Everyone's heard of the saying ‘you are what you eat', meaning that the higher the quality of food you're getting in to your body, the better the health you'll be in. But with the production methods and the scientific advancements of today's ‘natural' foods, there's an ever-blurring line between what's real and what's man-made.
John Meadows, the competitive bodybuilder and fitness writer coined the saying ‘you are what you eat... has eaten', which takes in to account not only the food you're putting in your mouth, but what went in to that plant or animal before you ate it. It's interesting and, at times, scary to think about.
Grass-fed vs Grain-fed Meats
In Australia, as well as abroad, there's a choice between grass and grain-fed meats (particularly beef). Go in to any steakhouse with a large menu and chances are you'll see options for both grass and grain-fed steaks of all types, and you might not know that there's a difference between the two.
Most commonly, cows in Australia and New Zealand are fed grass - it's cost effective since we have huge pastures and in especially wet and cold conditions like in New Zealand or Tasmania, for example, it's much easier to grow grass than grains. In the US and other countries, that's not necessarily the case.
Cows are meant to eat grass, not grains, period. Their digestive systems and thousands of years of evolution mean that they digest and absorb the nutrients from grass perfectly well, but the same can't be said for grains. Cows that are fed grains, such as corn and soy, are much sicker than regular cows. They are fed antibiotics to keep ‘healthy', and due to inflammation and digestive issues associated with eating grains, they often would only live six months longer than when they were slaughtered anyway. That means you're eating a dying animal.
Grass-fed cows are not only healthier, but their meat delivers higher amounts of omega-3, CLA and B vitamins as opposed to their grain-fed brothers and sisters. In Australia, we're extremely lucky that 95%-plus of butcher meat is grass-fed. But double-check, just to be sure!
Wild Caught v Farmed Fish
Natural is almost always better when it comes to nutrition, and eating wild-caught fish is no different. We all know that salmon is one of the healthiest fish you can eat - it contains a huge dose of heart and brain-health omega-3 fatty acids, as well as many other fats, vitamins, minerals and protein. But this isn't the case for all salmon.
Salmon farms are increasingly common due to the financial benefits to farmers and the steady rates of produce they're able to create. Instead of wild salmon eating seaweed, invertebrates, insects and other fish, farmed salmon are often fed with foods they aren't meant to eat - corn and soy for example. This results in salmon with higher toxin levels, and often a grey-coloured flesh (which needs to be dyed to get that rich pink-orange colour we know).
Genetically-Modified (GM) Plants
There's some heated debate, particularly in the US, between the government, food manufacturers and scientists about the safety and nutritional value to GM crops. By using clever genetic engineering, GM plants have their DNA changed for a number of benefits to the grower, such as faster growth, less chance of disease and the addition of certain nutrients.
There's a large-scale debate on the safety of GM foods, with some experts claiming that there are no physical differences to animals or humans who eat GM foods compared to those that don't. Other experts believe the opposite.
In Australia currently, cotton and canola are the only genetically-modified crops that are grown, although a number of other such as corn, soy and potatoes are imported and sold (or fed to livestock).
You can see from a few examples here how there can be vast differences between ‘natural' foods such as beef, salmon and plants, even though they appear to be identical. As with all your food and supplement choices, be a discerning shopper - if you aren't sure about the quality of the foods you're getting, it might be worth some investigation. After all, your health's at risk.
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