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Five Reasons To Care About Where Your Food Comes From

Earth Eats welcomes new blogger, Yvonne Maffei, a regular contributor to Indiana Public Media's Muslim Voices project and the founder of My Halal Kitchen, a blog about halal food and healthy cooking. You can learn more about Halal (which means 'permissible' in Arabic) over on the Muslim Voices blog.

My interest in healthy living began in the teen years when I devoured magazines and books that offered information on eating right and exercising. I not only wanted to keep off weight, but also to feel healthy. In the process, I was fortunate to develop health-conscious habits and attitudes about food well into my adulthood. Alhamdullilah (Thank God).

The same concept is as true today as it was when I was a teen: We need to educate ourselves about food, nutrition, exercise, and now more than ever we need to know where our food comes from.

Agriculture Has Changed

Important things in our commercial agricultural system have changed, and not necessarily for the better. For example, so much of the food entering the marketplace is actually being modified, over-processed and lowered in quality faster than you can bring a fork to your mouth. What's worse is that without consumer action, you can't expect much to change for the better.

I've spent a lot of time studying food documentaries as part of my self-initiated health education. Not only was learning about the process of agribusiness an eye-opening experience, but the more I learned, the more I realized I needed to educate myself about the source of my family's food. I sincerely believe that the quality of our lives and the generations after us depend on this knowledge, which is why I pass it on to you.

5 Reasons To Care About Where Your Food Comes From

  1. Big corporations don't have YOU in their best interest. Some food corporations put a lot of salt, sugar and fat in our diet because it is cheap, fast and easy. Does this include healthy? Nope -- and if you saw what it takes to add salt, fat and sugar into ‘food', you probably wouldn't even want to eat it.

    Read: Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan

    Listen: Earth Eats' Interview with Michael Pollan about his new book, Food Rules.

  2. Knowing what's fed to animals is knowledge of what's being fed to YOU. Most people make a stink about commercial farmers that give antibiotics to animals because eventually those antibiotics will not work for you. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it concerns what animals are being fed. Need I remind anyone of mad cow disease caused by cows given feed mixed with diseased animal parts? That issue may be in the distant past, but did you know that grass-fed cows don't get sick the way corn-fed animals do?

    Watch: Food, Inc. by Robert Kenner

  3. If you don't care, you may end up spending more on your health (or illness) care. Spending less of our income on food doesn't necessarily make it good for us. In fact, the less we spend on food, the more we spend on health care. Today, 9.5% of our income goes to food, the cheapest it's ever been for us in the U.S. -- a proud achievement of government-backed commercial agribusiness, but we're not any healthier from eating cheap, over-processed, packaged foods.
  4. To determine for yourself what is actually worthy of a ‘food' label. Much of what you see is not worthy of the term "food"; instead, they are edible food-like substances. (Food Rules) Almost everything Americans eat contains corn in the form of high fructose corn syrup, corn-fed meat, and corn-based processed foods, the staples of our modern diet.

    Watch: King Corn: You Are What You Eat by Aaron Woolf

  5. Our government does not subsidize healthy food. The American food system is built on the abundance of corn -- an abundance perpetuated by a subsidy system that pays farmers to maximize production. What this translates to is that you will have to do your own homework -- expensive television commercials won't be advertising local farmer's markets or healthy organic fruits and vegetables. You have to overcome the ‘outta sight, outta mind' concept by taking the first steps towards putting information and resources about food on your radar at all times.

In addition to watching documentaries about the source of our food, I've also paid a great deal of attention to one writer, Michael Pollan.

He is an incredible food researcher who translates all the lingo of this food research into comprehensible information that the average consumer can understand and utilize to take charge of his/her own food choices.

A few of my favorite bits of advice from his new book, Food Rules, are as follows:

  • Get out of the supermarket as much as you can. This means getting to your local farmers' markets, niche grocers and other small-scale vendors who you can actually talk to about the source of your food.
  • Eat food, mostly plants, not too much
  • Eat minimally-processed amount of plants, animals and fungi
  • Eat only foods that will eventually rot
  • Eat meat that has eaten well

What will you do with this information?

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