Friday, February 28, 2014

Why We Eat What We Do

            Since we have looked at garden vegetables and recipes this month, I also want to share with you a post from my other blog, “Why We Eat What We Do.”  Now, first off, let me say that these are just my opinions.  It’s the way we choose to eat based on things that I have read.  And read and read and read!  I am making no health promises for you (or for me), but I am challenging you to think deliberately and deeply about what you put into (and on and around) your body.  Our food, I believe, has been designed by God to have a great impact on our health.  And I think that our society is in a deep spiral of self-destruction because of our poor choices.  And so I challenge all people to consider if what you eat feeds your body or harms it. 

            What I am sharing here are the conclusions that I have come to after hours of research on each thing.  But I could write a whole book on why we eat certain things and won’t eat others.  Once you’ve spent a lot of time researching food and how it’s processed, you become really passionate about it.  And you love to talk about it!  You love to talk about the healthy choices you make and why you make them.  You get really passionate and upset about what is being done to our food supply, our environment, and the bodies of the children as well as adults.  And when you dig deep into the reasons why and how things got this bad and into the “back-scratching” that happens behind the scenes, you get really angry with “big business” and the governmental agencies that you thought had your best interest and health at heart. 

            And after all of the research that I have done, I feel a huge calling to get this message out there:  “Buyer beware!  You MUST research things for yourself.  Do NOT trust the companies or the government to look out for your health and well-being.  It is up to you!” 
            (Do you know that in places like Europe and such, food companies have removed harmful/questionable ingredients that they still put in our food?  And why is that?  Because we willingly buy and eat things that the people over there refuse to eat.  And our country is probably also the one who produces them, too, and so there is profit to be made off of them.  Not only does this show the power of our choices and purchases, but it shows that the companies who know that these ingredients are considered harmful in one country - or, at the very least, undesirable and questionable – are more than willing to feed them to a different group of people, to the suckers who don’t know or care enough to refuse them themselves.  We have to make the changes that we want by not buying the things that we don’t agree with.  Most companies will not change unless forced to, by a drop in sales.  Now, there are good companies out there that have a conscience, so try to find them and support them.  And look for small and local as much as possible.  They need our help to keep them running.)      
            When we buy things, we are voting with our money for the practices, ingredients, and food choices that we want to continue.  And what we vote for with our money – what we buy and support – is what gets handed down to our children.  Our choices shape the quality of the food and the condition of the environment that our kids get.  We need to make wise, thoughtful, sometimes difficult choices.    
            Food is not about just filling an empty stomach; it’s about the nourishment it provides and whether it nurtures or hurts the body that God has given us and our children.  It’s about our responsibility to ourselves, our families, the earth, and our fellow humans.  It’s about being deliberate and thoughtful and self-controlled with our choices.  And I think this is a very God-glorifying way to live. 
            But before I go into our conclusions about food, I need to warn you about an unexpected, uncomfortable side-effect.  Educating yourself and reading too much about food and how it’s processed really changes the way that you see food.  And it really affects your enjoyment of certain foods.  And that makes it harder to eat out or at other people’s houses.  That bowl of MSG-laden chips doesn’t call to you anymore.  The dip with all the unpronounceable words looks like a bowl of toxic goo.  Pop becomes poison.  You don’t want to buy soft-serve ice cream anymore.  All you can think when you look at the chicken strips is, I wonder what kind of oil they deep-fried that sickly, arsenic-laden hunk of meat in?  And you cringe and grimace all through the holidays because of all the candy and sweets.  So if you really like things the way they are, don’t read any more of this section. 
            Now, before you start to feel really sorry for our kids, (get in line!) there are some things that we do let slide a little at holiday times or birthday parties.  They are not totally deprived of all the joys that “normal” kids know.  Just mostly.  It’s gotten to the point where the candy comes in the front door - “Oh, thank you, how sweet of you” - and right out the back door to the garbage.  While they get to keep some, we do at times pay them for the candy that we take away.  So they get something for it.  They’re happy with the money and we’re happy that they’re not eating crap.  (And I use that word deliberately.)  And, yes, when my sons get older and write a book called, Scarred for Life:  Memoirs of My Childhood, I’ll be first in line to purchase it. 
            Anyway, we do let them occasionally have some artificially-flavored and colored things, and some pop.  (Yes, I know.  We’re really letting the chains out a little here, huh?)  But it’s amazing how cautious they are in their choices after we share what we are learning with them.  They will turn down treats at a birthday party because they read the label and know it’s not good for them. 
            Of course, I do feel bad for them sometimes.  I feel like they are missing out on some of the things that others around them are enjoying.  And yet, I am proud of them for being thoughtful about their food, for taking charge of their health, and for having the guts to “go without” sometimes. 
            Anyway, it will make it harder to eat at other people’s houses.  It has for us, especially since we stopped eating pork.  Pork is one thing that we tell our kids never to touch.  And at the holidays . . . well . . . pork is everywhere.  I had never noticed it before; but there’s ham as the main dish, bacon in the dip, and pork in the sausage and hot dogs and meatballs and lasagna, etc.  There’s pig in the gelatin and candy.  There’s even lard in the refried beans and pie crust!!!  It’s pork . . . everywhere!  All the time!  Pork, pork, pork!  (Just the word itself is funny to say . . . Pork!  And so is “beef” . . . beefy . . . beeeeeefffy!  Sorry, just amusing myself here!) 
            So it’s hard to try to graciously eat and enjoy meals at other people’s houses when you can’t eat half the stuff.  I feel bad about this, too.  I really do.  I fear that it looks ungrateful.  But there are some things that we won’t compromise on, and pork is one of them.  So it takes a little quiet creativity to maneuver through the meals graciously.  It’s one I’m still learning.  (We offer to bring a lot of food with us.)
            And it’s funny what kind of reaction you get when someone finds out that you don’t eat pork anymore.  You would think that people would go, “Oh, really?  Why not?”  But that’s not what happens.  The response I usually get when I graciously-as-possible say, “Oh, no thanks, we don’t eat pork anymore,” is someone looking at me in pity and ever-so-slightly shaking their head, as though they feel sorry for me.  You can almost hear them thinking, Oh, that’s too bad!  Poor thing!           
            And that makes me want to say, “No, don’t feel sorry for me.  And don’t feel sorry for my kids.  It’s a good thing!  And here are my reasons why. . .”  But most people don’t ask.  They just smile at you with a look of pity.  Or one of fear; one that says, “Please, don’t tell me why!  I love my bacon and ham.  Don’t ruin it for me!”  Which is why I never share my reasons unless someone asks. 
            Except with my friend, Jen, and her husband, Jon.  I did give them my long, extensive, unsolicited opinion about why we don’t eat pork anymore.  Because that’s the kind of uncensored friendship that we have.  (And I love her dearly for it!  Can’t say she loves me for it, but I love her for it!)  But later, as Jon was trying to eat a pork sandwich, he told Jen, “I hate Heather!”  In the nicest way possible, of course.  So, to be fair to you, I’m not going to into all my reasons for my food choices here.
            Just into a few of them! 

            Okay, let’s start with pork.  Actually, I’ll sum it all up by saying this:  God made the pig and He told us not to eat it.  And He must know what He’s talking about!  Case closed!  In fact, in Leviticus 11, He clearly spells out what animals are “clean” and which are “unclean.”  And, interestingly enough, it’s not a random list.  He didn’t just go, “Okay, pigs, how about over there on the unclean side?  Chickens and fish, over here on the clean side.  Cows, come on, pick up the pace, you’re with the chickens.  Warthogs, you stink and you’re ugly, so you’re with the pigs.  Creepy rats, over there, too.” 
            No, all of the unclean animals are the scavengers, the ones that eat the dead animals and the garbage of the earth and the oceans.  I had never thought much about it before.  I used to think of it as just some Old Testament, unreasonable law that didn’t have any real reasons behind it, other than ceremonial restrictions to set the Israelites apart.  You, know, like God giving some random hoops for the Israelites to jump through just to test them and make them stand out as different from everyone else.  Because, after all, God ended up calling all meat “clean” later in the New Testament.
            But after reading a couple books on the matter (particularly The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin, which I think is the best all-around book on nutrition, and an old one called God’s Key to Health and Happiness by Elmer A. Josephson), I have come to see God’s wise reasons for calling that meat unclean.  And I don’t think that those animals were meant as food, but they were created to be the cleaners of the earth.  (And out of respect for your right to choose, I’ll leave it up to you to read up on it, if you wish.) 
            My point here is the whole “unclean or clean” debate.  I believe that when God called them “unclean or clean,” He was referring to two things: the ceremonial restrictions and the quality of the meat.  The Israelites couldn’t eat the unclean meat and still approach God.  And He was using the healthiest options as His ceremonial rules.  So avoiding “unclean meat” was not just a ceremonial restriction; it was also a wise way of ensuring that the Israelites had the healthiest lives possible.    
            But in the New Testament, He changed the rules.  Now, He called all meat “clean.”  But He is referring here only to the ceremonial restrictions, not the quality of the meat.  It’s not that those meats are now, miraculously, healthy choices.  It’s that there is no longer a ceremonial restriction against them.  Anyone can come to God now, no matter what they eat.  But, once again, it doesn’t change the purpose of the pig, how its body digests (or doesn’t digest) the garbage it eats, and how much toxins are in its meat. 
            It doesn’t make it healthy; it just means that God accepts everyone now, no matter their food choices.  I, however, believe that we would be very wise to follow those meat guidelines (even though people are no longer required to follow them), because I believe that God gave them for a reason:  He knows that those are the healthiest guideline because He made the animals. 
            The clean animals, like the cow, for instance, eat a mostly vegetarian diet.  (At least, that’s how they are designed.  Unfortunately, we humans feed them all sorts of things that their bodies weren’t meant to digest, making their meat and milk not as healthy as God intended.)  But they are designed to eat grass and vegetarian diets, and they were given a digestive system that actually cleans their food further before it goes into their meat, which is why they chew the cud.  Whereas a pig wasn’t made to eat a “clean” diet, and it doesn’t clean the food before it goes into its meat! 
            The reason I share this all here is because the more I research, the more God amazes me.  Once I learned more about the pig and scavenger animals, I began to see the wisdom, concern, thoughtfulness, and complexity of God more clearly.  Those OT rules weren’t just some random rules meant to squash people’s enjoyment and to keep them in a rigid line.  They were actually specific rules because He cared that they had the healthiest bodies possible - the best lives possible - as well as caring that they followed the rules. 
            And yet, when He chose to let people eat whatever they wanted in the NT, He shows His amazing grace and acceptance.  He shows us that a relationship with Him is more important to Him than what we eat.  His love is so great that it encompasses all people, regardless of food choices.        
            Anyway, you can see why my choices have become rich, deep, and meaningful.  There are so many more reasons behind our food choices now.  And I feel like I am living with more conviction and more thought and, therefore, more passion.  And, for us, even though all meat is ceremonially “clean” now, we have decided that living by God’s Old Testament “meat” wisdom is the healthiest choice for our family.  (We just eat very little meat, even the clean meat, because of the way it is grown and processed.  It’s just not as healthy anymore as it should be.)  It doesn’t mean that we are any more acceptable or pleasing to Him than any other family; it just means that we feel like we are doing what’s best for us. 

            Okay, now, as far as the other things we eat or don’t eat, (since I’m sure that you’re all soooooo interested in our eating habits) let me just say that the internet is an amazing place to dig up all sorts of information.  Just type in about any food along with the words “Healthy” or “Harmful” and see what comes up.  And since you can find it all there somewhere, I won’t talk about our specific reasons for why we choose certain things.  (Plus, I do not want to have to go through the process of asking for permission to quote from numerous sources, and I do not want to make any claims that could get me sued.  But let me warn you that you often have to get through twenty people that claim something is good for you before you find the one person who says it’s bad for you.  And I usually trust that one source because they are not getting anything for their opinion, whereas so many others profit in some way from the claims they are making or they are just repeating what they hear everyone else saying.  It takes time and effort, but keep digging until you are sure of your choice.) 
            Anyway, so I’ll just let you know the briefest conclusions that I’ve come to about what I have researched, for those who want to know and have something to consider.  (Everyone else can just shake their heads and feel sorry for me.  That’s okay.  I’m used to it!)

Pop/Soda, GMO, and Artificial Additives:
            I won’t expound on pop (or soda, for those who are not from the Midwest), processed foods, GMO foods, and artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, and artificial sweeteners, other than to say that I think they are toxic and that they don’t feed the body’s cells.  (And I’ve researched nearly every one.  And don’t you think the word “artificial” should give it away? )  I think that they kill us . . . sloooowwwlllyyy. 
            And I challenge all of you to get on-line and do some research on the dangers of pop, processed food, GMO foods (like corn and soy), and artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and sweeteners, especially if you commonly eat them or give them to your children.  And don’t go, “Oh, yeah, I know it’s not good for us, but . . .”  That is the lazy, irresponsible way.  And someday, when you or your children face a chronic health issue, you will regret not doing all you could do now to take your health seriously and to give your children the best start possible.  Start today! 
            [And can I also add this:  Please, please, please – on behalf of the poor, little hummingbirds – get rid of the artificially colored/flavored, sugar-water, hummingbird feeders from your backyards.  Plant a hummingbird-friendly garden, instead.  They need real food, too, and I can’t imagine what will happen to them as they feast on fake food.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a “hummingbird collapse” like the poor bee colonies. 
            Personally, my husband and I feel a responsibility to do what we can to make sure that our yard is uncontaminated by pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  It is delightful and deeply satisfying to know that our garden and yard are safe for us and future generations and for the bees, butterflies, and birds that come to visit.  And we are seriously considering putting up a bee hive so that we can do our part to raise bees near flowers and plants that are not contaminated with pesticides or fertilizers.  Maybe someday . . . someday soon!  Anyway, I’m down off that soap-box now.  I tell you, these are some things that you don’t want to get me started on, because I could go on . . . and on . . . and on.  I told you that you get really passionate about things once you’ve researched them.]      
            Anyway, I wonder sometimes if we have calcium problems not because of a lack of milk, but because of too much pop and other foods that create acidic conditions in our bodies.  Too much red meat, white sugar, white flour, etc.  (FYI, while lemons are acidic in your mouth, once they are digested they are powerfully alkaline.  Which is a good thing.  So I’m not talking about lemons here.)
              Our cells are being starved of real nourishment because we are feeding our bodies all sorts of lifeless, processed, fake, worthless substances.  And to counteract our acidic bodies, calcium is pulled from our bones.  (Look up “alkaline diets” to learn more about this.)  I have to wonder how many ills and health problems would be resolved if only we ate real food, as God intended it. 

            Okay, white, processed, table sugar versus more natural sweeteners.  You know, I once did an experiment with the kids.  We were trying to grow sugar crystals.  I made two super-saturated water solutions: one with table sugar and one with Sucanat (a much less processed, more natural sugar).  The Sucanat water began molding very early on, whereas the processed-sugar water did not mold.  At all!  This tells me that even the bacteria won’t eat and can’t live on the processed sugar.  It’s nutritionally bankrupt and it cannot sustain life.  That’s why it can sit on a shelf for so long.  (And we even tested a cup of evaporated cane juice crystals, which ended up getting moldy, too.  Just a bit later than the Sucanat.  But it still got moldy compared to the table sugar, which did nothing.) 
            I’ve also researched table sugar and natural sweeteners.  And the end result is that we now only use (and sparingly use) Sucanat or organic evaporated cane juice crystals, real maple syrup, and honey as our sweeteners.  (Agave syrup?  Research that yourself, how it is made.  But from what I’ve read, it’s not all it seems to be.  You would think that it is just basically squeezed from the plant, but it is apparently highly processed, not unlike corn syrup.  And I thank a friend of mine from church, Jennifer, for sharing this with me.  I was using it and hadn’t thought to research it myself.  But thanks to her bringing it to my awareness, I researched it and decided not to use it anymore.  See, so even I don’t know everything and am not always researched, so I welcome advice and insight from friends.) 
            When it comes to sweeteners, we also really cut back on how much we add to things.  And it’s amazing how much you could cut out of a recipe and still have it taste great.  When you first cut down the sweeteners, though, it does take a little time to get used to it, to “reset” your taste buds.  But after a few weeks, you will start to really prefer the subtly sweeter things over the super sweet ones.
            There was this time once that really showed me how we adjust our tastes to what we regularly eat.  There are these coconut cookies that I make that use very little sugar.  And my kids love them.  And I gave some to a friend’s kids (she’s also very health conscious, probably even more than me) and they loved them.  And then I brought them to a church get-together, and almost no one ate them.  I saw whole cookies, with tiny little bites taken out, just sitting there, uneaten.  And then, when I was getting ready to leave, one of the kids (whose from a family of self-proclaimed “sugar junkies”) asked me, “Mrs. K., could you please not bring those cookies again?”  I thought it was so funny because he was so polite about it.  But it really shows me how we can adjust our tastes based to what we normally eat.  So if you start to cut back or make healthy changes, give it time.     

The "Mrs. K, Could you please not bring those coconut cookies again" recipe:
Simply mix together:
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup coconut oil (warmed till liquidy)
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 cups dry oatmeal
1 to 2 cups shredded coconut
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Place spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet and gently press into small patty.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Let cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet.
 (I like the shredded coconut I get from my co-op, Country Life Natural Foods.  It has no propylene glycol in it.)

            Anyway, I also did a crystal-growing experiment with salt.  I made two solutions once again; one with processed table salt and one with sea salt.  Try it yourself.  It’s fascinating.  Nearly immediately, the table salt began growing mountains of snowy crystals all over the cup.  But the sea salt did nothing as the water evaporated.  In fact, while the table salt was going crazy, the sea salt did nothing until the water was half-gone.  And then, it began to grow these translucent, cube-shaped crystals.  Very unlike the mounds of white “snow” that covered the other cup. 
            In the end, there was about as much salt in the table salt cup as I originally dumped in at first.  But there seemed to be way less sea salt than I put in.  What happened to the sea salt?  Where did it go and why did it look so different?  If people want to claim that salt is salt, and it doesn’t matter what salt you use . . . I would recommend trying this experiment for yourselves.  It really makes you wonder what kind of effect table salt has on the body (versus sea salt) when you see the difference in how they evaporate.  I speculate that when people say that we have a sodium problem in our country, it’s really that we have a table salt problem in our society.  We use only sea salt now!

            And just like I believe that white, processed sugar can’t support life, I think that white, processed flour can’t support life.  And maybe this is where our gluten problems are coming from?  Not from the wheat, per se, but from the lifeless, stripped, chemically-laden, nutritionally-devoid, processed white flour.  We are overloaded with white flour products.  White flour is meant to be shelf-stable, meaning it won’t go bad.  And it won’t go bad because bacteria won’t eat it.  And if bacteria can’t eat it and can’t live on it, maybe we shouldn’t be eating it, either?  It’s something to think about.
            Something that I didn’t expect when I bought a grain mill and began grinding my own wheat berries is the incredible smell of fresh-ground flour.  It’s intoxicating, it really is!  Nothing like the old, rancid smell of store bought flour.  And the fresh-ground whole wheat tasted wonderful compared to the bitter store-bought whole wheat. 
            I also didn’t expect to have anything I bake go bad by the second or third day.  When I used to make things with white flour (or even store-bought whole wheat) it would smell and look the same for days.  Until it got stale and crusty.  But now, with fresh-ground flour (depending on how much moisture I put in and what kind of wet ingredients I used: milk, yogurt, water, etc.), by the second or third day there might be a noticeable “different” smell.  Kind of fermented-like.
            And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because the bacteria are feasting on it.  They are eating it and changing its composition, like the way that sourdough starters or yogurt works.  And if bacteria can eat it and live on it - but not on the processed flour products - then it must be life-sustaining.  (Once again, I have oodles of research to back me up about all of our choices; but I’m just giving you the conclusions and letting you decide if you want to research it for yourself or not.) 

            Okay, now, about our oils/fats.  (This rabbit hole keeps getting deeper and deeper.)  We all know that olive oil is one of the healthiest oils, but I’m sure you’d be horrified to know that we also use coconut oil and butter.  Notice, though, that I use high-quality, non-hydrogenated, unrefined, organic-if-possible coconut oil and organic butter and organic olive oil.  (I’m going to leave it to you to look up the health benefits of these yourselves.) 
            But I share this little bit here to get you thinking, because we are told over and over again that the healthy oils are the light-yellow, clear ones in the see-through bottles.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  It’s basically all the ones that you find on the shelves at your local grocery store (besides the olive oils and nut oils).  And we are told that the unhealthy ones are the saturated ones like butter and coconut oil. 
            After much research, I believe that it’s the exact opposite.  I believe that, for the most part, the unhealthy ones are the processed oils that we are taught are the healthy ones.  And the healthy ones are the ones we are told to stay away from.  You’ll really have to look this all up for yourself if you are interested.  (I keep saying this so that I don’t get sued by the companies for making claims and arguments against their products.  But I can and will encourage you to do your own research.  The info is out there; you just have to dig deep past all the claims that “it’s totally safe and healthy for you.”  Look up things like “the dangers of” canola oil or GMO or artificial sweeteners, etc.) 
            Personally, after much digging, I think the so-called “healthy” ones starve our cells and harm them.  I don’t think that they give our cells the nourishment they need.  And the so-called “unhealthy” saturated ones are just what our cells need.  The exact opposite of all we have been taught!  So for now, I will not buy margarine, vegetable oil, corn oil, canola oil (especially not!!!  Did you know that in nature there is no such thing as a canola plant?), or any of the other oils like this.  And I will only use olive oil, butter, and coconut oil.  (And I’m sure I would use the nut oils or grapeseed oil, but I just never got around to trying them.) 
            Anyway, I won’t get into it too deeply because I could be wrong.  Later research could convince me that I was wrong all along.  Which is why I say, you have to research it and decide for yourselves.  (But especially look up what high-quality coconut oil can do for you if you want to find a “miracle” food.)       

            I also think that it is very wise to research how milk is processed.  I believe that God created milk as a very health-giving, life-sustaining thing.  (Most likely goat’s milk over cow’s milk.)  He even talks about Canaan being the land of “milk and honey” and, in Proverbs 27:27, it talks about having enough goat’s milk for your family.  Why would He highlight these things if milk wasn’t healthy? 
            But here’s the catch:  I think we’ve ruined the high-quality of it with what we’ve done to it.  I think that what was once healthy is now just dead, lifeless, and harmful with the pasteurization and homogenization that we put it through.  Look up things like “harmful effects of pasteurization and homogenization” and see what you get. 
            It’s eye-opening!  And it has made me decide that the next best thing (because of the difficulty of obtaining raw milk in our country and because we don’t have our own cow or goat) is to give up drinking straight milk, except for an occasional half-gallon of super-expensive, non-homogenized milk from the health-food store.  We use coconut milk or almond milk in our cereal or in certain recipes that call for milk.  (Although, we are currently looking for varieties without synthetic Vitamin D2.  I tell you, nothing is clear or easy anymore.)
            I, personally, do not think that soy milk is a healthy alternative.  Research “dangers of soy” for yourselves.  But I have come to the conclusion that soy should only be used in small amounts and in a fermented form, like a natural soy sauce.  If you have children, research soy milk and see what you think.  Don’t trust the soy milk companies to tell you if it’s healthy or not. 
            [And don’t trust the other food companies and governmental agencies that are supposed to be watching out for our food and health.  In fact, research them, too.  It’s scary!  Old rats can be used instead of young ones if a company does not want to see any effects.  And a person will work for a company developing or researching a certain product, and then they’ll go and work for the government to get it approved.  It’s just not right or ethical. 
            And if I remember correctly, one of the boards (can’t remember which one) that decides what’s right for the health of the nation’s children is made up of only eight people or so, and they also have ties to the products/practices they push.  Some of these eight people profit from the things they force on the country.  It’s nuts!  And wrong!  Eight people –some who profit from what they force on us – get to decide what’s best for everyone.  And yet we follow along because we don’t even know that we should distrust them.  It’s scary!   
            Do you remember when the notion that “God is dead” was passed around?  And He was replaced by science and reason?  Well, after seeing how “scientific research” can be skewed to support anything we want it to (from fake sugar to irresponsible behavior) and how people profit from what they push on others, I’m going to claim that we are entering the “Science is dead” phase.  When science can be manipulated to say anything we want it to, it loses any credibility. 
            Sometimes, I think we need to put more stock into good-old, godly common sense.  Do you really need research to tell you that veggies are good and that artificial ingredients are bad?  Seriously, that’s common sense.  Yet, we will continue to eat and use the bad things until it is proven conclusively to us that it is indeed bad for us.  Which will never happen because scientific results can be skewed to say anything.  I’m just sayin’.]
            Since we don’t drink milk anymore, we get our dairy/calcium from high-quality, organic-if-possible cheese, yogurt, cultured sour cream, and the occasional ice cream.  Because . . . well . . . you just gotta have ice cream sometimes.  At the very least, we buy “no-RBST” dairy products.            
            And I have decided, after reading up on it, to buy whole-milk products because I
think that they are more nutritionally-complete when taken in whole form.  Whenever we cut something out of a product, we change its composition and its effect on the body.  And sometimes, to make up for what is taken out, we have to add in less-desirable things.   
            And, personally, I think that anytime we try to “improve” or “healthify” things that God has made, we actually harm them.  And then it has harmful effects on our bodies.  (Doing anything different than the way God designed it can lead to problems.  Food, sex, rest, marriage, hormone replacement, birth control pills, vaccines.  How about vasectomies?  Look up the dangers of that before going that route.  Personally, we’ll take our chances on an “oops baby” before we’ll take the potential, long-term risks of that procedure.  When I say we research everything, I mean everything.  Here is a good book on vaccines, if you're interested:  The Vaccine Guide: Making an Informed Choice by Randall Neustaedter.) 
            Now, not everyone needs a lot of fat like growing children do, so we should eat less of the whole-milk products as we get older.  But I don’t believe that whole-milk products are harmful, like we are led to believe.  At least, the organic whole-milk products.  And I don’t think that the skim products are as healthy as we are led to believe.

Throwing out the baby:
            The problem in our society is that we throw the baby out with the bathwater.  We find out that something is bad, and so we throw it all out.  We hear “Saturated fat is bad” and so we dump all fat.  And then we fill our products with what we think is healthier (margarine, canola oil, etc.).  Or “Sugar is bad,” and so we replace it with artificial sweetener, which I think is much more harmful.  Or “cholesterol is bad,” and so we dump eggs, too, which I think contain a very healthy form of cholesterol and are nutritional powerhouses.  (Organic, farm-fresh-if-possible eggs, that is!) 
            Or maybe we decide that something is good, like fiber, and then we cram things full of fiber in a way that it was never meant to be.  Maybe if we just stopped using white flour and ground our own wheat (ideal!) or used store-bought whole-wheat flour (yuck!), we would get the right amount of fiber? 
            Or how about soy?  We hear it’s great because another country uses it and they have good health, and so we shove it into everything.  It’s soy burgers, soy butter, soy ice cream, soy cheese (oh, I never had anything more wretched!), soy milk, soy beans, soy this, soy that . . . Tofurky.  (I think even God’s saying, “Now, that’s something I never thought of!”)  And yet, from what I understand, the countries that we are trying to emulate only really use it fermented and as a condiment, like soy sauce.   
            Anyway, my concern is that we don’t realize or consider that there are different kinds of fats, different kinds of saturated fats, different kinds of flour and salt and sugar and cholesterol, etc.  There are good, healthy kinds of all these things, and there are unhealthy kinds.  But we don’t consider this, and so we freak out and dump them all into the same basket and then try to find substitutions.  When instead, we should be studying the different kinds of fats, salts, sugars, etc., and their effects on the body, and then making thoughtful choices. 
            “But fat can’t possibly be good for you,” we are taught.  Oh, yes, it can!  Your body needs fat like a car needs oil.  And children’s developing bodies need more.  We just need to be more cautious and discerning about the kind of fat we use (and flour and dairy and sweeteners and salt, etc.).  Research it for yourselves.  You might be surprised to see that you disagree with the current advice, too.

Effects of Eating Healthy:         
            I have seen the difference food can make.  I was shocked to see that my son - who had Baby Bottle Tooth Decay - grew new enamel after we changed our eating and began making wise, healthy, natural choices.  And he had those front teeth – the re-enameled teeth - until they fell out on their own.  And on top of that, I had a seven-year gum infection from a failed root canal that began to heal immediately after switching my diet.  And it eventually went away completely without treatment.  Also, the winter before I made these changes, we seemed to be sick all the time.  I counted being sick at least ten weeks out of sixteen.  But the next winter, after we had changed our eating habits, we had two mild colds all winter.  And that was it.  And on top of that, both my husband and I lost weight, even with whole-fat dairy, saturated fats, and whole eggs. 
            Now, to be honest, that doesn’t mean that all our health problems have been resolved.  (And I have to admit that after that first year of change, we do eat less salads and more sweets than we should.  The first year was militantly sugar-less and veggie-full, but I’ve gotten a little more relaxed since then.  So we could be doing even better than what we are doing right now.) 
            Anyway, I do still have a toe-eczema-thing that I got during a mission trip to Papua New Guinea when I was 21.  I was hoping that it would go away with the healthy eating.  And maybe it will eventually, but it hasn’t yet.  And I am still fighting a mild, lingering “swimmer’s ear infection” that I’ve had for a few years.  (I am so stubborn.  I refuse to seek treatment unless I feel that I absolutely have to, because I’m afraid of having to go through tests or treatments that I wouldn’t have had to go through if I had just waited a little longer and let it clear up on its own.  That being said, I’m not saying that I support the idea that all things are to be treated by prayer only and that we should never go to the doctor.  I think that God gave us doctors and medicine and that they serve an important role, when treatment is needed.  But I’ll wait it out if I can and keep talking to God about it until I have to go in.) 
            My kids have gotten croup and other lingering colds at times.  My joints ache from injury.  I’ve had to take supplements for iron-deficiency anemia from the birth of my children.  I’m still fighting a tonsil problem from the moldy rental we were in for years.  My stomach sags like a floppy leather pouch after having four children.  (I can look four months pregnant if I really relax my muscles.  I wish I was as diligent about exercising as I am about eating.  Maybe someday!).  And no matter what I do, I can’t get rid of the embarrassingly-dry eczema problems that I have.  I had hoped that our changes in oils would help that.  But not yet!  I’m talking to God about that one! 
            So, we are not some pinnacle of health or anything.  But our teeth are doing better, we get less infections, our health is generally better overall, and whatever we do get is much more mild than before we made our food changes.  And I believe that my children will be healthier for it in the long run.  They are learning to eat things that took me years and years to learn to like.  (Update: It is now seven years after I first noticed the Baby Bottle Tooth Decay and changed our diet as described above, and I just took all four kids to the dentist for a check-up and none of them have any new cavities.  Thank You, Lord.  Thank You!  All that time and effort and stressful changes are paying off.)
            I’m a firm believer in God’s goodness in providing health-giving foods.  And I’m writing all this to get you thinking about things that we can do to help our health and to help our family’s health.  I want to encourage people to not blindly believe whatever the current “experts” tell us.  (Who are these “experts” anyway?  Look up what kinds of ties they have to the products they endorse.  It’s disheartening.)  I’m learning that things are really not what they seem, and I feel like I need to do what I can to get you thinking about the other options out there. 
            But you need to dig deep for the information sometimes.  As I said, you have to get past the twenty people who say what the mainstream says to find the one person who says something different.  And as I’ve come to believe, it’s usually that one person - that lone voice calling out in the wilderness – that I agree with.  I want to empower you to use your God-given brains and to be more responsible for the choices you make.  Your and your family’s health and life depends on it. 

Other Factors:
            Here’s another couple of things to think about: fluoride and sunscreen.  Research it and see if you agree with me or not that fluoride should not be added to the water supply and to kids’ teeth, and that sunscreen is actually cell-damaging, aging, and cancer-causing.  (If you eat a healthy diet, the better ability your skin will have to protect itself from sun damamge.  Unhealthy diets lead to unhealthy skin which can't protect itself as well.) 
            And also, on a good note, look up the benefits of lavender essential oil.  I love this for bug bites and wounds of all kinds.  It totally took away a spreading spider bite on one of my kids after a couple applications.  And a friend of mine got a blood infection from an infected burn on her knuckle, and it was sending a purple-blackish line up the vein on her arm.  Well, I had lavender in my purse, and she rubbed a couple drops on the vein.  And we basically watched as the purple line disappeared within an hour.  It was incredible.  Also try tea tree oil, too.  Just passing on something that I love and take everywhere with me!   
            I’m not writing all this to convince you of “my way” or to act like I am somehow “better” because of my choices.  Not everyone wants to invest in a grain mill and find a source for whole wheat berries.  (I love my co-op for that.  It makes it easy and affordable.)  But I’m writing because I strongly believe that our food choices have the power to hurt or to heal.  And I believe that we are causing many of our health problems with our poor choices.
            And as long as we are on the subject of health, we need to remember that our health is also affected by other things that are within our control.  Drinking too much, smoking, how much we exercise, sleep, etc.  (And I have to thank my mom for making sure that I never took up smoking.  When I was about six, she asked if I wanted to try her cigarette.  I took a puff, held the air for a second, and then threw up all over the glass table.  “See, that’s why you should never smoke,” she said, as she took put the cigarette back in her mouth.  I never did smoke again.) 
            Also, consider the air fresheners and candles that poison our air.  And the fabric softeners, dryer sheets, perfume, lotions, and other things that we put onto our bodies and into our clothes or air.  (All of the chemicals from these end up in our bodies in one way or other.  Oh, how the manufacturing companies of so many products are going to hate me.) 
            Also, how about stress?  Stress contributes hugely to our health or demise.  Our bodies release chemicals and hormones based on how we feel and the amount of stress we have.  And these hormones/chemicals either promote healing or degeneration if they linger around too long.  And our feelings and stress oftentimes are influenced by our thoughts.  If you want to be as healthy as possible, the best thing you could do - on top of watching what you eat and what put into your homes and onto your bodies - is to lower your stress level.  And there are many different things that we can do to achieve this:
1.      Cultivate a deep relationship with God, through His Word and prayer.  If we can find our security in God, many other things in life will not stress us out as much.
2.      Simplify your life.  Simplify the things in your house, your activities, your priorities, your schedule, etc.  We create a lot of our stress simply because we don’t say “no” when we should, because we keep too many things, or do too much.  We need to listen for what God is calling us to say “yes” to, and to not feel responsible to do the things that He is not calling us to do. 
3.      Here’s an idea, too: Turn off or put away your phones for a while.  Tell people that you will not be picking up your phone every time it rings or checking every text message the moment it comes in.  I know what you’re thinking, Gasp, Inconceivable!  Why would I do such an outrageous thing?  I may as well chop off my own arm!  Oh yeah, well, try this one:  Just tell people that you will . . . call or text back later!  (I can hear the shock and the stunned silence rippling through the airwaves now.)  Protect your time with strong boundaries or you will find yourself at the mercy of everyone else.
4.      Slow down.  God calls us to rest on the Lord’s Day.  He does this not only for our spiritual health but for our emotional and physical health, too.  Do we slow down and rest regularly?  If not, we are slowly wearing ourselves out and we are in disobedience to His commandment to keep the Lord’s Day holy, which I think means we set it aside as a day just to worship Him and enjoy Him and His blessings (i.e. His creation, our families, activities that draw us closer to Him and our families, etc.)  Jesus died so that you could live, not slowly kill yourself with work.  I don’t think He takes any joy in watching you work yourself to death.
5.      Forgive.  Forgive others and forgive yourself.  Carrying around bitterness and anger ruins our body from the inside out.  We need to forgive not only for the health of our spiritual lives, God’s kingdom, and our earthly relationships, but for our physical health as well.  If you feel like forgiving someone means letting them off the hook, remember that all sins are really sins against God.  And God will make sure that justice is done.  Your job, before God, is to forgive. 
      (And if you find it too hard to forgive, remember that forgiveness is a choice.  It is an act of the will.  We don’t have to feel like it in order to forgive.  Forgiving means saying, “Lord, I turn over to You my ‘right’ to hold this against them.”  The best thing you could do when forgiveness is too hard is to tell God in prayer that you are forgiving that person, and then pray daily that the Holy Spirit makes that forgiveness a reality in your heart and mind.  Pray that He helps you feel at peace with and loving towards that person.  Pray that God helps you see that person and yourself the way that He does.  And pray this until it happens.)
6.      Clean your house.  It’s amazing how much stress we feel just because our houses are in chaos.  And it’s much easier to keep it clean when we weed out excess junk.  I am still working on this one.  (Someday, I will be able to invite company in without being embarrassed.  But not yet.)  
            Maybe you don’t care about living or eating healthy for your own sake.  But what about doing it for God’s glory?  As a “thank you” for His care and providence and creation?  What about doing it for your family, your children?  If you don’t want to eat healthy for your own sake, eat healthy for theirs.  Give it your best effort so that you can live the longest, healthiest life possible, instead of slowly walking to an early grave and leaving your family behind to grieve.  And as an added benefit, if you eat healthy, they will learn to eat healthy by your example.  Don’t shortchange them and set them up for unhealthy futures because all you care about is satisfying your every unhealthy craving.        
            We cry out to God to give us health, and I think sometimes He says, “I’m trying, but look at what you’re doing to the food I gave you.  Look what you are filling your bodies with.”  We don’t consider how we might help our own cells to be healthy and life-giving.  And this is why I share this all here.  Not because I want to blather on and on about all my “wise” choices (Okay, I really do.  I love doing that!  So, thank God that this is the short version.), but because I want to do my part to encourage others to live with convictions: life-giving, health-sustaining, God-glorifying, deliberately-made convictions!  Take care and God bless!