Modern lifestyles are fast-paced and hectic. It’s easy to just grab something and go, without thinking about what exactly you’re consuming.
There is a misconception in North America: real food cannot be fast food. Fresh food advocate Jamie Oliver squashed this claim in his series Food Revolution, cooking a meal for three in less time than it takes to drive to your favourite fast food joint and back. He proved that real food can be prepared quickly, for less money than you’ll pay at the drive-thru window. But these facts alone aren’t sparking action.
If you don’t care about the food you’re eating, it’s probably because you don’t know a lot about the food you’re eating. We’ve all heard that fast food is bad and fresh food is good, but there is a veil of uncertainty for most people, surrounding what is so bad about processed food.
When I eat a strawberry, I can identify the one and only ingredient: strawberry. My body knows how to digest it and break down its nutrients, as humans have been doing for centuries. When I eat a strawberry candy, depending on the brand, I’m eating around 20 ingredients. My body is not sure how to convert these often toxic ingredients into nutrients or energy. Some of the most shocking:
1) That “beautiful” red colour. How do they produce it? Using coal tar.
2) Hydrochloric acid, a corrosive typically used for rust removal.
3) Propylene oxide, made from petroleum (fuel).
One of the most startling ingredients that I’ve come across – again, thanks to Jamie Oliver – is L-Cysteine. If I make cookies at home, I can read the list of ingredients in the form of a recipe, each item identifiable and commonplace in the kitchen. If I buy cookie dough from the store, I’m taking home the not-so-friendly L-Cysteine.
What’s so bad about this completely unidentifiable ingredient? It’s made from human hair and duck feathers.
Another startling ingredient that can be found on almost any candy wrapper: shellac. What’s shellac? Beetle secretion.
So, would you pick up a hearty piece of coal tar and take a bite? Would you feast on human hair, petroleum and beetles for your afternoon snack? If you’re a student, think of the quality of mental energy you’d produce. If you’re an athlete, think of the quality of physical energy you’d produce. The fact that these ingredients are masked with scientific names is not accidental. They’re masked with scientific names so that you don’t ask questions like, “What am I really eating?”
Recently, McDonalds has come under the media spotlight by announcing that they will no longer serve ammonia-soaked meat. I don’t remember them announcing that they started using ammonia-soaked meat?! The companies that feed our children and adults obviously don’t care what’s in the food, so long as it’s fast and cheap. So it’s time for us to take a closer look.
At the moment, we’re growing our hair and fingernails using coal tar. At the moment, we’re producing our mental and physical energy with ingredients like human hair (that was probably produced by consuming ingredients like coal tar). Doesn’t it seem crazy? Wouldn’t you rather have hair and energy that came from real ingredients, ones you can name and find in a normal kitchen?
Anyone who tells you that they don’t indulge is lying to you. It’s okay to have a bad food day, but make that day an exception.
Have your food fast and cheap, but make it from ingredients that you could purchase in a supermarket yourself. If you can’t identify what it is, you probably don’t want it going through your digestive organs. Plan your meals by setting aside a few dishes that are quick and affordable. Freeze dishes like home-made shepherd’s pie, soup, and lasagna. Give the label a scan before you decide to put that item in your cart. I promise your skin will look better than ever, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll be avoiding hundreds of harmful ingredients.