Monday, February 16, 2015

Grow Your Food and Eat It Too

Now that my semester is up and running more smoothly, I've been given a few seconds to write a blog update (finally!) about what I've been up to lately.

The first large portion of my time has been taken up by applying for jobs. It's like having a whole other class with the time and effort I've been putting into searching for openings, writing cover letters and submitting applications. I don't want to go into too much detail about how everything is going, but overall I'm feeling positive about the process as a whole.

The second large portion of my time is, obviously, classes. This semester has felt pretty surreal so far simply because it's my last one. As you might've read in my last post, I have two classes with labs (genetics and aquaponics), a cooking class, and an online sustainable agriculture class (that has yet to start). The cooking class has turned out to be one of the most interesting as I've never studied the human consumption side of food past selling it to them at a farmers market stand. I'm excited that I'm finally learning a whole other side to the food system from the perspective of a consumer and cook, than just a producer/grower. Just a few classes and weeks worth of reading has started to change my outlook on food. Because of my work on an organic vegetable farm, I've long been of the opinion that one should eat more locally, include more whole vegetables in their diets and try to understand where their food comes from. But now I'm starting to add things to that philosphy that don't just benefit the environment, but also benefit my health. Changing my normal pasta, rice and other wheat products from refined to whole-wheat is something I'm slowly starting to do. As I run out of the refined products that I've subsisted on, I'm starting to replace them with the new products.

One of my cooking challenges, a meal I usually eat with proportions as set out
by the Harvard Healthy Plate guidelines.

These fixes probably seem like no-brainers for a lot of you. But the fact is, many people my age eat white rice, white bread, white pasta, you name it simply because it seems like the "normal" type of those products to eat. Most of us grew up eating it. I mainly ate wheat bread growing up (thanks Mom!) so that was never an issue for me, but when it came to other products like pasta and tortillas, I didn't really give it much thought as I grabbed that white flour tortilla bag off the shelf at the grocery store. I've been reading some pretty interesting things for class that made me realize that I grew up in the "low-fat" era. The USDA and other health officials started the "Fat is Bad" trend, so we started eating more carbs. I, and the rest of my generation, are the product of that. But learning not all fat is bad is another part of this class. Fat from fish, olive oil, and nuts is a great thing to have in your diet.

Probably the most interesting thing I've read so far is the free first chapter of a book called "Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy" which calls out the failings of the USDA's food pyramid and, right away, debunks some of the myths we've been living with in our food system for my entire life. In short, the food pyramid leaves out some key information that we have done without for years. An example of this is the three servings of dairy per day to combat the low amount of calcium that Americans consume. The truth is, most Americans get more calcium per day than they need and there are cheaper, more effective ways to supplement calcium if you're someone who doesn't get enough. The fact that we're eating too much dairy is somewhat scary to me because I drink a lot of milk. Granted, I drink skim milk which is much better for a person than whole, or 2%, but I always thought that my high milk intake was a good thing. I grew up being told that. So now that I'm reading this classes literature, I'm not so sure.

See the dilemmas? I invite you to read it for yourself and see what you think. I certainly had a few mindset shifts after reading this and several other articles. You can find the link here. 

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