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Get Healthy Now! A Complete Guide to Prevention, Treatment and Healthy Living
By Gary Null
Seven Stories Press Copyright © 2001 Gary Null
All right reserved.
"You Are What You Eat"
Forty years ago, roughly a third of the grocery store was devoted to natural, fresh produce. Today, it is a small fraction of that, and even what appears to be natural has been altered. Fruits and vegetables are routinely grown with artificial fertilizers, sprayed with pesticides, treated with hormones and chemicals to control the time of ripening to facilitate mechanical harvesting, dyed, sprayed with chemicals to prevent them from ripening during shipping or to induce ripening after shipping, and coated with waxes to give a glossy appearance.
Modern bread fares no better. The Western world is built on wheat, which, for thousands of years, has been prepared as bread and known as the staff of life. Wheat (and other whole grains) provides a rich source of nutrients: complex carbohydrates, protein, oils, roughage, and an excellent balance of dozens of vitamins and minerals. Grinding wheat with stone rollers blends these ingredients together, yielding a product so nutritionally rich that it is prone to spoilage and attacks by vermin and fungi if not immediately used. In order to make a product that could be transported over long distances and stored indefinitely, bread less prone to spoiling was necessary. White flour was born.
White flour begins with steel rather than stone rollers, thereby flattening and separating the bran and germ, which carry most of wheat's nutrients and are sold as animal feeds, from a chalklike dust. Chlorine gases are used to bleach out any remaining substance. The product is then "enriched" with synthetic versions of some of the vitamins removed earlier in the processing. The vitamins considered necessary for this "enrichment" are, not coincidentally, those which are most easily synthesized. These are the ingredients commonly listed on loaves of bread made from enriched flour: barley malt, ferrous sulfate, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening, yeast, salt, dicalcium phosphate, calcium propionate, and potassium bromate.
Some of the flour additives and processing chemicals that need not, according to the Code of Federal Regulations, be listed on the package include: oxides of nitrogen, chlorine, nitrosyl chloride, chlorine dioxide, benzoyl peroxide, acetone peroxide, azodicarbonamide, and plaster of Paris.
One of the most common additives in processed foods is sugar. The average American eats 160 pounds of sugar a year. After processing, many foods are so lacking in taste that there would be no flavor at all without adding large quantities of sugar or salt.
Sugar is ideal for the processed-food industry because many people like its taste and it is cheap, but primarily because it is addictive. Sugar in large quantifies is concealed in many foods; not only in candy, cake, and soft drinks, but in bread, breakfast cereals, cheeses, condiments, and canned or packaged foods. Most processed foods have large amounts of sugar, and those that do not have large amounts of salt. It is not easy to eliminate sugar from your diet.
Americans have grown accustomed to the excellence of their water supplies. Since the turn of the century, treatment of municipal water with chlorine disinfectants has provided protection against disease-causing microorganisms, and private wells are usually tested periodically to assure quality standards. Massive programs to build sewage treatment plants are in effect throughout the country, and standard operation procedures maintain the strict control of disease-causing microorganisms, since much of the water we drink is someone else's sewage.
However, even as the problem of human wastes is being controlled, a larger problem is looming: the industrial pollution of drinking-water supplies. Hundreds of thousands of industrial plants discharge grit, asbestos, phosphates, nitrates, mercury, lead, caustic soda, sulfur, sulfuric acid, oils, and petrochemicals into many of the waterways from which we eventually drink. Treatment plants designed to handle human wastes are unable to remove many of these more toxic, chemically complex, and sometimes unstable substances. Ironically, one of the carcinogens identified as occurring in water results when chlorine mixes with organic matter.
Nationwide, over 700 chemical pollutants have been identified in public water supplies. Most of these are carcinogenic, cause birth defects, or are otherwise toxic. Over 20 scientific studies have documented a consistent link between consumption of trace organic chemical contaminants in drinking water and elevated cancer mortality rates. In spite of mounting evidence, existing United States public health standards reflect virtually no acknowledgment of toxic and carcinogenic substances in drinking water. As a result, no concerted effort has been made to remove them from public water supplies. Parallel failures to protect drinking water quality and to regulate massive discharges of nonbiodegradable industrial wastes forecast a grim future for the American public. Toxic contamination has already forced many communities to find alternative sources of water. Still, the overwhelming majority of the nation's drinking water systems have never been tested for the presence of toxic pollutants. The response to this dual environmental and health dilemma has been woefully inadequate.
Meat and Poultry
Most of us picture farms as being like those we remember from childhood, or like those we have seen in pictures or on television. We imagine farm animals in their pens, or even roaming around a farmyard. Such farms may exist, but they are not the source of the meat we buy and eat today. Chickens are raised by the tens of thousands in giant buildings where they never see the light of day. They are kept in cages where they cannot move, with conveyor belts bringing them food and water and carrying away their waste. When they do move about, they often slide around on their breasts, as some modern breeds grow too fast for their legs to support them. They are constantly sprayed and their food doused with chemicals, hormones, and medicines. Attempts also are being made to breed featherless chickens.
Many pigs are also raised in cages, without ever seeing daylight. Such conditions are particularly cruel for pigs, which are close to dogs in intelligence and sensitivity. Steers similarly spend most of their lives out of doors, but are no less exposed to chemicals in their upbringing.
Today, a steer is born, taken from its mother and put on a diet of powdered milk, synthetic vitamins, minerals, and antibiotics. Drugs in its food reduce its activities to save on feed. Next, it is permitted to eat some pasture grass, but this is supplemented with processed feed premixed with antibiotics and growth-promoting drugs. At six months, it weighs 500 pounds and is ready for the feed lot. Here it is doused with pesticides and then placed in a pen that is lit around the clock to change natural sleep rhythms and encourage continuous feeding. Food consists of grains, urea, carbohydrates, ground-up newspaper, molasses, plastic pellets, and, most recently, reprocessed manure, a high protein source. After four months in the feed lot, a steer weighs 1,200 pounds. A few more doses of pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones are administered to pretenderize it while it is still alive, and it is ready for slaughter.
Nearly all poultry, pigs, and veal calves, and 60 percent of cattle, get antibiotics added to their feed. Seventy-five percent of pigs eat feed laced with sulfa drugs. Cattle feeders use a variety of hormones and other additives to promote rapid weight gain in their animals.
While farmers rely more and more on chemicals to shore up animal health under factory conditions, dangerous residues are showing up in meat and poultry products. Fourteen percent of meat and poultry sampled by the Agriculture Department in the mid and late 1970s contained illegally high levels of drugs and pesticides. According to a recent General Accounting Office report, "of the 143 drugs and pesticides G.A.O. identified as likely to leave residues in raw meat and poultry, 42 are known to cause or are suspected of causing cancer, 20 of causing birth defects, and six of causing mutations."
The average American ate 2 pounds of chemical additives in food in 1960 and 10 pounds in 1978, a fivefold increase in less than 20 years. At the end of 1998, the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Everything Added to Food in the United States (EAFUS) Database contained information on more than 3,000 substances that were being added directly to what we eat. The actual number of additives was even higher: Despite its lofty fide, the FDA acknowledged that the database did not include "indirect" additives, and may actually have been only a partial compilation of substances that were "lawfully" added to our food supplies. Most of these additives were not put in foods to preserve shelf life or retard spoilage, as is usually claimed; instead, more than 90 percent of the additives (both by weight and by value) were there to deceive--that is, to make the agribusiness product look, taste, feel, and nourish more like the real thing.
No one questions the fact that there are a lot of chemicals in our food. Manufacturers contend, however, that these chemicals are safe, that they have been tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Are all these chemicals really safe? The answer is no.
If food additives can be dangerous, why are we told otherwise? The answer lies in the complex interrelations of the food industry, media, government, and medical research. The food industry is very big business, with annual sales well over $200 billion. Each year, well over $500 million worth of chemicals are added to foods. The food industry is a major advertiser in consumer magazines and on television, so magazines and television too often are careful of being critical. Food industries are major sources of grants for university research departments. Government agencies have close relationships with the industries they are supposed to regulate. Many research scientists and government management personnel eventually enter the industry they previously regulated--and at much higher paying jobs.
There are literally thousands of chemicals added to food. Few of these have been adequately tested, and none have been tested in combination with others. Many that have been tested, have been known to be dangerous for 30 years or more. DES, a synthetic hormone used to fatten cattle, has been known for decades to cause cancer. Industry fights attempts to ban such chemicals every step of the way. When, as in the case of DES, a ban is finally achieved, some producers continue to use it anyway. And by the time the ban is obtained, there are a dozen similar chemicals to replace the one banned, some of which may be worse.
Agribusiness encourages a way of eating that disrupts our physical health and erodes the sense of fulfillment that comes from preparing and eating real food. A fast-food rationale enters the community and the home, with deleterious effects. Agribusiness also undermines all local farmers, who lend economic and ecological stability to the country. And industrialized foods simply do not taste as good as food should. They are dependent upon salt, sugar, chemicals, and billions of dollars in advertising. The fact is, most of us simply have forgotten what real food tastes like.
Basic nutrition begins with six major nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Along with an understanding of these basic nutrients, for good health you also need to be aware of the air you breathe, the balance of enzymes in your body, and the function of antioxidants in helping your body to combat disease and degenerative processes. Your body needs all of these nutrients every day. How much you need of each depends on your health as well as your energy needs.
Energy may be why we need food, but it isn't necessarily why we eat sometimes a great deal, sometimes too little, or, all too often, the wrong things in the wrong amounts. When it comes to nourishing our bodies, many of us follow the dictates of myths, fads, or bizarre and exotic diets. We all know the proper kind of gas for a car and the best kind of food for our cat or dog. We may know our carburetors and our Siamese, but we don't know ourselves.
Information about good nutrition abounds. Yet many people don't bother to find out more about it. Some simply don't know where to look or what to trust. The following chapters should help point the way and begin that journey. After reading this section of the book, you will know all about real food and how to make the most of it in living a more healthful life.
Excerpted from Get Healthy Now! by Gary Null Copyright © 2001 by Gary Null. Excerpted by permission.
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