Opinion: Let's not be food lab rats

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Ziggy Marley -

Food affects you psychologically and physiologically. It’s important to put clean and healthy things into our bodies.

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‘Clean eat­ing’ is a fuzzy term

“Clean eat­ing” is a phrase thrown around a lot in the health-and-wellness scene. I use it all the time. I like it be­cause there’s no for­mal def­i­ni­tion, and it’s not a one-siz­e­fits-all plan. Let’s face it: There isn’t one per­fect plan that will work for every­one. Our bod­ies work dif­fer­ently from one an­other. Some need more fat, some need more carbs, and all need dif­fer­ent mixes of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als. Be­haviourally, there isn’t one plan that fits every­one’s life­style ei­ther. Some of us cook daily, while some of us can’t make toast. For some, food is of­ten out of their con­trol, and they rely on ho­tels, air­ports and restau­rants, while oth­ers raise, grow and cook their own food. We also have dif­fer­ent mo­ti­va­tions. Some have had a health scare or are feel­ing low-en­ergy and slug­gish, and are cu­ri­ous about whether food could make them feel bet­ter. Some are con­cerned about the en­vi­ron­ment and ecol­ogy, and the im­pact of how foods are grown and sold. These distinc­tions are im­por­tant, be­cause your ver­sion of clean will de­pend on your val­ues and goals. Forc­ing your­self or some­one else into an eat­ing plan is rarely a foun­da­tion for suc­cess. In­stead, un­der­stand­ing why you are do­ing what you are do­ing will help you make choices you can stick with and make you feel bet­ter about how you eat. When I think of eat­ing clean, what comes to mind is know­ing ex­actly what I’m putting into my body and mak­ing mind­ful de­ci­sions that are in line with my val­ues. You have seen peo­ple who ask sev­eral ques­tions be­fore or­der­ing at a restau­rant or mak­ing a choice at a gro­cery store. While it can be en­ter­tain­ing (or frus­trat­ing) to watch, be­ing cu­ri­ous about what’s in your food is fair game and, I would ar­gue, im­por­tant. We live in a world where we must ask ques­tions be­cause we can’t guar­an­tee we’re eat­ing whole foods. I don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to meet the farmer grow­ing my spuds, but when I eat mashed pota­toes, I want to be sure they are, well, ac­tual pota­toes. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. What is in your food? The best first step to­ward clean eat­ing is know­ing what’s on your plate. Ev­ery­thing on it! We are trained to look at calo­ries and grams on food la­bels, but I en­cour­age you to look at in­gre­di­ents first. Do you un­der­stand what is in the food you are about to eat? Are you OK with eat­ing those in­gre­di­ents? Not all food prod­ucts are the same. Take a mo­ment and com­pare prod­ucts based on in­gre­di­ents, rather than solely calo­ries, to de­cide whether they’re what you want. How does it make you feel? What foods make you feel good? What foods or in­gre­di­ents don’t feel good? If you get a headache, gas­troin­testi­nal dis­tress, in­flam­ma­tion, pain, or slug­gish­ness af­ter eat­ing, then think about what you ate that may have played a role. Is or­ganic im­por­tant? The or­ganic move­ment is grow­ing fast. For eco­log­i­cal, health or po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, many feel strongly that they don’t want to eat food that has pes­ti­cides and ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms, and they go out of their way to avoid these foods and buy or­ganic only. It’s a big life­style choice, and you should feel con­fi­dent in your de­ci­sion. Take some time to re­search pes­ti­cides and GMOs if that’s some­thing that is im­por­tant to your val­ues. Is local im­por­tant? Re­cently, eat­ing “local” has taken on its own tribe of fol­low­ers. Local does not nec­es­sar­ily mean or­ganic, and there is no set def­i­ni­tion of a per­mit­ted dis­tance for some­one to call some­thing local. The con­cept means sup­port­ing your local com­mu­nity of farm­ers, food mak­ers and busi­nesses. Some be­lieve food tastes bet­ter and is more nu­tri­tious when it’s grown lo­cally and bought fresh. Some see en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pli­ca­tions in buy­ing food that doesn’t have to travel around the world to the mar­ket. Some just like sup­port­ing their com­mu­nity and bring­ing dol­lars back to their re­gion. What is re­al­is­tic? If you travel reg­u­larly for work, com­mit­ting to a clean eat­ing plan that in­volves elim­i­nat­ing a lot of foods and hav­ing con­trol of in­gre­di­ents is not likely to set you up for suc­cess. Ask ques­tions be­fore or­der­ing at a restau­rant, choose ho­tels and restau­rants that will have more op­tions for you, and bring snacks for travel days. If you don’t know how to cook, learn some ba­sic recipes with sta­ple foods, and slowly in­cor­po­rate more cook­ing into your life so it never feels over­whelm­ing. If you’re con­vinced that eat­ing more or­ganic and local food will cost more, you’ll be happy to learn that may not be true! If you’re con­cerned about pes­ti­cides and GMOs, but go­ing all-or­ganic is not an op­tion, con­sider fo­cus­ing on the “dirty dozen” for spe­cific things to buy or­ganic. Con­sider one recipe a week where you buy bulk or­ganic in­gre­di­ents and batch-cook to save time and money. Grain salad, chicken soup, lentil soup, beef stew and roasted veg­eta­bles are great ex­am­ples of easy batch-cook recipes. If you can buy large por­tions and cook for the week, buy­ing or­ganic isn’t as ex­pen­sive or dif­fi­cult as you may as­sume. Steps to­ward clean eat­ing: Take time to look at the in­gre­di­ents of all pack­aged foods, and look at your plate and note what you’re about to eat. If you can, find out where your food comes from, how it was raised or grown, and how far it trav­elled to make it to your plate. De­ter­mine key in­gre­di­ents that you are mo­ti­vated to avoid. What foods don’t feel good to you? Are you avoid­ing them? De­cide what is truly re­al­is­tic for you. Be hon­est with your­self about your life­style, and de­cide what is rea­son­able. If you de­cide to start eat­ing cleaner, re­mem­ber that there is no per­fect way to do this. Tak­ing one step to­ward eat­ing bet­ter is the best strat­egy for long-term suc­cess.

Many GMO stud­ies have con­flicts of in­ter­est

Fi­nan­cial con­flicts of in­ter­est were found in 40 per­cent of pub­lished re­search ar­ti­cles on the ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied crops, also known as GMO crops, French re­searchers said this week. The find­ings in the Dec 15 edi­tion of the US jour­nal PLOS ONE fo­cused on hun­dreds of re­search ar­ti­cles pub­lished in in­ter­na­tional sci­en­tific jour­nals. “We found that ties be­tween re­searchers and the GM crop in­dus­try were com­mon, with 40 per­cent of the ar­ti­cles con­sid­ered dis­play­ing con­flicts of in­ter­est,” said the study. Re­searchers also found that stud­ies that had a con­flict of in­ter­est were far more likely to be fa­vor­able to GM crop com­pa­nies than stud­ies that were free of fi­nan­cial interference. The study fo­cused on ar­ti­cles about the ef­fi­cacy and dura­bil­ity of crops that are mod­i­fied to be pest re­sis­tant with a toxin called Bacil­lus thuringien­sis. Thomas Guille­maud, di­rec­tor of re­search at France’s Na­tional In­sti­tute for Agri­cul­tural Re­search (INRA), told AFP that the team orig­i­nally looked at 672 stud­ies be­fore nar­row­ing down to the pool to 579 that showed clearly whether there was or was not a fi­nan­cial con­flict of in­ter­est. “Of this to­tal, 404 were Amer­i­can stud­ies and 83 were Chi­nese,” he said. (AFP)

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