Thursday, April 14, 2016

Living the (non)Enriched Life




One of the many things I enjoy about having a blog as a writing outlet is that I can write about whatever I want. Two posts ago, I wrote about politics and my opinion on the current situation in our country.

The post after that (the most recent) was something I felt like God revealed to me in my daily Bible reading time.

This post is going to be about nutrition.

I know...random, right?

However, this is an accurate representation of my life and the many parts that are moving at any given time. And I know that each of us is more than one thing....more than one focus.

So, today, here is what I am focusing on.

Health.

And not being super angry at our government for "protecting us" into terrible health issues because of their limited scope of understanding and sweeping legislation that if you are not paying attention, you may miss.

Which is what I did in 1998.

Granted, I was living overseas for part of that year. I was newly-engaged and planning a wedding and a move to another state in early 1999. So government mandates about food were not really on my radar. And to be honest, I don't know how much publicity it received back then. But this basically what happened:

"In 1947 scientists at Lederle Labs synthesized a compound called folic acid that had never previously existed on our planet. No human prior to 1947 had ever ingested this artificial substance. Exactly 51 years later in 1998, the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) manditorily legislated that the entire U.S. population would now be required to ingest this substance. 
 
As a democratic nation, we were never allowed to vote upon this decision. It simply happened overnight. One day folic acid was not part of our regular food supply, and the next day every man, woman and child in the U.S. (except celiac patients and Paleo dieters) were forced to ingest folic acid whether they wanted to or not." (Loren Cordain, "Flour Fortification with Folic Acid: Good Idea or Bad Idea?")

Here are some of the fall-out from that legislation:

ADDITION OF FOLIC ACID


Apparently it's taken me almost twenty years to find out this information. And it makes me really mad and sad, all at the same time.

Because my father was born in 1949. So basically, he has had folic acid in his life and body since before birth. He has some health issues that may or not be fully attributed to this folic acid folly. But I am convinced that this is likely one of the root issues. We cannot mess with our food supply, environment and bodies and not have issues.

His likely exposure and the continuation for me and my children...well, that's when you start talking about effecting epigenetics.

But back to me. In 1998, I was not a mother. Pregnancy and children were still four years down the road for me. I had more than a year's worth of taking folic acid supplements in my future to "help fetal development."

Fast-forward all of these years to links to autism, sensory-processing disorders, certain types of cancers and who know what else.

Having SPD children in our home, if I would have known this information and understand the effects of this legislation (and I suppose that it could argued that the fallout was unknown at this point), I would never have taken those supplements and I would have completely changed the way that I shopped and prepared our food.

I know I can't spend time beating myself up on the "what if's." That's a pointless road. But I can and WILL make changes armed with this knowledge for our future.

But this legislation makes my blood boil because research is starting to show that despite the reasoning behind the government's decision to compel companies to use enriched flour, it is having unforeseen and disastrous consequences. Dr. Cordain continues:

"At the time, this national mandate seemed like a pretty good idea because convincing data existed to show that low folate status caused neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. (I have bolded and underlined the word folate to emphasis that it is an entirely different compound that folic acid.)
 
In our bodies, folate and folic acid are metabolized in different ways. Folate is a natural vitamin found in leafy green vegetables and organ meats. Folic acid is not a vitamin, but rather a man-made substance that can be converted to folate in the liver. The problem is that folic acid is not rapidly converted to folate, thereby causing as excess pool of both folic acid and folate to build up in our bodies. And herein lies the problem."

Yes, and the problematic fact that the American diet was so poor in green, leafy vegetables packed with folate that folic acid had to become a thing in the first place.

Green smoothie, anyone?

TOO LITTLE AND TOO MUCH NUTRIENTS


And it's not just folic acid.  In the quest to get white flour, the entire "enriching process" strips the original wheat berry of the bran and the germ -- which holds the majority of the nutrients. Then they bleach it because the hue that is leftover is not pleasing to the eye. (And don't even get me started on the evils of bleached flour....I'll let you read up on that one.) And then they add back in a bunch of manufactured "nutrients" and call it good.

But it's not good. As you can see in the table below, when we mess with nature, we can't add back in what we've taken out. At least not in the correct amounts. There is either too much or too little.

(*Note that the Folate mentioned is "Folic Acid in the first two columns and "Folate" in the last one.)

1 OUNCE BLEACHED ENRICHED WHITE FLOUR
1 OUNCE UNBLEACHED ALL-PURPOSE WHITE FLOUR
1 OUNCE UNBLEACHED WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR
Calories
Total fat (grams)
0
0
1
Sodium (milligrams)
1
1
1
Carbs (grams)
22
21
20
Fiber (grams)
0
1
3
Sugars (grams)
0
0
0
Protein (grams)
2
3
4
Calcium (grams)
5.6 (1%)
4.2 (0%)
9.5 (1%)
Folate (micrograms)
47.6 (12%)
51.2 (13%)
12.3 (3%)
Iron (milligrams)
1.4 (8%)
1.3 (7%)
1.1 (6 %)
Magnesium (milligrams)
5.6 (1%)
6.2 (2%)
38.6 (10%)
Manganese (milligrams)
.2 (9%)
.2 (9%)
1.1 (53%)
Potassium (grams)
36.7 (1%)
30 (1%)
113 (3%)
Vitamin A (international units)
0 (0%)
.6 (0%)
2.5 (0%)
Vitamin B6 (milligrams)
0 (1%)
0 (1%)
.1 (5%)
Thiamin (milligrams)
.2 (14%)
.2 (14%)
.1 (8%)
Zinc (milligrams)
.3 (2%)
.2 (1%)
229 (286%)
Table Source: PopSugar


Admittedly, I'm not the best at eating healthy. I do try to cook and bake from scratch as much as possible. I have been trying to get my family to eat more organic and local produce, less refined sugar and processed foods and even have participated in a herd-share for chicken and beef so we have a better idea of where our food is coming from and how it's been treated.

But we still eat junk food. I worry about the eating habits of my youngest who loves carbs and hates almost anything else. McDonald's has received more of my money than I would like to admit.

So we are not perfect. Not even close. But we're aware of the problem and that's something to start with.

MORE STARCH TO PROCESS


Another result of this enriching/stripping process is more sugar for our bodies to try to process. When you remove the germ from wheat berries it produces starch. So when I was pulling out the granulated white sugar and bleached white flour to bake, I was never considering the starchy concoction's impact on our poor bodies.  I think we can all agree that we have enough sugar added to our food already without adding in more.

--

So, here we are with 18 years of enriched flour products packed upon our grocery shelves. The next time you are in the cracker/cereal/snack/pasta/bread aisles, pick up random products and read the back of the label. It will look a lot like this.





And this is the tricky kind because on the front it will likely shout out about how you are eating a whole grain or a whole wheat product. However, when you look at the label closely, you will see the addition of "enriched wheat flour" and a parentheses of what that contains.

Now when I shop, I read labels on the crackers, cereal and breads I pick up. I recently discovered that both Wheat Thins and Triscuit crackers use non-enriched flour.


That's a big difference in the list of ingredients.

So, that's a win!

There is more good news. The Paleo diet movement and awareness of the MTHFR gene mutation, as well as a host of parents who have looked at food as a source of harm/healing for their children who have been diagnosed with sensory disorders has brought awareness to this issue.

And it's brought forth more options for people who want to eliminate enriched flour products from their lives.

I do have a friend who buys her own wheat berries and grinds them down into flour. This is a great way to ensure you are getting the most vital nutrients and minerals every time. But if that doesn't work for you, you can buy whole-grain, non-enriched flour from the bulk bins or even off the shelf. I picked a two-pack of organic unbleached wheat flour at Costco. Check out the label on this beaut:



Look at that beautiful, simple ingredient list! In contrast, check out this one from Gold Medal:



I think these Paleo folks are on to something. If we have been able to damage our bodies over generations with our eating habits and thereby messing with our epigenetics, shouldn't we be able to repair it by changing them? There is a compelling argument that getting our essential nutrients from their original source can even reverse many degenerative diseases like M.S. and many others.

So, here's to finding, buying and producing more food that is as close to its natural source as possible. Here's to food that spoils and doesn't have a "shelf-life" or man-made chemical compounds adding in to help us out.

Because the government can compel companies to enrich their flour, but they cannot compel me to eat it!

--

UPDATE: The day after I wrote this blog post, I saw this news article about the FDA approving the addition of folic acid into corn products (masa) that will effect our tortillas and tamales. 

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