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Book Report: The Unhealthy Truth

August 4th, 2009

419uolncqeL._SL160_I’ve been reading The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick – And What We Can Do About It and WOW what a great, but scary book. I already knew a lot of the information from the book because I’m very interested this kind of thing and have been reading up on it for quite a while.

The first 7 chapters are spent detailing the information Robyn found during her research into GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) and artificial chemicals, preservatives, and dyes in manufactured foods and the link between these and allergies, autism and other immune diseases. I won’t recount the information here, read the book for all the gory details. You might be interested to know that the top 12 GMO foods in production the United States are: corn, cotton, potatoes, tomatoes, soybeans, canola, sugar beets, rice, flax, squash/zucchini, papaya and chicory (radicchio). I knew about corn, soy, sugar beets, cotton and canola, but I was surprised by the other crops on the list. Yet another reason to shop locally and grow your own!
The last chapter, however, is a HUGE let-down as she details her “meal-plan” for getting your family on the healthier eating road. I was excited to hear about her great ideas of incorporating fresh organic food into her new diet, but her new diet is just like her previous one, she just switched conventional processed food for organic processed food. I’m sure organic processed food contains fewer chemicals than conventional, but this doesn’t really get to the root of our screwed up country-wide eating disorder. We no longer eat “REAL” food; none of our food looks like it does in it’s natural form and most of it is processed, comes in a box and is shipped thousands of miles. Are organic processed packaged granola bars really a healthier option than an in season peach from a local farm? Her meal plan is also severely lacking in the area of fresh fruits & veggies, not even getting close to the 7-11 servings a day we should be getting.
I also completely disagree with her statement that eating organically and healthfully are more expensive than eating conventional boxed food. Sure if you’re just switching all of your processed food from regular to organic you’re going to pay more for it. But if you buy real fresh food that’s in season it’s actually much much cheaper!
Buying fresh local apples is a better investment nutritionally than buying a bag of chips and you’ll get more servings out of it (not many people sit down and eat 3 apples at once, but many people will sit down and eat 3 servings of chips). A better cheaper option is buying locally grown fruit and veggies in season. A .75 zucchini from the farmers market (or picked in your back yard) that will serve 5 really is much cheaper than that bag of organic baby carrots you buy each week at the grocery store (and much fresher).
I do love that she mentions getting your kids involved in the process of healthier eating, which is very important. Here’s an idea: instead of buying all the expensive organic processed food at the grocery why not load up your kids and head to the farmers market. Let them each pick out one new veggie each week and get them involved in choosing their own healthy food. Not only is this local food much healthier because it’s fresh and local, but it’s much cheaper than grocery store food. You could also try growing a few veggies in pots on your front/back porch. It’s amazing how willing kids are to try something new if they’ve nurtured it from a seedling.
I believe buying good quality local organic produce is an investment in your health and in your future (not to mention it tastes much better as well). It’s also very important for the preservation of our farmland. In the last couple years as we transitioned to local whole foods we actually started spending less on our groceries (and that includes buying $8/gallon raw organic milk). There are a lot of things I would go without in order to eat good quality food, cable, cell phone, the second car, vacations, new clothes, eating out, etc, but I don’t have to because I’m actually spending less on my healthy diet. Some things are more expensive, like dairy & meat, but we eat a little less of them and the savings from buying in season fruits and veggies helps off-set the cost. There’s great peace of mind knowing that you’re feeding yourself in the healthiest way possible, giving yourself and your loved ones the best chance to live a long healthy happy life.
I would highly recommend reading this book, but only if you’re ready to making changes in your diet. If you don’t want to hear about all the chemicals, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms lurking in your processed foods and the health problems they cause, do not read this book. Ignorance is bliss, at least for a while.

Are you taking steps to cut out GMO’s and trying to include more whole real foods in you diet?

22 Comments to “Book Report: The Unhealthy Truth”
  1. Mangochild on August 4, 2009 at 5:41 am

    Great and thoughtful post. I eat, hummm, I’d say pretty much all whole-foods. Meaning fresh/local fruit and veg, homemade bread made from whole-wheat/grain flour. If I have something like a granola bar, its one I’ve made from my own oats and using fresh fruit juices and my own dried fruit for sweetners. I don’t buy commercial or processed food, and don’t find I miss it at all. I’ll try any veg/fruit, and nearly any idea on what to do with them. Plus, it lets me make my food to my own tastes, not something pre-packaged or pre-determined.

    And you are so right about the cost factor: eating seasonally and locally is much less expensive. My parents came with me to the farmers market last weekend and we went picking at a local farm together. Their food (2 vegetarians for a week) came to $16.20 at the farm for pounds and pounds of eggplant, peppers, beans, zucchini, cabbage….. and at the farmers’ market, about $10.00 for corn, cauliflower, etc. And we eat MOUNDS of veg! At the “regular grocery store” this would be well over $60 dollars, at least. And that’s the financial cost – what about the other costs in the way of long-term sustainable land maintenance, preserving the integrity of the food, environmental cost, etc.?

    I think its just as easy to do this with kids and fit this into a regular working life. A little planning, and flexibility, but overall, it can be done if approached as an activity and part of a lifestyle. Yes, I occasionally have to go out to eat with clients when needed, and we eat at a restaurant that doesn’t source local, but that is usually one or 2 meals over 3-4 months. And if I am occasionally visiting friends/family, I’ll try to get to the market with them, but I’ll be flexible – graciousness in another’s home is important too. We still eat pretty much whole-foods and fresh foods. Its about an overall attitude, not rigidity that makes it impossible to sustain.
    .-= Mangochild´s last blog ..Spotlight: One Local Summer Week 9 =-.

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    • Susy on August 4, 2009 at 8:55 am

      So true, we have a weekly dinner date at our best friends house and we always enjoy some pizza that night. It is important to not be too rigid about what you eat because you can definitely offend others and it makes life a lot more difficult. There are times when it’s just not feasible to eat local fresh food. We do try to search out farmer’s markets when we travel and small local eateries that use local ingredients.

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  2. kristin on August 4, 2009 at 7:08 am

    I sort of just fell into growing my food and eating locally, since we live in such an agricultural area. And I must admit that it’s not so much a moral stand with me as just the fact that I like it, and it tastes a LOT better.

    I will also admit that I do still love Doritos, laden with evilness though they are. My refusal to buy them more than once a year has more to do with my tendency to eat a whole bag in two days than an acknowledgment of their evil, however.
    .-= kristin´s last blog ..Corny Days Are Here Again* =-.

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    • Susy on August 4, 2009 at 8:52 am

      Mr Chiots also loves Doritos. I don’t buy them (ever) but we have some friends that take pity on him and occasionally buy a bag for him.

      And you’re right, it just tastes better! That’s one of the reasons we love eating fresh local food.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Mr. Chiots on August 4, 2009 at 1:35 pm

        “I don’t get Doritos that often” is the catch-phrase I utter as I drool over the bag!
        .-= Mr. Chiots´s last blog ..Nick & Stefanie’s Same Day Edit =-.

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      • Missy on August 5, 2009 at 1:03 pm

        I am the friend in question who takes pity on Mr Chiots and buys him evil Doritos. =)

        to Missy's comment

    • Daphne on August 5, 2009 at 7:33 am

      Doritos (the baked version) are my downfall too. I love them especially with chili. The last couple of days I’ve been getting pounds of cherry tomatoes from my garden and I make fresh salsa out of it and eat it with Doritos. I do pile on the salsa so I don’t eat a lot of them at a time, but still I won’t give them up. I don’t have the problem of eating too many but I find that nothing can replace a corn chip when you need one. Too bad I can’t find an organic version I like. I think the organic ones just don’t taste as good.
      .-= Daphne´s last blog ..Planting Lettuce =-.

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  3. KitsapFG on August 4, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Michael Pollan said it well in his book “In Defense of Food”.

    Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

    The “Eat food.” statement is the most important (in my opinion) because it is referring to eating real food. Food our great grandparents would recognize. Food that is not frankenfood that has been processed and transformed through the miracle of chemical sciences into something that no longer does anything but convey a blood sugar overload and a mega dose of calories. Those of us who garden can take it a step further and ensure that the food genetics and growing environment have not been tampered with either.

    I am not a purist and will enjoy a piece of fluffy sugar laden cake once in a while (my great grandmother would recognize that cake as food). Things like that are a rare treat though and not a staple of the diet. We grow all of our vegetables and a large proportion of fruits but cannot grow all fruits because of sun limitations on our property. What we cannot grow we buy as locally as possible and organic. Dairy and eggs are also very local and organic. Where we start struggling with options is meat. We are not interested in being vegetarians – we are ominivores – but finding good local options is nearly impossible for some reason. What few local meat options we have been able to track down have been wildly expensive. We do the best we can but I am least happy with our options in that regard..

    Reply to KitsapFG's comment

    • Susy on August 4, 2009 at 8:53 am

      We are lucky that we have a farm about 4 miles away that raises pastured beef, chicken, turkey and sells eggs and raw milk. We are able to source a lot of our meat from them. My dad is an avid hunter as well, so he supplies us with most of the red meat we consume in the form of a freezer full of venison each December.

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  4. deborah on August 4, 2009 at 9:31 am

    I really appreciated this post, Susy. Especially the acknowledgment of our national eating disorder and how switching to organic boxes and cans doesn’t really get at the problem. You are lucky indeed to have a good farm so close by. I don’t have that, but I have a great organic garden, a good farmers market 5 months of the year, and a couple of good co-ops/natural food stores. I would say I’m at about 75-80% local/whole/organic. My husband much less so. And it’s a bit more of a challenge when one’s partner isn’t quite on board. But I keep the faith. Thanks for the book recommendation.
    .-= deborah´s last blog ..Currants and Gooseberries =-.

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  5. warren on August 4, 2009 at 10:18 am

    We definitely eat a lot out of our garden. We can tons for the winter and eat fresh when we are able. As far as a wide scale change though, we eat what we can from our stores, but we don’t worry as much about it, esp during the winter when fresh is pretty relative. I would certainly not be opposed to a little more rigor in watching what we eat, but we haven’t gone hardcore.
    .-= warren´s last blog ..All I want… =-.

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  6. Maureen on August 4, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Excellent Post!

    I just ordered the book and now I can’t wait to read it. I do agree with your complaint about processed organic food. We were in Whole Foods last week and I was amazed at the number of organic ‘substitute’ foods in the store. Organic Macaroni and Cheese? It’s still just white pasta and dehydrated cheese (or a cheese-like substance)…does it really matter that it was grown organically? Not to mention how far it was driven to get on the shelf.

    We are TRYING to eat more locally and spend more Saturdays at the farmers market, but our grocery bill continues to be uncomfortably high. Sometimes I get discouraged but I realize it’s a process and we are at least on our way. I think I’m going to have our 2 remaining at-home kids (15 and 18yrs. old) read this book with us….maybe that will have more effect than just mom nagging on them :)
    .-= Maureen´s last blog ..What to do with all the Tomatoes =-.

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  7. Kimberly on August 4, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Wow, that *is* scary. And I wonder if GMO is responsible for my adult onset severe allergy to corn.

    Reply to Kimberly's comment

    • Susy on August 4, 2009 at 3:36 pm

      You should definitely read this book. Your corn allergy is probably caused by GMO corn.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Kimberly on August 4, 2009 at 4:00 pm

        Interestingly, growing up, most of my vegetable and fruit diet came from our homestead. My allergy developed around 8th grade. But corn is in everything processed, such as cereal, granola bars, so it’s still hard to avoid. I’m going to pick up this book. Thanks!

        to Kimberly's comment

  8. Dan on August 4, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Growing up in my family we never really ate processed food and especially not at home. The odd take out food but that’s all. I agree that food should look like the food when it is cooked. I am very concerned about gmo, antibiotic & growth hormones in meat and all the synthetic & petrol chemicals in our food supply. I will have to look for this book at the library.
    .-= Dan´s last blog ..Tuesday’s Veggie Photography =-.

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  9. Christine on August 4, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    This book sounds similar to one I’m reading right now, which an above poster talked about. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food is a great book talking about how crazy the modern Western diet has become over the past 150 years or so, and all sorts of health problems associated with such refined foods. Lists and lists of chemicals is all we see on the back of packaged foods these days.
    This book looks interesting, and I’m definitely adding it to my to-do list.

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  10. pam on August 4, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Have you read “Real Food: What to Eat and Why” by Nina Planck? It’s also very good. Since I’ve read it, I switched to organic, joined a csa, and feel tons better.
    .-= pam´s last blog ..Garden Tuesday – Finally Rain! =-.

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  11. Chicago Mike on August 4, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    If you want a taste of Michael Pollan before you invest in the book he has a magnificent article last weeks NYT (got a link on the blog), it takes registration on the NYT, but its free.

    And we have been going to all the local farmers markets (Downers Grove, Naperville, etc) trying to pick a favorite. Now that we are really looking, you can’t throw a rock without hitting one!
    .-= Chicago Mike´s last blog ..Oh JOY!!!!! =-.

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  12. Daphne on August 5, 2009 at 7:38 am

    We do occasionally eat processed food, but not much of it. I’m not a purist, but I do believe in eating real food. Our local organic food however is NOT cheaper than boxed food. Our farmers markets are by far more expensive than eating from a supermarket. We do have one farm store (which ships in food in addition to their grown food) that prices things lower in season, but never the farmers markets. This makes me a bit sad, but I tend to eat from my garden in season anyway. I do like to stock up on things in the fall, likes cabbage (which I’m not growing in my garden this fall).
    .-= Daphne´s last blog ..Planting Lettuce =-.

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  13. inadvertent farmer on August 5, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    I just got done reading this book also and was blown away by most of the information…I knew a lot of it but to see it all in print with some of the health consequences was just plain scary. One thing that I didn’t know is that many things that the US allows other countries have forbidden, it makes me have no faith in our government oversight of food.

    I also was dissapointed by her conclusion about how she was going to change he family’s diet…but some change is better than none I suppose.

    I avoid GMO’s like the plague…my hubby thinks I’m the food police, but it is important to me that the quickly growing bodies of my kids not ingest things that are genetically modifed. We are vegetarians so expensive organic meat is not an issue. We garden year round, make homemade bread from fresh ground organic wheat (although we grow no wheat locally, too much rain). I do buy organic snack foods for trips in the car with the kids…it is a rare treat and it makes long car rides a little easier.

    Yes local, organic is definately the way to go…great post, Kim
    .-= inadvertent farmer´s last blog ..Let’s go for a canoe ride! =-.

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  14. Jennifer is Always Sick on June 17, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Thank you for recommending this article to me. Very informative.

    I’m surprised she suggested going to organic processed foods. That’s really odd, and not something you generally get from someone who is anti-GMO and such.

    A really good read is Nourishing Traditions. She talks about only eating whole foods (not the store), and getting back to nature with our food. Most of it is a cookbook, but the beginning of it is an explanation about what processed foods have done to our health, how the idea of fat being evil is a warped perspective and untrue, real butter vs. margerine, etc… Her cookbook has stuff like how to pickle vegetables and jar them, how to make your own sour dough bread using a sour dough starter (without adding brewers yeast – just flour and water), and other really neat recipes.

    The only thing i still gag about when I read the book is how she says we should eat everything raw when possible, including meats. I don’t know if I can ever go there. But I’ve done raw cheese, and it’s the best cheese in the world!
    .-= Jennifer is Always Sick´s last blog ..Scent of a Woman…or was it a man? =-.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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