Thursday, November 13, 2008

I don't want to eat that

I know I was just telling you yesterday that I like Olive Garden, but I do have some standards.  I try not to eat fast food.

If I am going to get something fast, I try to avoid the major chains.  No McDonald's, Carl's Jr., Buger King, etc.  I will go for In-N-Out, Best Burger, a taqueria where they barely speak English, or a sandwich place.  But I normally try to opt for a Mom 'n Pop joint.

If we pick Emma up on a Saturday morning and she hasn't eaten breakfast yet, Bobby will ask her where she wants to go for breakfast.  The first answer is always McDonald's.  Then I basically refuse to eat breakfast there, and give Bobby a hard time about letting his daughter eat McDonald's.  Why?  Because I'm crazy.

Not crazy in my mind, but Bobby is sure there is nothing wrong with the occasional fast food.  I think it has something to do with the fact that he's always concerned Emma doesn't eat enough meat, and I'm always concerned she doesn't eat any vegetables.

I'm convinced that fast food is one of the major culprits in the obesity crisis facing the nation. And not just on a per person basis.  I read an article in Discover magazine that made my crazy a little worse.  DNA Is Not Destiny talked about how different stimuli can tweak epigenomes - basically your bodies instructions for what to do with its DNA.  For example, by changing the diet of the mother mouse (a particular kind of mouse that is prone to certain diseases, like obesity), scientists were able to breed out that predisposition.  The whole article is pretty good, and goes into more stimuli than just diet.  (Yes, I know, I'm a nerd.)

I like to extrapolate stuff like this out.  In my mind I started connecting dots that maybe don't have a connection in real life... but could.  Is it possible that it's just coincidence that obesity is on the rise just as the people that were raised eating fast and processed food frequently have children?  Could it be that people's poor diet affects not just them, but actually triggers epigenomes that affect their children... and grandchildren?

The other day I was looking up foods that are good for your skin (because I really do believe many of our health problems are related to a lack of proper nutrition) and wound up on the Wikipedia page for Omega-3 fatty acids.  You know what I noticed popping up a couple of times?  The diet of the animals in our diet.
  • "Eggs produced by chickens fed a diet of greens and insects produce higher levels of n−3 fatty acids (mostly ALA) than chickens fed corn or soybeans. In addition to feeding chickens insects and greens, fish oils may be added to their diet to increase the amount of fatty acid concentrations in eggs."
  • "The n−6 to n−3 ratio of grass-fed beef is about 2:1, making it a more useful source of n−3 than grain-fed beef, which usually has a ratio of 4:1."
  • "Commercially available lamb is almost always grass-fed, and subsequently higher in n−3 than other common meat sources."
  • "The omega-3 content of chicken meat may be enhanced by increasing the animals' dietary intake of grains such as flax, chia, and canola."
  • "Milk and cheese from grass-fed cows may also be good sources of n−3."
Farm animals fed grass produce food with higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which is something many people don't get enough of.  (You know why they say salmon is good for you?  Especially wild caught salmon?  High in Omega-3 fatty acids.)  You know what most farm animals in this country are fed?  Corn.  Why?  If you pack a lot of animals into a space, you don't have a lot of space for grazing.  Also, it makes them fat quicker.

Oddly enough, I then came across this Forbes article this morning.  I suppose it just adds fuel to my fire, even though I wasn't in any way under the impression that the mass produced meat used in fast food restaurants was on the healthy side.

Concerns about my health lead to concerns about my diet, then to the foods I eat, and then to the health of my food.  This kind of stuff makes me wish there was a way for me to tell when I go to Stater Bros., how the animal was raised.  Without doing all my meat shopping at Whole Foods (I don't mind paying more, but their meat is crazy expensive).  Damn, I wish I could get to a farmer's market more often.

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