily processed product in that shopping cart, like vegetable chips or snack cakes. If you have a well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables, then your cart may have more fresh produce. Did you happen to see where that produce came from? Apples from Washington? Limes from Mexico? Strawberries from California? So not only are you contributing to purchasing these “mystery meat” products from the store, but now you’re filling the pockets of everyone else, aka the middle men, except for your local producers. Plus this eliminate a centuries own tradition on seasonal growing, which should be a massively followed trend as it was many moons ago with archaic agricultural harvesters.

Back to my point — checking out at the grocery store, can you confidently say that your food is full of the nutrition that you need, that your family needs? Let me say this about food products and the process of making their nutrition labels, nutrition standards, and care for the general public. Big corporations do not care about the general public’s health regarding food purchases or what they sell to you. I worked for a major fitness and nutrition franchise in Santa Monica as a recipe developer and tester, culinary and nutrition expert. Their nutrition product line is advertised as containing “globally resourced” ingredients, meanwhile the R&D department admitted in our monthly meetings that many of those ingredients came from China because it is cheap. The nutrition department also had minimal recipe testing to ensure the public would be pleased with the outcome. What do you get when you buy cheaply made products with guides for the consumer that haven’t been tested? The answer is how big business and corporations operate because they don’t care about the consumer, about their health, or well-being. They just want their pockets filled and will happily sell you a bag labeled “Shakeology” will all these ingredients listed and their marketing on point making it look like a quality item, all the while you are fooled into purchasing it because you think it is something you need for your body.

Flowing into my final point — our food supply during this whole pandemic hasn’t changed for major chain grocery stores, but took a major toll on outdoor farmer’s markets where vendors rely on business to remain local farming. Other than paper products and cleaning supplies, grocery stores remained open to distribute food per norm even if they had reduced hours. Additionally, fast food chains were permitted open this whole time, but restaurants with no drive-thru window or quick-cook foods were intimidated to shut down under the COVID-19 mask/face covering mandate. I have never encountered a fast food chain that offered a truly healthful, macronutrient balanced meal. My mom will protest that McDonald’s has a salad — but when you read what is in it, somehow they feel it necessary to add in sugar to the salad? If I’m adding sugar in any form to a salad, it is fruit or honey in the dressing. Fast food has that nomenclature for a reason. Fast food cooking styles aren’t the most healthful, as they typically consist of convection cooking, like deep drying and sautéing with fat, which easily sneak in hundreds of lipid calories resulting in a high omega-6 content in the body. Omega-6 is a necessary fat for our cells, however, ingesting amounts that heavily outweigh Omega-3 lipid content (receive from eating walnuts, flaxseed, non-GMO edamame, wild caught salmon) induces a state of inflammation in the body. Most Americans eat a Westernized diet, therefore a prolonged state of inflammation in the body is highly likely, and couple this with the past year of stay-at-home orders and we have a recipe for increased nutrition and lifestyle related illnesses across the nation. This doesn’t just correlated to being overweight and hypertension. Whole body inflammation increases cortisol, which is a catabolic hormone that signals the body to break down lean muscle for energy, in turn transitioning carbohydrate usage into storage via triglycerides in lipocytes and glycogen in the liver. When we don’t exercise or use our bodies, our triglyceride storage starts to accumulate because glycogen can only hold so much in the liver. This turns into body fat. Wonder why you might’ve put on weight quickly if your routine was abruptly changed this past year? Maybe this answered your question. Our government, under the guises of many nutrition-related masks, promotes a food supply that fills their pockets, not supports that is best for our public health, traditional values, and cultural heritage.

What I want you to get from this journal are three things: One, do your part to support local agriculture producers and minimize import purchases. Not only will you support your local economy this way, but you’ll literally feel better eating food grown near your residence. Two, aim to cook your own meals and get familiar with what you are buying. Be experimental, follow a recipe, invite friends over — do whatever you need to get comfortable in the kitchen. Three, research nutrition and lifestyle diagnoses that are common and see what connections you can make between our current way of life and the disease pathology. More often than not, what we put in our bodies manifest any disease output, so if you’re only eating potato chips and hotdogs, then your body is going to manifest that it is lacking nutrition in some way.

For my next journal, I plan to discuss organic versus non-GMO in the food supply, seasonal growing and eating, as well as my farmer’s market and grocery store guide on how to pick produce and interpret nutrition labels. Thank you for reading.

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