When I was a little girl and was asked, “What do cows eat?” the answer to my knowledge then would be grass of course. My three year old daughter asked me the same question the other day and my answer is a little more complicated than before. Having previously worked for a lab in the food industry, our beef samples would be categorized in the type of feed they were given. The groups we received were corn fed, grain fed (soy fell somewhere among those two mixes) and grass finished. Grass finished cows would have eaten grass not for their entire life, but for some span of their lifetime right before being slaughtered. With the high consumption of beef and dairy products, man has coped with supplying the demand of our growing population by creating the industrialized process. The evolution of food production has forced us to abandon outdated harvesting methods that provided us with more nourishment than today. Eating too much of certain foods in our modern diet can actually lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Eat slowly, chew food properly and be in a relaxed state are simple guidelines to eating a meal. We live in a fast-paced world where time is of the essence. I recall my mornings of trying to sleep in a few more minutes before getting out of bed and rushing to get out the door after fitting in a quick breakfast. Then at work, I only had an hour for a lunch break and if I was fortunate not to be too busy, breaks for snacks if I remembered to pack them. In the evening when I returned home, I would be famished where I would tend to overeat during dinner.
When too much food is eaten at any given time, the digestive system needs to produce enough stomach acid and digestive enzymes to ensure everything is broken down for proper nutrient absorption. When a meal is eaten too quickly, it most likely does not get chewed properly leaving more work for the digestive system while not being able to signal to the brain when the body is actually full. The liver may get backed up in processing the consumed macronutrients and the pancreas that releases digestive enzymes may be insufficient in breaking down everything. Being stressed while eating hinders digestion even more. Gut health also plays a major factor of how well absorption takes place through the intestinal wall. Ensuring proper digestion is vital in obtaining maximum nutrients from food for a healthy body.
Thanks to the advances in transportation and food storage, all food products are accessible all year round in any part of the world. People tend to stick to certain staples that they enjoy eating and are familiar with in preparing. I know my daughter loves her broccoli and asparagus the best, however there are so many other nutrient packed vegetables that I attempt to introduce to her from time to time. When a variety of foods are present in a diet, the body can absorb more of an array of nutrients. Eating the same foods day after day can have a negative effect on how the body reacts to them. Antinutrients such as sugar or caffeine and foods high in oxalates or phytic acid are a few examples that can block nutrient absorption. Being aware of these nutrient blockers and rotating foods or eating different foods on a regular basis can help expose the body to a wider assortment of nutrients.
Changes in Farming Practices
Conventionally grown animals no longer have habitual access to grass, sunlight and space to roam freely. By taking away their natural environment their nutrient content is drastically reduced especially in fat soluble vitamins E, K2, D3 and retinol. Instead of obtaining those nutrients from an ideal environment, inferior synthetic vitamins like the sunshine vitamin D are added to our milk or even in chicken feed to produce fortified eggs when they should be naturally occurring.
Crop rotations were the past norm in farms where each year different seeds would be planted to replenish and balance the soil’s nutrients. Today, many farms are challenged with making an income from their crops forcing them to grow the same food year after year due to its high demand. Are we receiving more nutrients from organic produce compared to conventionally grown when nutrients are not being replenished back into the soil? Know where your food comes from by purchasing local in season crops when available to ensure you are getting the freshest maximum nutrition and always look for pasture raised animal products to get the most natural nourishment from those foods.
Refined Processed Foods
Today we are so fortunate to have food easily ready for us with a longer shelf life. Refining foods and stripping away their nutrients as seen in white flour to make breads and pastas while adding preservatives will definitely make food last longer. The risk of it spoiling decreases when there is no true sustenance for microorganisms or other parasitic life to feed on. However, it is good enough for us to consume as long as it pleases our palate. These foods can be a luxury, however always make sure to read the ingredient list before buying. Ensure the majority of the contents come from real foods being listed first and minimize the ingestion of unnatural chemicals where they should be read last on the list or non-existent. Moderation is key when using these convenient foods.
Supplements are needed to make up for nutritional deficiencies, however synthetic nutrients are inferior to substances naturally found in nature. When you eat an orange for its vitamin C content, you are also taking in other nutrients like bioflavonoids that work together with the vitamin in having a beneficial synergistic effect in the body. Supplements are good for their convenience in dose and availability rather than eating fifty oranges to receive a higher amount of vitamin C content. Whenever possible, try finding supplements sourced from real whole foods like dried camu camu berry powder for a high dose of the antioxidant vitamin.
Why do we eat? Food gives us strength and nourishment. It brings us comfort, a sense of belonging when shared with others and satisfies our hunger cravings. When working with a Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant, the information mentioned above most likely will come up to improve one’s diet. Diet is a lifestyle, not a temporary fix. Education on food, achieving optimal digestion and receiving specific nutrients that the body needs all take part in the foundation of improving one’s health. When the body is empowered with nourishment from real whole foods, it thrives.
Diana Angeles // Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant™