In this episode we break down all the most common terms you'll find on the foods you buy every single day. Most of them are marketing terms and have no meaning. There are a select few you should pay attention to, however.
We start with a few examples of how a marketing term can influence your purchase and even make you think you're making a healthy decision. We review how most of these terms are either unregulated or very loosely regulated.
Then we talk about what a CAFO (concentrated/confined animal feeding/farming operation) is and why we should steer clear of them if our budget allows.
Then we get into the terms. The most important distinction is USDA Certified Organic, which will be accompanied by a label that looks like this:
The organic label carries strict regulations and enforcement and is the most trustworthy label around.
Then we talk about non-GMO or GMO free. The issue, as I explain is not necessarily that the product has been modified, but the effects of that modification. For example, the most common modification is to make crops resistant to Round-Up, which contains glyphosate, proven to cause cancer. This glyphosate ends up in our foods and we barely know the long term effects of this chemical in your body.
Grass-fed if the next distinction, but it exists on a spectrum. 100% grass-fed or grass-finished is what your looking for. If it simply says grass-fed then you have to exercise caution, as these animals may have been fed grains. Also, grass-fed does not indicate a lack of antibiotics or hormones in the animal product. That distinction lies with the USDA Certified Organic distinction.
Pasture-raised is the next term. It is loosely regulated and I wouldn't let it influence my purchase.
Then we move on to chicken. When buying chicken and eggs you'll run across terms like cage-free, free-range, pasture-raise, vegetarian fed, and humanely raised. These all mean nothing as I explain in the episode.
Then we move on to fish where the main distinctions are farm-raised and wild-caught. Most farm raised fish are objectionable due to the grains and synthetic ingredients they consume. I use the example of atlantic salmon, which does not have pink colored flesh. They add and ingredient to the fishmeal to change the color of the flesh to convince you that it is indeed a salmon like all the other wild salmon. Also farmed-fish are exposed to various toxins and it takes an average of 5 pounds of wild-caught fish to generate 1 pound of fresh fish. There are some exceptions, which I note in the episode. Also, avoid everything from Asia, no exceptions.
All natural is unregulated by the FDA. All natural does not mean healthy.
No artificial ingredients means that the compounds are naturally occurring in nature, but it does not mean they were synthetically recreated in a lab for cost efficiency purposes. Also not an indicator of a healthy choice.
No sugar added. Does not mean that the product isn't high in sugars
Local is loosely goosey. It could mean that the product was grown or raised within 400 miles of purchase or that it was grown in the same state. I go a bit deep into the locavore movement at this point, which will probably be a topic of a future episode. But it can be a cost-effective way to feed yourself and your family healthier foods.
Then I run the list of terms that mean nothing meaningful and are solely on the packaging to influence your purchase. These terms include, but are not limited to: unprocessed, sugar-free, fat-free, superfood, fortified, made with real fruit, good source of omega 3, whole grain, whole wheat, multi-grain, and any other phrase that seems attention grabbing or buzzy. These are marketing phrases with no meaning and no regulation and indicate nothing as to the health of that food.
Now I go into the buying guides for the various categories of foods and how you should apply your newly gained knowledge. We do purchasing strategies for: fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry (we touch on pork), eggs, fish, dairy, and nuts and seeds.
I reduce the most important terms to 4: USDA Certified Organic, 100% grass-fed or grass-finished, non-GMO, and wild-caught. If you can only focus on 4, these are the 4.
In this week's Call-to-Action I ask the listeners to look around the next time they shop and just see how manipulative the food industry is in trying to influence your purchases.
Also I ask that you search online for cheaper ways to source your meat if you're comfortable buying in bulk and I touch on cow pooling (google it).
I encourage you to check out your local farmers market and chat them up. Smaller operations can't afford to get the USDA certification, but may still raise their crops and livestock that way. A simple conversation will give you the answers you seek.
For eggs I ask you to ask around. Everybody knows somebody that knows somebody that grows chickens and sells eggs.
Then I give some final advice on what to focus on if your budget is a concern.
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