Currently viewing the tag: "Changing the American Diet"

Blair Garrett

It’s no secret that a healthy diet and exercise are the keys to extending your lifespan as long as possible.

If you think of your body as a machine, it helps put things into perspective. Your body needs maintenance and care to keep running at an optimal level, and those things translate into proper rest, a balanced diet, and regular exercise to keep the gears turning efficiently.

The American diet is a complex and continuously changing concept, still shrouded with questions of what diet best suits you.

People have tremendously different bodies and sensitivities to different foods, so oftentimes, something that suits one person well may not work for the next person. Popular diets like the new carnivore diet (meat and fish only) and keto diet (low carbohydrates, high fats) may work well for some people, but it may cause others to have problems related to nutrient deficiencies because of the restrictions.

Newer issues like gluten intolerance may seem much more common today than they were 20 or 30 years ago, but like our bodies, food science learns more and more every year.

Perhaps the composition of wheat is slightly different from what it was just 100 years ago, or today’s medical diagnostics are superior to what they once were. One thing that is clear is that a clean and healthy diet gives us the best chance to avoid lingering digestive, heart, and brain issues that may plague the way we live.

There are some American food regulations from the Food and Drug Administration that are approved to be in our foods that may not be available in other countries. For example, in Europe, there are lots of additives like Titanium Dioxide (a coloring often found in Skittles, Starbursts, and sauces) and growth hormones that have either been deemed as dangerous or potentially dangerous to consumers, so they have been banned from production in European foods.

Many of these additives are believed to be potentially cancerous or have been deemed harmful in other ways, but all are fair game and consumed every day in the United States.

If you look at the difference in size of livestock like cows and chickens over the past 50-70 years, the results are shocking. Chickens are about four times the size they were in the 1950s, and cattle are nearly 40 percent heavier. The tremendous growth in a relatively short time is due to a variety of reasons like selective breeding and over feeding, but there may be other factors at play.

While growth hormones are banned from usage in poultry production, it has been a common practice in the United States in the beef industry since the 50’s. Not all beef production facilities use growth hormones on their cattle, but if you’ve enjoyed a burger or two from your favorite fast food joint over the course of your life, chances are you’ve consumed meat with added hormones.

To make sure you’re getting quality meats without all the harmful additives, shop local and stick to farms that care about the meat you’re buying, like Orchard Breeze Farm and Shriver Meats.

Because the meat industry is so massive and there’s such a demand for our livestock to provide as much meat as possible, it’s imperative to get your protein from a source you trust.

So, what all can you do to clean up your diet and live a healthier life? Awareness of what’s in your food is a great place to start.

Make sure you know what ingredients are going into your food and where your food is coming from. Cutting unnecessary things in all facets of your life helps, but with food it is essential. Fried foods, foods and drinks packed with added sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, and foods loaded with a litany of preservatives are on the no-no list.

Saying goodbye to your 12-pack a week of Mountain Dew may be hard at first, but little changes of metaphorically trimming the fat from your life make an enormous difference over the course of a few months and years.

There are tons of great local food options that bring great fruits and vegetables directly from the farm to your table, but knowing where to look is key.

Companies like Good Soil Farms sell bundles of freshly picked vegetables each week to their customers, guaranteeing you get quality foods free from the harmful additives plaguing our foods. Plus, it’s a great way to reinvest in your community, instead of forking over your hard-earned cash to mega corporations that push local businesses out.

At the beginning of the season, customers buy their share of vegetables, and then each week, they can stop by and pick up their bushel of fresh veggies. This ensures you get locally grown foods ripe and ready to eat each week, and the variety alone will keep you coming back for more.

Another great option is some of the local food markets that pop up throughout the year. Depending on where you live, there are almost always great markets to go to, featuring your neighbors and friends selling homemade and homegrown products you could substitute from traditional shopping habits.

Thurmont, Emmitsburg, Waynesboro, and many other towns, all have farmer’s markets that offer affordable foods, teas, and everything in between. Plus, it’s an opportunity to explore what the people in your neck of the woods are selling.

Thurmont’s market is open Saturday mornings, indoors, through May 7, then outdoors through October; Emmitsburg’s market is open Friday evenings, from June 24 to October 7; and Waynesboro’s market runs from late May to October on Saturday mornings.

If those are out of your range or schedule, local farms and markets sell great meats and produce to help you make that shift into a healthier source of food.

Avoiding the mass-produced consumables is one of many small changes that keep a community thriving, and it’s just a matter of breaking your typical Sunday morning Walmart routine and choosing something that helps you get better food, and helps your community to continue producing it.  

When you look better, you feel better, and these small adjustments to how we get our food and where we get our food can put us all on the right track to live healthier lives.

So, keep on the lookout for what you put into your body and get on the track toward a cleaner diet.

Kids in the Good Soil Farm family help distribute their locally grown foods to hungry customers.

Courtesy Photo