Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Corn Problem and You

I've recently gotten into a health kick. I've been exercising fanatically and watching literally everything I eat. I find myself googling "The World's Healthiest Foods" at 2 am to put my racing mind at ease. I've been watching documentary after documentary about healthy diets, healthy foods, and conversely - The Western Diet, aka the American Diet. And I've quickly come to fear food.

If any of you have seen Food Inc., King Corn, Forks over Knives, and the myriad of other documentaries that describe how truly terrible, and essentially lethal the American corn-fed diet is for all parties involved, you know what state our collective health is in. If you don't, count the amount of people you could consider "fat" as you walk down the street. I'm not talking pudgy or pleasantly plump, I'm talking about knocking on death's door type fat. You'll probably see more than a handful, and that is way, way too many.

Any doctor and good common sense will tell you that a proper, balanced diet is the way to go. Until now, I thought that was true. You know, the five basic food groups....but I've begun to ask some questions. Who decides what is proper and balanced? And in what context? And where is it that Americans learn these standards of health?

Something as simple as eating has become so complex, so debated, and so politicized that it's hard to figure out what is considered a proper diet.

Think about the Food Pyramid. Remember health class (before those budget cuts?) The Food Pyramid was the standard of how Americans should structure their diet for about 20 years, from 1992 until 2011. Forty-five to sixty-five percent of our daily caloric intake should be from starch products, like grain, rice, and corn. Well, the Food Pyramid was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA").

Now here is the interesting thing. The USDA is also responsible for issuing crop subsidies, and the largest subsidy program for any crop in the US is corn - by far. The vast majority of this corn, which the government pays farmers to grow, is processed into either super dense food additives or animal feed. Almost all of our cheap, readily available food contains corn in one way or another, and has become hazardous as a result.

The USDA also helps to regulate what we serve kids in public school lunches. I wasn't aware of nutrition when I was 8, 10, 12, or even 16 years old. I didn't really care, and kind of accepted what was put in front of me as being healthy, or at least permissibly so. But even I knew that some of the lunches we were served daily were god-awful for you. Here's a real example of my weekly lunch menu.

- Monday:  Rings, Wings, and Things (This was that actual name of the meal) - Fried onion rings, fried, mechanically separated and processed chicken bits, and French fries, all of which was likely fried in corn oil.

- Tuesday:  Nachos - Salty corn ships, a buttery sour cream topping (about two cups worth), hyper processed, canned and salty as shit chili, and generic liquid nacho cheese.

- Wednesday:  Rib-I-Que Sandwich: A mystery meat, pork-like...rib resembling hunk dripping in high-fructose corn syrup BBQ sauce, served with canned green beans (packed with salt), and French fries.

And the list went on. The stuff that powered our fragile little minds, and I'm not talking about knowledge or whimsical curiosity, had about as much nutritional value as corrugated cardboard. In fact, the cardboard at least had fiber and a lower fat and sugar content.

In thinking about this, I have to wonder who is right. Is the USDA right, after helping to pump corn product into nearly every processed and prepared food, and then into our kids? If not, then who is? If we can't trust the government to provide for us, instead of the interests of business and expediency, who should we turn to? I'm not sure about you, but corn scares the hell out of me - and so does the USDA for that matter. What they are, what they do, and how far down the rabbit hole they go is shocking.

So......Sprout Smoothie, anyone?