AI: Free Range Organic Gluten Free Kale

AI: Free Range Organic Gluten Free Kale

Food. What the hell, right? Who even knows what’s healthy anymore?

I’m pretty much at the point where if I see something in the health-food aisle, I assume it’s stupid, over priced, and overhyped. I feel like just going ahead and letting my kids become illiterate… which is apparenlty exactly the kind of thing that happens if you ever let them eat a fucking Pop Tart heated in the microwave. But I don’t care because like a normal human, I don’t like flax chia quinoa (keeeeeenwaaaaaah) milk. And agave syrup is disgusting.

But the fates just won’t allow me to get all junk-foodie indignant on people. I have children who are allergic (like diagnosed by real doctors with real allergy tests, and not by holistic juice-fasting colonic healer franchise clinic owners) to dairy, eggs, and food dye… and my 5 year old is a lacto-vegetarian (except for beef jerky and pepperoni. I don’t get it.) And my minimalist digestive tract forces me into a high-protein low-fat low-carb diet. So I walk through grocery stores counting carbs and fat grams and protein grams and reading allergen disclaimers and running my finger down ingredients lists for dyes. I walk up to pharmacists and ask “Do you have this in a dye-free formula?” I am everything I hate.

While I’m paying too much for shit I think is bullshit, the health food aisle is an oasis of reassurance. The foods scream “CASEIN FREE!” “VEGAN!” “NO ARTIFICIAL COLORS!” I feel like a skeptical hypocrite. I want to walk up to everyone with me in the aisle and say “you know that’s bullshit. I only buy it because I HAVE TO.” And then they can be all like “I have to, too. My chi is dependent on it and last week my plate wasn’t properly feng shui-ed so I was still full of toxins after my organic grapefruit and kelp cleanse. I just don’t want cancer.” And then I’ll scream at them, “I DON’T WANT TO USE AN EPIPEN ON MY TWO YEAR OLD YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE YOU ARE STUPID. YOU DON’T HAVE CANCER AND YOUR HEMP YOGURT ISN’T DOING ANYTHING BESIDES TASTING DISGUSTING.” But then I’ll get escorted out of Whole Foods. Again. And I can’t get drunk on biodynamic wine samples all afternoon. Which hardly seems worth it just to not be mistaken for an anti-vaxxer.

And because of our messed up diets, my family has to take vitamins. And I had to learn what the hell “bioavailable” meant because I assumed that was some bullshit, but it’s apparently not… or maybe it is. I don’t even know. I can’t even begin to figure out what any of this healthy shit means because anything that might be true is tainted by the reputation of all the other claims in the aisle. So when I have to buy supplements, I just take a deep breath, close my eyes and hope I’m grabbing the right thing. Then I read the label for sugars and dyes and allergens.

I worry I’m overly dismissive of all claims made by all “health food” and supplement proponents. But then I immediately feel like I’m not being dismissive enough. And then I worry it’s unreasonable to be that dismissive, so I dismiss my dismissing and then… I don’t know. It keeps going like free-range hydroponic Inception.

How do you feel about “healthy foods” and supplements? Do you reject them outright? Do you avoid them because you don’t believe their claims? Do you care if your food is processed? Do you care? Do you consider chewing a “food process”? Do you judge people in the health food aisle? Is food skepticism overwhelming for you? Can we go back to pretending wine is a miracle food?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.

Featured image: xkcd

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

129 Comments

  1. Oh, wine’s totally a miracle food. It made the Minoans strong and healthy and led to their Priestesses to inventing some of the first indoor plumbing! Make sure you only drink sulfite-free wine, made from grapes whose terroir combines with being harvested in the right part of the moon cycle for optimal health-atiousness.

  2. Products labeled “vegan” are in fact “doing something”…you’re engaging a political action when you purchase vegan products. I am vegan for ethical reasons, it’s unjust to exploit and kill other animals for trivial reasons like “tasting good.” So, throwing veganism in along with the hyped up health claims isn’t exactly fair. Products marked “casein free” are for those of us who do not want to be responsible for the suffering and death of cows and calves killed to produce that casein. It has very little to do with health…in fact, I don’t think it has anything to do with health, because most “soy” cheeses contain casein, and those casein-containing products are marketed to those concerned with their health and who are lactose intolerant, not vegans obviously. Another point to be cognizant of is that lactose tolerance is a largely Caucasian characteristic. Because white culture is the “normative” culture, we presume that anyone who would not choose to consume dairy products must be weird, duped, or “missing out.” But considering that large percentages of people of color cannot digest dairy (or do not for cultural reasons), this is a decidedly ethnocentrist statement to make.

    • I want to +1 your post, but this isn’t Google+, so I just have to SAY +1.

    • I didn’t mean to imply that “vegan” isn’t doing anything. I was saying that those labels are especially helpful to people trying to avoid hidden egg and dairy ingredients. But “vegan” isn’t any kind of a health claim. Vegan isn’t inherently healthy. I’m fairly certain that the vegan cake I bought last weekend full of shortening and topped with cookies was not a health food.

      • Processed food in general I’d postulate is less healthier than food you cook from scratch. Buying things like stir fry in-a-bag & microwaveable pot-pies for dinner for several is probably less healthy than cooking food from veggies, dairy, & meat.

        And yes, vegan processed food is still in fact, processed. I’m vegan and I rarely by processed vegan stuff because it’s got less good stuff, more fat/salt, & less flavor than I could achieve in my own kitchen.

        • I love the “processd” food argument. It’s simply lazy thinking. Picking an apple off a tree is processing. Cooking your food is processing. Seperating the flesh from an animal’s bone is processing.
          There are also many things that are dangerous until they are processed.
          I have no doubt that there are folks using less than helpful things to our food, but you really need to be a tad more specific when comparing foods and how they are prepared.

      • I dunno about that….Teddy Grahams are vegan, and last I checked, those are like some sort of super food. ;-)

      • I made vegan, gluten-free, nut-free apple cake for work tomorrow. Man it is delicious…. no in no way is it healthy. It contains I dunno 4 or 5 cups of sugar and half a tub of vegan veggie spread (margarine).

    • Also, interesting fact: casein is not lactose. Casein is a protein and lactose is a sugar. Those who are lactose intolerant can still digest milk proteins and people who are allergic to dairy products can still (in theory) consume lactose.

      • I think that was Corey’s point, that there are many soy “cheeses” containing casein, marketed towards people who are lactose inolerant, and people who think soy is “healthy”, but not suitable for vegans.

      • Yeah, but some people are allergic to casein and not lactose. Lactose is just the milk-related-allergy with the best press.

  3. I don’t actively avoid “health food”, and I’ll get it on occasion, especially if (like you) it meets some real need. I tend to ignore “organic” as a labelling term, and laugh at redundant or unnecessary labels (gluten-free kale?!? While I haven’t seen that one, I have seen cholesterol-free bananas).

    • I think the worst unnecessary label I’ve seen was a shampoo labelled gluten-free.

  4. Actually, after learning just a small amount about the factory farming in the U.S., I try to avoid items at the grocery store that are the product of that system, including vegetables that have been transported across the country (or further!). I buy local as much as I can, including participating in a vegetable CSA 2 miles from my house, and my husband and I raise as much of our meat as we can (chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, and we’ve been getting beef from a neighbor 1 mile down the road who raises on pasture 95% and doesn’t use hormones, medications, etc.). Of course, I feel like I’m lucky that I’m in a position to do that. My uncle manages a farmer’s market in DC in a low-income area that’s mostly African-American, and I was really happy when they were able to start taking food stamps. I guess what it boils down to is that I think the food-production industry in this country is profoundly broken. And even though I try to opt out when I can, I still end up depending on the store for things like rice and flour (and chocolate! and wine!).

    • I was just listening to a Freakonomics podcast today, though it came out back in May and June 2012 (two parts) . It’s titled You Are What You Eat Part 1 & 2. Anyway, it said that buying local food doesn’t make much of an impact on pollution/global warming/yadda yadda, which is why I like to buy locally, and I assume it’s one of the reasons others do too. Well, that and freshness. The study mentioned states only 5% of greenhouses gases involved in food production come from the transportation! And the best thing to do to ‘green’ your diet is to eat less beef and dairy products. It was a quite interesting podcast and I highly recommend it, as well as the other Freakonomics podcasts. :)

  5. I’m vegan, and I agree with what Corey had to say.

    However, while there is a part of the vegan community that’s anti-scientific (stop telling me if I eat only raw vegetables I’ll cure my Crohn’s), there is a LOT of research on how a plant-based diet reduces your risk for cancer significantly (such as: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/vegan-diet-cancer_b_2250052.html). “Vegan women, for example, had 34 percent lower rates of female-specific cancers such as breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer.”

    But, mainly I am a vegan for ethical reasons. I don’t think what you eat is personal, because it’s affecting other lives on the planet (both people and animals).

    • I don’t think what you eat is personal, because it’s affecting other lives on the planet (both people and animals).

      That’s nice. Quite frankly I find vegans to collectively be some of the most classist, racist, misogynist, fatphobic, ableist, and otherwise fuckwitted people on the planet, as illustrated in Tumblrs like this one.

      I’m tired of the food policing of online vegans, who are some of the most internet.

  6. I just posted this on my Facebook with the words, “I love Elyse Anders.”

  7. Everything Corey saidx10000. Especially about lactose tolerance. My boyfriend is a meat-eater (I’m vegan), but he doesn’t eat dairy because it messes him up so badly. We’re both minorities. Lactose tolerance is an assumed trait, one of the many examples of white people going about their business, oblivious to the fact that they are enjoying a freedom/privilege most others don’t. Not that I think lactose tolerance is a privilege – I think it’s a huge part of our world’s problems.

    I’m not dubious of vegan claims. I get extremely, mind-boggingly frustrated with all the pseudoscience crappy nonsense in the vegan community. But that doesn’t mean veganism isn’t without merit. I’m also an ethical vegan, borne of both my skepticism and my atheism.

    That said, things that DO bother me:
    1)The organic movement. UGH. Certified Organic really just means Certified Inefficient Farming. Really the only two valuable things I see out of the organic movement are crop rotation and less dependence on petrochemical fertilizers, but can’t we use those/develop more efficient fertilizers not based on oil WITHOUT the strict organic nonsense? Progress is a good thing. We don’t need to take farming back to the dark ages.
    2) Claims that veganism not only can prevent cancers (true-ish), it will also cure them, absent of chemo/surgery/anything “Western.”
    3) “Boosting immune system” claims. No. Your immune system works at its peak function, and that’s where it stops. It doesn’t get boosted beyond its peak capacity that is innate within you, no matter how much kale or pomegranate you eat.
    4) Formula is poison folks. “Anyone can breast feed” folks. I’m vegan, but my baby is not. Yes this breaks my heart. Yes I tried everything. Yes, his reflux was so bad he was not gaining any weight on my milk, and no, I’m not going to trust a lay midwife over my doctor over continuing to breast feed versus buying him some damn Similac already. There is SO MUCH WOO surrounding breast feeding and breast milk. It’s actually shocking, how aggressive some people get when they see you giving your baby a bottle of formula. I want to ask/have asked: “Do you want to know my story? Or do you just want to tell me that he’s going to have trust issues, lower IQ, diabetes and probably cancer because I formula feed him?”

    • Ugh I know how yhou feel about the forumula is poison group. I do breast feed, and plan to do so for about a year. But in no way do I think that I’m better or that my child is healither than anyone who forumula feeds. The breastfeeding crowd can be some of the most mean spirited group of individuals I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting. (Well all “natural” health mamas really) I can’t visit any baby forums anymore because they just make my blood preassure sky rocket. Apparenlty I’m a bad mother because I didn’t eat a completely organic diet when pregnant and I had a few pieced of candy here and there. And don’t get me started on anti vax views. Shame because so much psuedoscience spreads on mommy forums and if you try to bring in any real science or studies they just say that you are bought out by the man. Weird because I do many of the things that “crunchy” moms do. (Cloth diaper, breast feed, sometimes babywear but not to the extreme, vegetarian) But I absolutely do not want to be associated with them. (Their anti vax views, their make every other woman who isn’t crunchy feel like shit, tell other women they are giving their children cancer by using soap) God I could rant about them all night.

      • Oh and I forgot to add that if I absolutely could not breast feed, I would not hesitate to give my baby formula. We have some in the house just incase something were to happen to me and I would not be available to breast feed. I remember reading a website that encouraged people not to donate formula to Haiti because if a woman is unable to breast feed her child there is sure to be another woman around who lost her child in the disastor to breast feed. Yeah, because that just what a grieving mother in the middle of a catastrophe wants to do. Breast feed another child. Cause you know, that is all women are here for. The person who wrote that article would probably shame that woman if she didn’t want to feed another child in such a situation.

        • I am a new father, and we did try to breast feed for the first six months, but my partner’s milk supply began to diminish (a fairly common problem, contrary to what many of the more aggressive “lactavists” like to claim), so we use formula. While there is data supporting the notion that breast feeding is healthier, this has morphed into nonsensical claims about the evils of formula that are completely, utterly stupid. Ironically, every time that I have heard anyone go on a rant against formula, they have also claimed that anyone who disagreed with them was “obviously uninformed”…hey pot, I’m kettle, do you know what color you are?

          The Haiti issue really bothered me, as well. I actually knew women who decided that what they should be doing, instead of something actually helpful to the people who were affected by the earthquake, was to store up breast milk to send it over. Because, you know, there’s absolutely no problem with using valuable resources to send a highly perishable food to an area where the infrastructure has been severely disrupted. Add to that the colonial history of Haiti, and you get into the skeeziness inherent in a group of very privileged white women from the U.S. essentially trying to inform Haitians that they should be feeding their children with the bodily fluids of people from one of the countries that has historically been oppressive of Haiti.

  8. I’m not full-on vegan yet, merely vegetarian, but it’s entirely for ethical reasons. I’m still working on cutting out dairy and eggs, cos they’re in, like, EVERYTHING that I love, but I’m slowly reducing the level of animal cruelty involved in my diet.
    Aside from that, my only real dietary concerns are taste and eating a relatively balanced diet. I don’t have a gluten intolerance, so I don’t care about gluten; ‘free-range’ has an extremely dubious legal definition that renders it largely meaningless, but is still preferable to eggs from sources that don’t even try to be less cruel than battery farms; and ‘organic’ is a completely meaningless marketing term.
    I do eat kale, but that’s because I like it :)

  9. I’m vegan also for ethical reasons, but I feel like I have to walk through a minefield of pseudoscience. I have to press my lips closed tight every time my dear friends talk about avoiding “chemicals” because they’re bad for you. Since everything we eat is by definition a “chemical” it would be a very bad thing to avoid eating them. We’d all starve. But instead of being snarky I try to point out that studies haven’t found that organic produce is has more nutritional value than regular produce or that gluten hasn’t been found to harm most people, only those who can’t process it. If it tastes better and you want to buy it great for you. If you want to buy locally, that’s awesome in my opinion. But the health claims are annoying when they’re not backed by science.

  10. I avoid food that is labeled as healthy or vegan or vegetarian. I assume this is marketing BS. I do most of my shopping in the produce and bulk food section where if it looks like a head of broccoli or a bin full of beans it probably is.

    • This is why I hate grocery shopping with my omni friends! I hit 2 or 3 or 4 aisles and then have to wait for them, haha.

  11. I’m gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free because those three foods cause eczema that makes me itch my hands and armpits until they bleed. They don’t show as a “true allergy” on my skin tests done with an allergist, but I have spent years working with medical practices that use M.D.s in conjunction with Naturopaths to figure out what triggers my horrible eczema. Do I need an epi-pen for these foods? No. But, do parts of my body turn into patchy-red, itchy, bleeding, messes when I eat these foods? Yes. You can call bullshit on my dietary choices, but I will continue to make them because they help me. When my eczema is really bad it can be super-embarassing, and make me feel like people think I have a contagious disease.

    P.S. I mostly eat food I cook myself, and not pre-packaged stuff. But, I do read labels religiously to avoid my triggers.

    • Thing is, its possible to have a “sensitivity” to certain things, like gluten, but not actually have siliacs, or the related condition specific to the product. That said, the title of this thing just about covers my irritation at some of the stupid shit I see on labels. I.e., “Of course your damn race crackers are gluten free, they are made with rice you idiot, not grains that contain it!” Ugh… Of course, the biggest idiocy with “organic” is often that one place hires someone to check the bananas to make sure no one used “bad” things on them, and another company doesn’t bother, for example, so one is, and the other isn’t, organic. That bananas, and some other plants, are fairly picky about where they grow, and people probably don’t *ever* use pesticides, of fertilizers on them, never even registers, because, well, no one bothers to find out, they just assume that their is some vast Illuminati like plot to use artificial fertilizers and pesticides on everything.

      But, seriously, what I can’t stand, since we can’t really control fads in “labeling”, at least until the trend slides the other direction, and real medical professionals finally get the facts straight, so we know who is impacted, without half the population “guessing” they are, or having to monkey with products, until they find some combination that seems to help them (without knowing really why), is being sent email petitions, asking me to sign up to “stop X, or Y, or force congress to do Z”, and not having a, “Sorry, but, while I sign most of your petitions, in this one case you are all idiots!”, button. Case in point – Science say – bee colonies that have died **all** contained both a specific fungus, and a specific viral infection, while the petition says – “OGM Blah blah pesticide is killing bees! We need to stop it!” Uh.. based on what, other than your vast hatred of pesticides in general, and complete ignorance of current data on the subject?

      But, in any case, the stuff that throws me, in terms of food.. I can eat just about anything. I am very lucky in that respect. Then, I tried the whole “chicken and waffle” potato chip thing one company has out, and had my throat tighten up, and a reaction that sort of suggested a mild allergic reaction to it. Thing is… there isn’t a damn thing **on** the list of ingredients in them that I probably haven’t eaten before, other than the mysterious “flavorings”, that where used to make it taste sort of like chicken and waffles. So.. based on reading the label, I wouldn’t have the slightest f-ing clue if someone else contained something that would cause the same reaction, because the likely candidates for having caused it are **not** in the list of, “I actually have a chemical name, or some other vaguely useful information, on which I can make an assessment. So.. I know I am allergic to one flavor of bloody potato chips, but I have no clue if I might be to literally anything else on the shelf, since even if I found something else with, “chicken flavoring”, or, “syrup flavoring”, on it, I wouldn’t know what the hell it really was, or even if its the same ingredient(s).

      Its precisely that sort of vagueness, and lack of specificity, which makes if impossible to even pin down what is really causing a problem. It might be a common ingredient, like soy, or maybe the only soy you ever tried just happens to have some specific processing step, or some specific vague thing in it, other than the soy, which is the real problem. Its not always even plausible to come up with a clear idea what is causing the problem, and if its not something the doctors can test for, you are SOL, or you get to join the endless crowd of people coming through the lines at the grocery store, claiming things that are almost as absurd as asserting that you don’t buy anything in a yellow box, because you are allergic to the color yellow. :p

      • [That said, the title of this thing just about covers my irritation at some of the stupid shit I see on labels. I.e., “Of course your damn race crackers are gluten free, they are made with rice you idiot, not grains that contain it!”]

        Sometimes companies put that ‘gluten free’ on the label for celiac consumers to differentiate it from another similar product they have that is NOT gluten free. For example, Bobs Red Mill has cornmeal, which you would think would be gluten free cuz it’s corn, and gluten free cornmeal which has been tested and is ‘certified’ gluten free. It’s super easy for any grain that is milled such as rice,corn,buckwheat to get contaminated by other gluten containing flours in the processing. Potato chips are another example. I no longer eat anything but Utz because everything else makes me puke from gluten contamination. Utz has a Gluten Free label on them, which again seems stupid since it’s just potatoes, oil and salt. But that’s really important to know the company made that mark so I’ll know that the Utz Cheese balls might not be gluten free while the ripple potato chips are even tho both have no declared wheat.

    • Katie, kagehi, you are both right. Immunologists reserve the term allergy for reactions that are mediated by immunoglobulin E, like asthma. The most common allergens found by skin tests or RAST tests are dust mite in dry climates or fungal spores in wet. True food allergies like peanut allergy are rare but spectacular and get a lot of press coverage.
      On the other hand, most food chemical sensitivities operate by different mechanisms lower down or outside the immunological cascade and are less subject to amplification, so are generally a bit less serious

  12. I’m vegan and because I was poor for such a long time, I just buy budget food instinctively. And usually I just shop at the corner grocery store because it’s well stocked & CHEAP. General weekly shopping for me & the fam includes:
    - Non-organic produce (greens, potatoes, sweet potatoes, leeks, onions, peas, etc.)
    - Non-organic cooking ingredients like canned tomatoes, pasta, etc.

    In general I don’t avoid all processed food, but I avoid most processed food because I can cook **VERY WELL** and it’s healthier to cook the food on your own because you can put more healthy ingredients in it and less fat & salt.

    Re: the vegan, organic, gluten-free specialty products. I find a lot of that stuff is processed too. Like if I buy organic, vegan, gluten-free veggie soup it’s still got WAY less veggies & WAY more salt than I would ever put in a veggie soup….

    I think in general for your health, meat eater or not, cook from basic ingredients instead of buying a meal from a bag. Processed food is not all bad, but much of it is simply junk (whether wally world brand from Ecuador or local vegan lacto-gluten free from farmer Joe down the street)

  13. Elyse, I have a milk allergic kid (well he turned 26 Saturday so no longer a kid) too. I’ve spent way too many hours reading ingredient labels. If you do give the kids meat, looks for kosher products. Can’t have milk and meat together.
    Same son also works at a local farmers market. They sell a lot of Amish grown things. They can’t be called organic. The Amish won’t do that (pay to file organic with the state). He has to instead say ” no spray”.

  14. It’s frustrating. I don’t use many supplements, I mostly just use caffeine and 5-HTP. I’m pretty sure I’ve been bunked on the caffeine. I had some serious dosing issues when I switched to another product. I’ve considered getting oxytocin to try to treat sexual anhedonia, but I’m not sure if that product even exists for real. Despite the fact that it has to be taken intranasally all the products seem to be topical sprays or tablets. The closest I’ve come to a product that claims to be the product I want mentions homeopathy.

  15. The organic aisle is a repository of woo. Everything is free of something and none of the things they’re free of are really all that bad. Besides, even if organic meant something, the USDA rules are so lax that most of the stuff labeled organic really isn’t close to what most people think organic means. The worst are the boxed cereals. It’s still overpriced, sugar-infused junk made by the same agribusiness conglomerates that make the regular stuff, but at least they didn’t put any nasty synthetic vitamins on it, so it’s healthy.
    On the other hand, I can find a variety of ingredients in the local Shop-Rite organic aisle that I’d otherwise have to search for in “health food” stores or co-ops, such as chia seeds, wheat berries, and rice flour. Also, people who can’t eat gluten have a lot more choices than they would otherwise. So, it’s not all bad.

  16. Elyse, wow that’s a lot of questions! Let’s see. Largely bullshit, not completely, yes, no, no, no, probably, no, yes!

    I see the problem, kids with conflicting wants and needs are a pain at the best of times, and with your own requirements as well, it could be overwhelming. I guess the trick is to have a repetoire that works for you and your family then carefully try to expand it.
    I think food colorings are relatively easy to avoid if we avoid obvious junk food, knowing the FD&C numbers helps.
    Dairy would be much harder, wow life without cheese and milk and butter and eggs – no pancakes or waffles or pizzas. How do you manage it?

    As far as supplements go, in your situation I would just go for a multivitamin without worrying about bioavailability – like you I smell BS there!
    Years ago I was recommended by my GP a liver extract called Hepasol for mineral supplements and as a tonic. No longer available but maybe something like that could help. Is there a nurse specialising in nutrition attached to the unit where you had your op done? Maybe someone like that could help with the more practical problems.
    I hope all this doesn’t come across as preachy, I just sympathise with your situation knowing how easily a health issue can suddenly turn your whole life upside down.

    • The bio availability thing isn’t really bullshit. For example, there are certain forms of calcium I can no longer break down. Like if I take calcium carbonate supplements, it’s like taking no supplement at all but I can digest calcium citrate. And mixing certain vitamins/minerals with others blocks absorption while other combinations increase absorption. And for some vitamins, the method of administration is important because, for example, my digestive tract can’t absorb B-12, so I have to get it through injection or sublingually.

      For most people, it doesn’t matter. You’re probably getting what you need from your diet and whatever your supplements are adding is minimal anyway. But someone like me, not paying attention to things like bioavailability can result in dangerous vitamin deficiencies.

      • Sure, I see what you mean. I was wrong about iron as well – see comment below.

      • B12, wow, yes, you would have lost the cells that secrete intrinsic factor, right? The last thing we drinkers need is to get Wernicke’s encephalopathy! I hope you have adequate support from a dietician or something. Also, I realise this was intensely personal for you and I hope my comment did not cause any offence – it sure was a long time in moderation.

        • None at all.

          Sorry about the moderation. I was pretty fucked up on migraine meds yesterday and when I got notification of the comment, I didn’t realize it was a moderation alert. I just saw “Jack99″ and was like “oh I’ll respond when I stop hearing green.”

  17. No, I don’t fucking care. Caring costs too much, and I’m on a budget. Caring also tastes like ass. I care enough to check labels for sodium nitrite/nitrate (?) because it legit gives me migraines, but I still don’t care enough to not eat bacon, because BACON. I don’t like to cook, and I do love frozen pizzas. My food has killed me yet, and I think that’s a solid reason to be skeptical toward those who claim it does. And whoever told you wine *isn’t* a miracle food is a damn liar. Sláinte!

    • The whole bacon thing aggravates me. I know it’s supposed to be clever to state that you love bacon, but 200 million other people have already stated it as well being while trying to be clever about doing so. We know everyone loves bacon, but does everyone have to try and make themselves look cool by adding some cheesy faux-clever line when talking about it?

      • Agreed! The bacon fad is particularly annoying to me because pigs are extremely intelligent animals. I don’t exaggerate when I say to eat a pig to me would feel like cannibalism now, knowing what I know about their intelligence levels, social patterns when left alone, etc. Eating something that’s smarter than dogs/horses/as smart as a 5-year-old human feels like nothing short of extreme exploitation. Maybe it’s the Trekkie in me: just because intelligent life looks different from us doesn’t mean it’s not intelligent life that’s wrong to eat and celebrate eating it.

        • I feel the same way about pigs, though I’ve heard their intelligence is that of a 3-4 year old human. I used to like bacon and ate it before going vegan, but that was many years ago and the whole bacon fad hadn’t happened yet. Now I realize, I just like the smoky flavor. So smoke salt, liquid smoke, and tortula yeast do the trick for me. :)

        • Still gonna eat bacon. It’s delicious. You don’t need to eat it. I don’t really care, honestly. :)

      • Seriously? That strikes me as an unnecessarily snarky remark. I love bacon, too. And butter. Who gives a fuck if she loves bacon and wants to mention it? How does it in any way affect you or this discussion? C’mon now. Knowing you’re veg*n makes me feel like this may be a meat-shaming remark.

        Elyse wasn’t asking about whether or not we think it’s ethical to eat animals. The fact that you’re digging on someone mentioning bacon and other people are going on tangents about animal intelligence is just preachy veg*n bullshit. We can all respect each other’s eating habits without shoving our own down anyone’s throats.

      • You said cheese. Mmm cheese.

        Also, I can always smell when my neighbors are cooking bacon, the assholes. They should share.

        In other words, yeesh, it was just a cheesy faux-clever line about bacon!

      • I am also mildly irked by the social popularity of bacon. But I liked bacon before it was cool, and this isn’t a bacon t-shirt; it’s relevant to the discussion. I am aware of the health risks, but the point is that I am the boss of my own underpants, and I will eat bacon if I want to, which I do, although less often lately, for no reason in particular.

        • Yes it’s the bacon meme assault I can’t take. Everyone thinks they’re sooo clever when they post a bacon meme. GAHHHHH!

          It’s pretty high on my list of super-meaningful & oh-so important #firstworldproblems

    • For what it’s worth, roasted shitake mushrooms taste remarkably similar to bacon.

  18. I don’t even go down the “health foods” aisle most of the time. This has less to do with any strong feelings towards or against any particular label for food, and a lot more to do with the fact that I’m poor since I lost my job 2 months ago (and didn’t really have enough to live on then either). I could buy a can of soup labeled organic for $3 or a “regular” can of soup for $0.98. Given that my food budget is less than $7 a day right now, the response is clear.

    I am incredibly fortunate that I do not have food allergies or intolerance. Trying to eat on such a tight budget without eating gluten, or eggs, or dyes or something would be so much harder.

  19. I have celiac disease and laugh whenever anyone says “thats supposed to be really good for you, right? I should do that.” No, gluten-free eating is not better for the average person, hell “gluten free products” like breads and cookies and pastas are actually MORE calorically dense than their wheaty counterparts. Maybe people assume I’m eating gluten free in order to lose weight because I’m visibly fat. I’m okay with being fat. I’m not okay with people co-opting my disease into some upper-middle-class weight loss miracle.

    In fact I would prefer it if people who weren’t gluten intolerant didn’t buy gluten free foods. Especially since the fad of it makes manufacturers think that cross contamination is okay, that “no gluten ingredients” is okay and that labeling something “gluten free” means that they don’t have to be held accountable for it. If I have more than 20ppm gluten a day my intestine starts to literally eat itself away, causing GI upset, bloating, anxiety, and a whole host of other secondary symptoms. Gluten is a set of 3 different proteins, only one of which (the protein in wheat) is recognized by the FDA as being an allergen and affected by labeling laws. Manufacturers can put “gluten free” on their product without testing it to be sure, and there have been many customer demanded recalls of tainted gluten free products that have caused serious bodily injury.

    “Health Food” is a product of our fat-shaming orthorexic culture. Food has no inherent moral value, and for people struggling with eating disorders and self esteem it is really important to remember that. Once we start labeling food as “good” or “bad” we also label the people who eat those things as “good” or “bad”. Being obsessed about eating the healthiest foods possible, otherwise known as orthorexia, is disordered eating. It is just another manifestation of diet culture and fat hate.

    • I love that you touched on “bad food good food”, because that really is part of our extremely problematic “magic bullet” mentality towards eating. Avoid gluten! Avoid fat! Now avoid processed fat! Sugar is bad! Fake sugar is bad! HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS LACTOSE!

      Fucking yawn. Everything in moderation, unless you need to avoid certain shit for legit health reasons.

    • I totally get it. There’s a local pizza chain that advertises “gluten free pizza!!” then underneath in small letters “not for people with celiac disease”. I’m all like WTF.

    • I want to run off with your last paragraph to a chapel in Las Vegas.

      Speaking of which, I just read this essay today about “clean foods.” It’s another example of orthorexia — and I consider militant vegans to be orthorexics — is heavily tainted with all kinds of social prejudices and oppressions.

      • And by militant vegans, you mean most of us right? Just like people say “militant feminists”? You know, as much as people harp about food-shaming, they redirect an awful lot of such shame back on the vegan crowd as if we’re the OK group to pick on.

        Food-based-shaming is bad anyway you slice it. And yes I agree with you, there is a massive amount of shaming towards overweight people and people who don’t cook. That is also wrong, and it is all over the place.

  20. I eat food. I need to eat better. I’m not great at the whole eating thing. It’s mostly a pain in the ass. Sometimes I enjoy it, but honestly, I wish I could eat only sometimes, when I was in the mood for a tasty meal. Otherwise it’s a bother. (This is kind of the story of my life lol.)

    I don’t like cooking. I live alone. I realllly need to eat better, but it’s just something I don’t do well.

    If someone cooks for me, and it is tasty, I will eat it. I’ll never be a veggie or vegan, but I will eat it if you make it. Please cook for me. :)

    I live within walking distance between a Fresh & Easy and a Safeway. In fact, I have an Orange-tree lined and gated path that takes me directly to the store, and it’s a ridiculously easy walk. I don’t take advantage of it enough.

    If I was better at the whole eating thing, I’d eat whole, real foods and occasionally treat myself to something awesome that might be junk food.

    I could probably do a vegetarian diet without too much trouble (as in I’d not miss too much) although I’d never be able to go vegan (CHEESE).

    I should be more into the whole eating and nutrition thing but ugh. Such a pain in my fucking ass, I gotta be real.

    • I’m very much the same. It’s usually just me, and I hate cooking. (I’m caring for my mother right now and get her pretty much anything she wants, and at the moment that’s usually packaged or fast food).

      My friends keep telling me their healthy favorite is easy. Just spends hours boiling this and slicing that and…

      And if i don’t want to put that much effort into it I can just make a whole bunch on sunday and eat the same thing all week…

      Maybe it’s not the healthiest, but give me some good ‘Weight Watchers’ or ‘Smart Ones’ dinners and I’m happy. For many years that and a soda was my breakfast, thought lately I’ve switched to instant oatmeal.

      • It just means I tend to eat really terribly because I’ll just stuff whatever is convenient/easy/on the way. I try and I’m a bit bitter than I used to be. I also probably don’t eat enough most days. I’ve been not eating breakfast a lot lately and that’s just stupid because I get hungry and cranky if I don’t. But I don’t make time for it … even when I have time. I find it so annoying. I realize this sounds childish. I’ve lived alone for over a decade, now. Haha.

    • I’m with you. I’m not great at the eating thing, either. Right now, the front of my t-shirt is covered with spaghetti sauce, and my mustache tastes like garlic. (I put lots of garlic in my spaghetti sauce.) I’m a lot like the guy in Airplane! with the drinking problem, but for me it’s solid food.

      I made the spaghetti sauce starting with Trader Joe’s organic no-salt-added marinara (with turkey sausage, mushrooms and lots of veggies added), but not because it’s organic, but because I don’t need any more salt and it’s low-fat and tastes decent, but mostly because it’s cheaper than most brands.

      • Trader Joe’s is awesome! If I as better at the grocery shopping thing, I’d probably be better at the eating thing, too. I suck at both.

        Used book shopping? GREAT AT.

      • Buzz, that sounds great! I don’t think you can do much better than Italian style for healthy eating. It’s very big here due to the Mediterranean climate – lots of Italians, they all are passionate about their food and preparation is done with loving care. Not too much meat, lots of tomatoes and herbs and garlic, a bit of olive oil – beautiful!

  21. HOW DARE YOU. AGAVE IS DELICIOUS! I like to think of it as liquidy molasses:) I actually buy it for both taste and because I live in Minnesnowta, where honey tends to crystalize and become a total stubborn fuckwad that refuses to exit the bottle without being violently stabbed with a knife. So honey is for the warm season (when I can get it fresh at the farmer’s market the one or two times I feel the need to buy it) and agave nectar gets me through the cold season.

    I am immensely skeptical of anything, organic or otherwise, labeled as a “health” food. I buy very few pre-made meals (although I’ll indulge in some Trader Joe’s Frozen foods, because yum) and mostly buy produce, meat, eggs, and plain dairy (just milk, just heavy cream, just butter, etc). Olive oil mixed with butter? I don’t play that. Give me my fucking animal fat in a stick, and I will buy my olive oil in a giant fucking can separately, thank you so fucking much.

    I try to buy locally as much as possible, less for environmental reasons and more for helping my local communities thrive. I’d rather pay more for organic produce from a local farm than organic produce from CA when I can make that choice. I try to buy processed food with ingredients I can identify (fresh mozzarella vs American cheese), and I buy quinoa (again, HOW DARE YOU MADAM!) because I think it tastes bomb.

    I think a lot of people in the health food or “natural food” aisle have no fucking idea what the fuck they’re actually buying or why they should buy/avoid certain products, but I don’t care if I get lumped in with them. I don’t care if shopping at my co-ops makes some people assume I think about my dog’s chakras. I just roll my eyes at the “Taste of Nirvana” written on my favorite coconut water, buy it anyway because it’s my special treat for myself, and fantasize about setting the “supplements” section of my co-ops on fire.

  22. Guess I’m lucky. I live on a farm and raise/grow a lot of my own food. I’m always amazed at how rich some of my friends are – they can choose to not eat food that’s available, but instead eat something else. I think that is really cool and great for them. I pretty much have to eat what is there and available.

    Supplements? For the most part… there are exceptions of course… I think supplements are an excellent way for the supplement seller to make money. I don’t think people (or animals) actually need them if they are getting an adequate diet.

    I personally do not judge people in the whole or organic foods section. Again, it’s their choice and I think it’s terrific that they can make that choice. Good for them!

    The whole “organic” thing seems like a hype to me. I don’t think it’s all that valuable. But then, I just think people should eat stuff they like and that keeps them going. There is not one diet that is sufficient for everyone.

    I do raise dairy goats and make cheese, make my own mozzarella, ricotta, chèvre, cheddar etc. and personally enjoy the heck out of it. If others do not… that is their choice. I would not dream of forcing my choices onto others. The reason I raise goats is that my land can not grow crops (not enough water). But what I can grow is weeds and sticks. And goats can take something that humans can not digest – the weeds and sticks – and turn them into protein, which humans can digest. Therefore I am making use of my very marginal land.

  23. Oh – and just as an aside – to a farm person, “AI” stands for “Artificial Insemination”. :-D

  24. I have a milk allergy. Not lactose intollerant but an actual allergy. I have an epi pen just incase. I find myself shopping in the “natural” isle just because its easier to find dairy free products. (Dairy free ice cream ftw!) I usually end up buying vegan meals just to make it easier on me. Some stuff ends up also being gluten free, but I usually don’t care. I used to work 70 to 80 hours a week and I would buy frozen meals at that time. I don’t care much to buy organic but most food that is dairy free often ends up being organic. I do shop at a farmers market 1 to 2 times a week and there is a lot of organic propaganda and anti GMO literature that gets passed around. I buy fermented kimichi where they claim that they have enhanced the nutrients in the food by playing music and using energy crystals. XD Yeah stupid but the stuff is good so I buy it. You can bet that there is a ton of psuedoscience at these things.

  25. I have absolutely nothing to add to this conversation other than to say I was in tears reading it.

    From laughter.

  26. To me, healthy food is nutrient rich and suits your personal dietary needs. Period. I get so sick of people making universal claims about what is good or bad for you like lactose, or gluten or meat when it is clearly different for everyone. I used to like the idea of organic (though didn’t buy that much because I don’t have money) until I read about the lame FDA standards for what that means. If a food is healthy, I’ll know it is by reading the nutrition facts or by the fact that it is in the produce aisle. Not because it is in the “blow some extra cash” section of the store. That being said, sometimes I will venture into the health food section because I like trying new foods and if it is not overpriced and is something especially healthy and interesting (aka not Amy’s organic bunnies….aka teddy grahams shaped like bunnies) I might give it a go.

  27. I eat a lot of “health” food because I like it. I grew up eating fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains and tofu because those are what is delicious to me. When I was a bratty toddler, I could be bribed with Brussels sprouts. I feel kind of shitty if I don’t eat fresh fruit every single day. I’m a vegetarian now, because I like it and it’s easy for me. My partner can’t handle cow milk, it causes…badness.

    And like Kal, I’m used to dealing with a lot of food woo in the pursuit of tastiness. I just want those mango-chili lollipops, get that homeopathy shit out of the way!

  28. A little off topic but sorta related…I’m pretty sensitive to poison oak, but unfortunanly have to work in it alot. One of my former co-workers, who’se very new age, told me what the native Americans she’d worked with in mexico told her. When you see the poison oak, spit on it, and then you won’t react to it. Since then that’s what she’s done, and she hasn’t had it since.

    I, however, have my doubts…

  29. Oh yeah, heaps of pseudoscience. I generally don’t buy “organic’, because it’s a rip=off. “Superfoods” likewise – there’s always some new exciting new thing that costs a lot. Goji, pomegranate, coconut water, whatever’s next. All perfectly nice and harmless foods in their way but so over-hyped. If you like it, it’s good times when the fad is dying down and it’s cheap.

    I do care about making sure my meat is free-range and pasture-fed because I care about animal cruelty. And I like buying local for freshness and general connection to the community. Neither of these are health claims, though.

  30. What exactly are Goji berries? I keep hearing about them. I used to buy acai berry juice because I thought it would make me thinner XD. I even bought the over priced supplements. That was before my skeptical days and I bought into all kinds of woo. But strawberries are still the tastiest fruit out there ;)

  31. I hereby validate your frustrations! I am allergic to tree nuts and stone fruit, so I have to wander the health food aisle in order to acquire those products that have never come into contact with a tree. I very much like the brands that can guarantee I won’t explode due to a random almond falling into the mix. However, my stone fruit allergy is rare enough that I often cannot even consume the nut–free products because they inevitably contain apple or cherry or what have you. So I absolutely must check every label and every home-cooked concoction that my coworkers bring in to the office. It is frustrating and I feel like I have an extra neurosis (on top of all my regular neuroses). It sucks. (Especially when people are like, “OMG I’ll never eat another apple in front of you again!” and I’m like, “Dude. Shut up and eat your fucking apple. You are making way too big a deal out of this.”

    As far as the rest of the health food aisle is concerned, I stick to those items which I have found studies that conclusively prove their efficacy. For example – I know that ginger pills are good for nausea not because woooo, but because Mythbusters told me so (usually I use more scholarly sources but… you know… Mythbusters!), and it’s ok that it’s not required by the FDA to come in standardized consistent doses because it’s fuckin’ ginger. But with other “herbs”? Boiled down, they’re all chemicals, and I’d much rather have the chemicals that have been cleared by the FDA and are properly dosed so as to not destroy my liver, KTHXBAI.

    This comment was brought to you by the letter: I never comment, but man. Food allergies SUCK.

    • yeah, I forgot about the almonds/macadamia allergy I have. So I look for gluten free then for tree nut free. I pretty much just don’t eat anything I don’t cook myself. So I totally commiserate with you on the coworker thing.

      • Yeah, and if I ask them what’s in it or request that they label things with nuts, they aren’t satisfied until I give them the entire list of things I’m allergic to and why I’m allergic to them and here, have a giant basket of pity. No. Just, no. Just tell me if there’s nuts in it or not, I shouldn’t have to justify such a simple request by giving you my entire medical history. RAR.

  32. They’re in wikipedia. A Chinese berry. I’m not personally keen on them, or acai. But if pomegranate & mangosteen get cheap I’ll be all over them.

  33. Late to the conversation, but as someone who’s allergic too all soy (including lecethin & oil) processed foods are probably not safe. A few of the organics and health food items are ok, so I’ll look there too. Thankfully I like to cook when I can, and our local farmer’s market stocks things sans soy I love. I get what you’re saying though, and I’m highly sceptical of ‘healthier’ foods.

  34. Like Weatherwax, I had to look after my 88 yo mother last year for a few weeks, when my Dad was in hospital with a heart attack. Desperate stuff, Mum has Alzheimer’s. It was then we discovered all the great convenience foods available. Excellent quality, like beefsteak and mushroom sauce with carrots and mashed potato. 5 minute zap in the microwave, add a bit of salad and zap some fresh broccoli. Maybe a bit light on quantity, 8 bucks for 400 grams, but quick and healthy and very tasty.

    I guess the brands won’t mean much to you – do you have Tasty Bite Indian vegetables or Sun Rice Asian meals? Boxed in foil packs, shelf life >1 year, zap for 2 min – add Indian veg to rice and have with a pork chop – luxury! Mind you there is also a lot of awful crap out there as well.

  35. Elyse, I had a look at some of the claims about bioavailabilty. There seem to be two main claims. One, that fat soluble vitamins need to be eaten with fat to be absorbed. Two, that calcium can be locked up if eaten with too much oxalate.

    My take on that would be, most vitamin deficiencies involve the water soluble vitamins B and C for which fat solubility is a non issue.
    The one fat soluble one that is commonly deficient is D, and that can be corrected readily with a megadose.
    As for oxalate, that is a poison in its own right, and unless you eat lots of spinach or rhubarb every day, it should not be a problem for most people.

    As always, check with your doctor or dietician and obviously, I am prepared to be shot down on this by other evidence.

  36. I have no known allergies, I eat meat, dairy, gluten… And not always organic (though I get an organic veggie basket every week)
    And I’ll never take unnecessary supplements (waste of money and trust). I know I don’t want to strengthen my immune system (MS), so I mainly don’t go to organic stores. They annoy me. I mainly avoid drugs (maybe paracetamol now & then), I have an iud. taking pills or supplement everyday is too much for me (I already need my daily neeeeedle)
    (kind of messy answer)

  37. “And I had to learn what the hell “bioavailable” meant because I assumed that was some bullshit, but it’s apparently not… or maybe it is. ”
    IIRC it is about which chemical molecule will allow you to absorb the stuff you want. Like swallowing a rusty nail won’t solve your iron deficency

    Organic farming is problematic. I buy a lot organic stuff because they way I buy them allows me to buy local and animal friendly products. And yes, ugly carrots. Because apparently normal carrots all have to be straight and perfect and over half of the harvest will just remain on the field to rot because apparently it’s not even economically worthwhile to collect is as animal fodder.
    As for supplements: Yes please. I have a suicidal thyroid and an overactive uterus that means that I either have to spend half a day figuring out how to get the amounts of nutritients I need from food or taking a handfull of pills…

    • As for supplements: Yes please. I have a suicidal thyroid and an overactive uterus that means that I either have to spend half a day figuring out how to get the amounts of nutritients I need from food or taking a handfull of pills…

      = don’t you mean drugs? like hormones?

      • Those too, but I was really talking about the little pill with Selen, and the little pill with iron, and the magnesium that keeps my legs from cramping like mad.

        • If you have defficiences, those are useful!

    • Ah yes, I forgot about iron before. Iron is hard to absorb. My wife complained a lot when she had to take iron tablets.

      • Personall I found it causes less problems to take a low dosage pill constantly instead of taking the the high dosage ones for 10 days as recommended by my doc. Since my HB and Ferriticin meassures have constantly gone up I’m sticking with that.

  38. Re: the labeling of “Free-range”: I was at a fancy grocery store the other day that sells gourmet and “game and specialty” meat, which includes everything from ground camel to iguana. One package that stood out was “Free-Range Rattlesnake.” Being from Texas, my first thought was, hm, so it’s expensive roadkill.

    • My dad claims that rattlesnake is delicious, but ostrich is the best meat EVER.

      My dad also drinks PBR and watches Nascar. What can you do.

  39. I find the entire hippie section of grocery stores kind of amusing, since the rule of thumb in avoiding processed foods is to not buy stuff in boxes and cans. If you shop to minimize your garbage, it makes eating better that much easier.

    • This. OMG this. “I want something organic and hormone free chemical free and all natural and it needs to be powdered and microwavable.”

      • “I want something organic and hormone free chemical free and all natural and it needs to be powdered and microwavable.”

        It’s entirely paradoxical.

      • Strangely enough the products I mentioned above are all natural and have no nasties at all. Unless you count the combination of chillies and lentils, which can end up quite nasty, oh yes…

  40. Ha, I love this post.
    My daughter is lactose intolerant, but thankfully she’s now old enough that I’m starting to give her lactaid milk & tablets instead of reading the back of everything. Have you ever tried that lactose free mac & cheese?? Oh My Barf. I’m obviously trying to keep my kids healthy, but there’s so much hype and bullshit, I choose to spend only so much of my life trying to make & teach health choices and more of my life teaching my kids not to be pricks about other people’s business.

  41. I ignore it all. I’m not allergic to anything.

  42. I have celiac so I have to look for sources of gluten. I spend a lot of time groaning at the nutso claims on heath food items too just so I can look at the gluten free stuff. I take a B complex because the meds I’m on either make it hard to process or deplete them. Either way, dr says I’m low on B thisthattheother, so I take a B complex. I take a multi occassionally, not for any reason, just because I feel like I probably should. The TV tells me that.

  43. Aren’t all these positions from well fed people? Hey I am not judging, I eat meat. So have I killed for my dinner? Many times. Animal’s don’t like it, but I don’t think it is unethical. Torturing animals isn’t necessary, but they know when they are going to die. My brother worked in a slaughter house and they try to keep the cattle calm before the kill because stress can release a chemical which taints the meat. But screaming pigs and cattle are hard to muffle, so they know inside that door they will be in your grocery soon. Organic foods are ridiculous, don’t waste your time and don’t condemn the rest of the world to starvation. Not that I agree with Penn and or Teller, but there is a very good episode concerning this on their old show Bullshit.

    • //Organic foods are ridiculous, don’t waste your time and don’t condemn the rest of the world to starvation.//

      That’s a big fat strawman. Organic foods do not cause starvation silly.

  44. The organic movement has a noble goal (to reduce pesticide use & consumption), but as others point out, in the mass market, a lot of it is fool’s gold. Especially since organic standards are SO low that basically most organic produce has been sprayed to hell with “organic pesticides” which are also poisonous.

    That said, I think it’s also silly to blindly worship pesticides. A lot of the reason pesticides are needed is because of large scale monocropping where infection of one crop by pests will mean doom for the whole 90 acre field. However in small farming, it’s not as necessary when you have a diverse array of crops and at worst, only lose 1 crop to an infestation. A lot of of small farmers get INCREDIBLE yield out of very small pieces of land, and using pesticides is not really necessary.

    So I’d say, this is a baby-bathwater type of thing where yes, organic-naturo-bla-bla-bla fads are full of giant buckets of heaping bullshit, but non-pesticide ****farming**** is viable and shouldn’t also be criticized as equally bullshit.

    • This goes to the debate of “how do you feed hungry people”. And the answer is “solve the very individual problems of the individual groups that are hungry”. And what that answer is usually varies WILDLY by the group & their situation.

      However Westerners generally want to claim that they can just fly in like great white angels with their own farming methods & production ideas and magically cure hunger. Not true.

    • Personally I wish for an option called “sensible farming”. You know, with some of the ideas of organic farming like animal welfare and avoidance of pesticides if not necessary, accepting that fruit and veg don’t look like in baby-picture-books, without the dogma and woo of organic farming. Sadly that doesn’t exist.

      • Well it does exist :), it’s just not known by the public. North American farmers that aren’t running giant cash crop or cash livestock farms generally do pick the best methods for whatever their niche is. It’s up to the farmer. The US public just doesn’t know much about farming in general, and that’s okay.

        As far as farmers abroad, most are sustenance farmers or small cash crop farmers . For them, the farming approach is “sensible” is definitely the approach they take, within whatever limited resources they have. The challenges many of them face are complex & individualized to the region & community they are in (drought, extortion, floods, government policy, seed availability, local market, disease, water availability, etc. etc.). For them this whole organic vs. non-organic debate doesn’t even apply. This almost entirely a rich nation issue.

  45. I wish there were such a thing as a true health food store, that sold foods to meet the needs of genuine medical conditions. The supermarkets in my area used to have diabetic sections, but they “integrated” the diabetic foods in with the normal foods…where “integrated” means “discontinued”. Most “diet” food items have reduced the fat content while doubling down on the sugars, which is no help at all. The high-priced so-called health food chains like Whole Foods refuse to carry sugar free goods, because that is too “unnatural”. All sorts of carb free (for diabetics) and completely fat free (for those with pancreatic problems) foods are possible, but no one sells them.

  46. I don’t want organic, natural or even allegedly guilt free edibles, I want Whole Foods and someone else to pay the bill.

  47. I like food. I like a wide variety of foods, but have a special place in my no-doubt clogging arteries for meats, eggs, and cheeses; I will wax me some poetic about good cheeses. Since food is one of my few pleasures in life, I enjoy it as I like it. One of my joys is to go to a restaurant, eat and read. I look forward each year to Christmas dinner, with its roast beef and yorkshire pudding (which is eggs, beef fat, and flour; there is a reason it is made once a year); recently, we’ve been having two yorkshire puddings, since my sister-in-law is going gluten free (one of the people who, while not technically celiac, is a lot happier and healthier gluten-free).

    Some folks take my rather great love of unhealthy foods as being against healthy foods, or as being against vegan foods; not the case. I’ve a number of friends who are either vegetarian or pseudo-vegetarian; some who are vegan, but none who live near me. I love vegetarian food that’s well prepared, but I’ve yet to encounter a cheese or meat substitute that tastes as good as real cheese or real meat. Going full veg (etarian/an) would involve giving up too much that I love. Because, from my point of view, while those diets don’t have to be restrictive (there’s a lot you can each), they are about restriction (i.e. there’s a lot you can’t eat). And if the restrictions don’t bother you, you’re not going to feel them. But if the restrictions DO bother you… if they cut you off from large numbers of foods that you love… then it’s a much more onerous choice to become veg.

    I’ve heard the arguments about cruelty and the environment from those who are veg. I’ve heard plenty of arguments about my health, from crusaders and from doctors. But the fact of the matter is, good food is about all that makes life worth living. I don’t drink much; no taste for either beer or wine, and I dislike feeling intoxicated. I’ve been single for years, and have little prospect of not being so. I have no children. So dropping dead at 50 of a heart attack brought on by too much good food and sitting around reading things that amuse me doesn’t seem that bad.

    • Yours is a beautiful philosophy and truly sounds like the definition of having a healthy relationship with food, which requires acknowledging more than its physical makeup and appreciating the social and personal joys it can bring. There’s so much more to life than trying not to die. :)

    • Mark, great comment!
      One of the things I used to do each holidays was to get into the gardening, then on the first rainy day I would go alone to this old pizza restaurant in town on the main drag. I would order a large ham and pineapple pizza (Aussie favorite) and a caraffe of red,or two, and sit there for a couple of hours just watching the people walk up and down outside thru the large front picture window.

      The restaurant has been gone for 10 years now and your story reminded me how much I miss that ritual.

  48. Unless they are grocery shopping in high heels with a chihuahua in a purse, I would just assume all those other people in the aisle are just like you. Making necessary decisions.

    I eat organic carrots, and when I’ve a little more money, I’ll add more organic veg, too. Probably join a CSA again. Mostly I eat homemade food. I like quinoa (truth: mostly for the protein) and Trader Joe’s only sells an organic version, and it’s still cheaper than QFC’s anything. I also avoid GMO foods…and if I ever have to defend that decision to a skeptic, I say it’s because of politics cause Monsanto is frankly evil. I can accept that the organic label isn’t entirely meaningful, but I still tend toward it.

    • Interesting fact: wearing 5″ heels does not make you immune to food allergies nor does it affect your intelligence.

  49. My husband and I have jobs that require more hours in a week than there actually are, and an 11-month old who can’t do dishes yet. So, little of what we eat these days can be considered “healthy”. If we were to cook the kind of food we should eat much of the time we’d be going nuts, or not sleeping. And that’s not healthy.

    • Oh yes, I love people who tell me about homemade foods and how they solve all your problems when indeed those people don’t run my life.
      Yes, when I come home at 9:30 pm and have to put the kids to bed first I will not cook a homemade dinner. I will put something from the freezer into the microwave where it heats while I hang up the laundry…

      • Well no one’s telling you how to live your life. I don’t know why people take offense at the statement that cooking from basic veggie & meat ingredients is likely better than storebought stuff.

        I just stated that optimally, cooking from basic ingredients is generally healthier. But if you’ve got a busy life that doesn’t allow for that, okay, no issue, no judgement.

        • It’s not just that statement but that it’s one of hundreds we receive that amount to a very in-your-face moral superiority based on food choices. Lots of people tell Giliell and me and EVERYONE how to live our lives.

        • Well, probably not from you, but believe me, I do get lots of judgement. Especially since I’m overweight. It’s not like I can’t cook, or don’t like to do it, it’s actually one of my great pleasures, but you wouldn’t believe the number of people who assume that I’m either
          -too lazy
          or
          -too stupid to cook
          People happily start lecturing me on how to cook simple and easy and oh so fast meals like I was 18 and had just moved out from home for the first time.
          The statement “many days I just don’t have time to cook a meal from scratch” is almost never taken at face value and almost always treated as an excuse for my personal failures.

          • Yeah, I can completely see people downtalking to you about it. Human beings are terrible like that.

            In my case, yeah, I understand your predicament. Been there. Cooking takes a while, requires you have stuff stocked, etc. And when you’re busy with work and managing little mouths, it’s not always possible or easy. Especially if you’re struggling financially.

            If I may be bold to ask, who do you usually get these lectures from, people in your personal life, internet peoples, other?

        • Are you kidding? Everybody tells women how to live our lives. And how to cook and how to eat and what to eat and what NOT to eat.

          • Yeah I phrased that badly, apologies.

  50. In general in this conversation I’d say the following
    - Everyone is quite emotionally invested in their eating patterns.
    - Everyone whether they admit it or not is slightly (or perhaps heavily) critical of other’s eating habits. People mock vegans/veggies, veggies/vegans state moral superiority, people who like organics and people who don’t mock each other, etc.

    I think the key is, if someone states they have a certain diet for certain reasons, leave them the hell alone about it. It’s personal choice, and that should be respected.

    • The shit I like to eat is not the shit you like to eat, and as far as I can tell, the only solid health advice is Americans need to eat more vegetables. Canned, frozen, fresh, juiced, whatever, doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter if they’re lovingly blanched organic locally sourced carrots or a V8.
      People get really snotty about it.
      I do wish people cared more about changing the laws around standards of care on factory farms. Some of the shit that goes on makes puppy mills look like dog parks. Our laws have a long way to go in recognizing that animals aren’t objects without the capacity to suffer.

  51. “If I may be bold to ask, who do you usually get these lectures from, people in your personal life, internet peoples, other?”
    Yes, yes and yes.
    Quite often people don’t even lecture me in person. They will just loudly proclaim how cooking a meal from scratch is the absolute minimum and how people who buy this nasty convenience food are stupid and don’t care and who poison their children and then they ask me “don’t you think so?”

    • Oh, you mean like this type of graphic, always served up with the shaming of people who don’t cook a meal for 4 or more from scratch every night of the week? I mean, it’s not like disabilities or multiple jobs or poverty exist… they must all be LAZY, right?

    • So constantly shamed. Yes, you know, I know it may sound disingenuous, but a lot of the vegetarian or vegan people know this feeling of always being questioned why we’re doing what we’re doing or told we’re stupid or part of a problem for doing it.

      The problem is with most people is that they’ll characterize people with different habits as stupid/bad/horrible/judgemental but hold themselves on a pedestal. I think this thread brings out a lot of these conflicting prejudices. Conversations like this crack open the fact that everyone has a way different way of eating & set of reasons why they do it, and that judging someone as not right for it is a shit thing to do.

      • “So constantly shamed. Yes, you know, I know it may sound disingenuous, but a lot of the vegetarian or vegan people know this feeling of always being questioned why we’re doing what we’re doing or told we’re stupid or part of a problem for doing it. ”
        Yes and?
        Seriously, I don’t shit on vegetarian/vegan people, I don’t condone it, so your “yes, but…” really does sound condescending.
        It doesn’t become magically less bad and less exhausting and less agressive because it’s done to other people as well.
        Funny thing, I don’t think I’ve even mentioned whether I am vegetarian or not… (I’m not, just fior the record…)

        • // I don’t condone it, so your “yes, but…” really does sound condescending.//

          Ugh, sorry for the shitty phrasing.

          I say this because I noticed on this thread that people tended to group up along their biases. The vegans/veggies (including me) subtly proclaimed their own superiority, the people who had a relaxed diet subtly proclaimed their way was best. And so what did this thread bring out? I think it’s that people have a hard time not judging each other’s eating habits, even if they’re within the same ideological community.

          Many food based posts like this in the past for instance have caused a lot of verbal sparring about whose way of eating is superior to whose.

          • I think this is the result of a divide and conquer strategy by our fungus-eating lizard overlords. Let’s all gang up on them!

        • And I’m not talking about you specifically either, I’m saying in general, whenever a food subject comes up, there’s a food fight…

  52. This weeks Point of Inquiry interviews Mark Lynas, and GMO foods and organic farming are discussed quite a bit.

    http://www.pointofinquiry.org/mark_lynas_science_and_the_left/

  53. Just recently, I was told by a gastroenterologist and my family doctor to try going gluten free (possible sensitivity, not celiac). Besides being amazed at just how many foods unexpectedly have gluten (Lean Cuisine Cheddar & Broccoli, really?), I was struck by exactly the same point as made in this article. Why is so much gluten free food also advertised as organic or non-GMO? I feel a little embarrassed at the checkout aisle, and just like the author of this piece, I want to explain to the cashier why I’m buying Amy’s Kitchen Organic Macaroni and Cheese (made with rice), but I guess it’s better than being bloated all the time.

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