Django, from the movie Ratatouille
I love this quote from Ratatouille, a movie about a rat named Remy who loves to cook. Food is fuel, but if you put the wrong type of fuel into you car, it can damage the engine. The same is true with your body. I learned this from my youngest daughter.
In December 2004, our youngest daughter was born. She came out screaming, and I mean screaming. The nurses nicknamed her feisty. Throughout my pregnancy she was very active and I could tell before she was born, she would be a handful. Although she slept well, she seem very uncomfortable and was very fussy. Something didn’t seem right. When at her two-week checkup I mentioned this to her doctor, she dismissed my concern, saying I just didn’t remember how a newborn could be. On her one-month birthday we found out that was not entirely true, she had a milk protein and soy protein intolerance.
I thought that because I was breastfeeding my baby she couldn’t have any food issues. What I discovered was proteins pass through human milk intact. Every time I ate anything with milk or soy protein, it caused my daughter severe pain. Her new digestive system couldn’t process these proteins. Determined to feed her until her first birthday, I had to change my diet, dramatically. I had to eliminate all foods that contained milk or soy protein.
As anyone who has been on a diet can tell you, it is very difficult to change the way you eat. I was reading every label to determine if either milk or soy protein were present. I quickly discovered, when food manufacturers remove milk protein, they replace it with soy protein. Every processed food has something added. Even canned tuna fish has soy protein added. (The one exception I found was Kirkland's tuna fish sold at Costco. It contains only tuna and water.) It was clear, my only option was to eat fresh foods and avoid all processed foods.
I quickly started networking to find local farmers. We were at the farmers’ market every Saturday stocking up on fruits and vegetables. We become good friends with Larry Cleverley, the Midwest distributor for Niman Ranch meats. Committing to eat dairy and soy free for one year was a big change in our diet. A month after changing my diet we had a very happy, very active baby, free of pain. I would have never been able to accomplish this without our local farmers.
Over the past few years, the slow food, locavore movement has been popular with the media. But the idea of eating fresh food isn’t new. The book Graded Lessons In Physiology and Hygiene by William O. Krohn, M.D., PhD (Yale) was published in 1906. In it, he discusses “adulterated” foods and the health issues associated with them. My favorite quote from this book is his rant regarding processed foods. Remember, this book was published in 1906.
“Not only do we have artificial eggs, artificial butter and adulterated wheat flour, but we have buckwheat adulterated with wheat middlings, cider vinegar distilled from grains, lemon extract made without lemon oil, and vanilla extract without a trace of vanilla. We buy “Vermont Maple Syrup” that never was within a thousand miles of Vermont, but was made in a little, dingy city factory.” [page 41]
Early humans were hunter-gatherers. They ate food they grew and or killed, eating only what was in season. Because of this, they ate a variety of foods. The typical number of foods in their diet was around 200. Surprising, today the typical number of foods in our diet is around twenty. Some scientist suggest that repeated exposure to the same foods, predisposes us to food allergies.
As hard as that year was, it was the best year of our lives. Being forced to change our family diet to all fresh, local foods was a blessing. I never felt so good. Even though I had a new baby and a three-year old, I had plenty of energy.
My youngest daughter outgrew her intolerance to milk and soy protein. Except for ice cream, she still doesn’t like to eat dairy products. We continue to eat mainly fresh, local foods. We are fortunate to live close to many of the farmers that produce our food. Opening day of the Des Moines Farmers’ Market is this Saturday, May 7th. It will be great to see our local farmers again, who work hard to provide us with fresh, healthy food. This year, make a commitment to find your farmers’ market and get to know the people who grow your food. Eat fresh and eat local and see how much sweeter life can be.
Following are three that I would highly recommend:
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
- In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollen
- Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser