We’re met with so many options perusing through the grocery aisles, how can we be sure the food we’re buying is food? Unfortunately, the production of fake or fraudulent foods is rampant in our country, where it’s easy to be unsure about what we’re consuming. In our latest free webinar, Susan Eichorst, PA-C, MMSc, explains what fake foods are, which we’re most duped by and how to best avoid them.
Food vs. fake food
Let’s first start with a definition of food: Any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth. Simple enough, right? Well, it’s not uncommon to purchase a product that ends up not being what you thought it was. This is called fake food, and it’s been around for centuries, as old as markets and food vendors have been in existence. Not only are food companies defrauding consumers economically by not disclosing exactly how their foods are made or what they’re made with, but they’re contributing to a great deal of chronic illness.
Here are some examples of fake foods:
- Olive oil
Real extra-virgin olive oil has many health benefits as it’s high in Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and polyphenols. But even though the U.S. is the third largest market for olive oil, food experts presume that very few Americans have tasted high-quality olive oil. This is because a lot of the olive oil we consume has been diluted with less expensive, inferior oils, destroying the very health benefits that make EVOO an elixir of longevity in the Mediterranean diet. While it’s not illegal for our olive oil to be processed at the very lowest level of the regulatory spectrum, is it moral if it’s turned rancid by the time it reaches our stores?
- Truffle oil
We’ll cut to the chase: Almost no truffle oil is real. The truffle oil you’re buying is made more of an artificial, chemical mixture than it is of actual truffles. Because we have so little information about what’s in this product, it is best to avoid it entirely.
It may be tough to hear, but honey is a highly fraudulent product, especially in the U.S. While we like to think all honey is made in its pure, original form — from bees who eat plant nectar and pollen — it’s often mixed with other sugars or harvested early (before the honey sugars have turned into actual honey).
Before we can discuss rice, it’s important to understand what microplastics are. First discovered in water samples in 1999, microplastics are 1 micron-5mm sized plastic pieces which have since been found in a lot of our foods, including rice, salt, tea, milk, seaweed, sugar, honey, beer, vegetables, soft drinks and tap water. Most rice is contaminated with microplastics as well as high levels of arsenic. While rinsing rice helps remove arsenic, many people use tap water, which as we now know, can contain microplastics. All in all, it’s best to avoid rice and eat wild rice, quinoa or riced cauliflower instead.
Did you know 99% of our chicken is all one breed? Or that the way we raise chickens has drastically changed to speed up production time? Today, it takes less than seven weeks to raise a 6-12 lb. full-grown chicken due to genetic selection. These chickens are prone to disease and injury and can taste rubbery and bland. While this doesn’t make chicken a “fake” food, it does cause us to consider how these chickens are raised and which we should be consuming.
The same can be said for beef. A lot of beef is industrial-raised in feedlots where the animals are grain-fed and often prone to disease. But the more fraudulent aspect to beef production is in the meat by-products that are used as fillers. Lean finely textured beef and boneless beef lean trimmings are colloquially known as pink slime, which is a paste made from meat trimmings that is treated with ammonia to kill bacteria. The USDA reclassified this pink slime as “ground beef” in 2018, which begs the question, what exactly are we eating?
Some companies, such as Impossible™ Foods, have opted to produce “healthier” planted-based “meats.” When shopping for Impossible or Beyond Meat® products, it’s important to read the labels carefully as these products may contain GMOs and misleading additives.
With a lack of regulation on the world-wide fish industry, our fish is predominantly farmed, which comes with a host of unknowns. A lot of white fish species and sources are mislabeled, shrimp can be sent to one place for processing and another for packaging and the lobster roll we’re paying a heavy buck for may not even be lobster, but instead a less expensive fish like Haddock. While fish farming technology is improving, it’s important to stay vigilant about where our seafood is coming from and what it’s made of.
What can we do to avoid fake foods?
When we don’t take the time to learn what we’re eating, we’re letting someone else tell us what is “food.” Here are some steps we can take to avoid being misled and make healthier choices:
- Filter your tap water to remove microplastics and other “acceptable” harmful particles
- Rinse rice in filtered water numerous times OR don’t eat rice at all
- Read labels carefully
- Buy locally sourced foods when possible
- Avoid table salt and switch to microplastic-free sea salts
- Buy olive oil that prints its press date and then use it on everything!
- Don’t eat truffle oil
- Eat grass-fed and finished beef and bison
- Eat pasture-raised poultry, eggs and pork
- Eat wild-caught salmon and fish
- Support committed restorative farms and ranches
Finding out where your food came from, when it was labeled and what it’s made with will all take some effort on your part, but it will be worth it in the long run. For example, if it was made in a plant or arrived through the window of your car, it’s best not to eat it. We can all do our part to make healthier decisions about our food and send a strong message to the food industry that transparency is what we need to do that.
We hope to partner with you on your journey toward optimal health and wellness! Watch the full webinar today and reach out to the BESANA Health & Wellness team by calling 303.327.7300 or requesting a consultation online.