If you eat a typical American diet of processed foods, then the answer is yes. Seriously! The American diet is so chock full of corn that your blood tests and DNA will show that you are a certain percentage of corn. How do I know this? Well, I recently read the book In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan and watched the movie Food, Inc. and both blew my mind.
Here are some interesting tidbits about our food industry that I did not know before.
- Our country produces so much corn that we needed to find ways to get rid of it – hence the creation of high fructose corn syrup, corn meal pressed into all kinds of shapes and sizes (think Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos), and other ubiquitous products like citric acid, ascorbic acid and dextrose.
- Corn is hidden in lots of processed food products you would not suspect like mayonnaise, yogurt, milk and carrots, as well as non-food products you use everyday like shampoo, toothpaste and envelopes (the lickable seal)
- All this cheap corn is also fed to our meat animals (chickens, cows, pigs) all of whom actually are not designed to eat grain but rather grass. As a result, they get really sick eating corn. Did you know that 70% of the antibiotics in this country are actually given to those meat animals in an attempt to keep them alive until they can be taken to market? And when we eat that meat, we develop tolerance for those antibiotics, making them less effective at fighting diseases.
- The reason meat animals are fed corn is because it makes them put on the pounds really quickly, but this gain is all fat, not lean muscle mass. It turns out the same is true for humans too. The obesity epidemic in the US is directly correlated to the increased infusion of corn into our food system.
- One of the side effects is that the animals’ stomachs get irritated by the corn and then E Coli grows. Even switching a cow to grass for 5 days before it is slaughtered will cause 90% of the E Coli to be shed from its intestines. Sadly, E Coli is responsible for 111,000 illnesses per year and over 100 human deaths per year, mostly among young children and the elderly.
- Most of our current health problems like diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure can be tracked back to the high use of corn in our diet. Our bodies are not meant to process this starchy food, and while high fructose corn syrup may taste sweet like sugar, our bodies don’t recognize it in the same way so our insulin response is different.
- The mass production of both corn and meat animals are doing serious environmental damage to our land, water supplies, and oceans.
Are you grossed out yet? I sure was. If you eat a typical fast food meal, the entire thing is essentially corn – the soda is corn syrup, the burger is a corn-fed cow, the fries are cooked in corn oil, and the wrappers may even be made from a corn derivative. But even if you try and eat healthy, you are still swimming in corn because so many unsuspecting ingredients are actually corn with a new name.
The only way around this is to buy whole foods, organically grown, and cook them yourself. We have been doing this in our family and I must say that it is much more enjoyable than I imagined. Even though we are a family of two working parents with a 5-year old child (and don’t forget the 2 cats!), making our meals has become quite pleasurable. We all participate in the preparation (washing, chopping, seasoning, and setting the table) and we certainly are enjoying the amazing flavors that good, whole foods have.
And most things can be prepared pretty quickly. Our typical dinner is veggies steamed or sauteed, a salad and then some chicken breasts or fish baked for 20 minutes in a marinade. And two nights a week, I made a double batch of a more elaborate recipe and we either have the leftovers or freeze them for another night when we are rushed – I ain’t giving up the microwave!
We even make our own salad dressings and have had a lot of fun creating unique flavors from this basic recipe (whisk with fork as you go – just keep tasting until you like it):
- Pick an oil (olive, canola, sunflower, grapeseed, etc.) – need ½ cup
- Add a vinegar (balsamic, apple cider, seasoned rice, etc.) – to taste, about 1/3 cup for us
- Add salt and pepper (get creative with truffle salt or lemon paper)
- Stir in a little mustard (yellow, Dijon, etc.)
- Optional: add a sweetener (maple syrup, honey, agave, etc.)
- For extra fun, try herbs and spices like cardamom, oregano, etc.
We also have had a lot of fun buying from our local farmers market and visiting local organic farms. We now have several fun, family rituals like picking blueberries, strawberries and apples at the local orchards. We a lot of it fresh but I have also been learning to make jams, which we enjoy all year long and give as gifts during the holidays.
So if you are looking for a way to do something good for the planet and for your health, give up processed foods. If you are really inspired, learn more about our food industry and vote with your wallet. For more interesting ideas, try the following websites: