Food with integrity

I have noticed that I am writing about food a lot lately.  Hopefully I’m still interesting!

I spend a lot of time learning about natural alternatives to medicine, natural foods, natural this, natural that.  I wash my hair without shampoo and I wash my face with olive oil.  I had to learn that somewhere!  I credit a lot of my natural knowledge to a Facebook community of people who want to heal themselves and live as naturally as possible.  Obviously, many articles are posted about the dangers lurking in many common foods.  Things like hydrogenated oils, vegetable oils, fructose, soy, grains, gluten, lectins, beans, nightshades, and carrageenan.  You can learn a million new things each day.

It is hella overwhelming.

Since I began learning all this new food knowledge, I have stopped eating margarine, wheat, and high fructose corn syrup.  I no longer cook with canola oil.  I have also cut out soda (so difficult… I miss you, Virgil’s Cream Soda!). I make these decisions for my health.  I know that other foods have risks.  Soy, for instance, is very controversial as it may contribute to endocrine disruption.  I avoid soy mostly but do eat fermented soy products such as soy sauce and tempeh, on occasion.

Soy is a really, really hard thing to avoid.  It is in pretty much everything.  Restaurants cook with soybean oil. Soy lecithin is in most packaged/processed foods.  Mayonnaise, even organic, usually contains soybean or canola oil.

Most soy, canola, and corn is GMO.  GMO is bad news.  More on that later, in another food post.  I’ll break it up with something not food. Promise.  Food is just so central to our lives, it’s hard not to talk about it.  Food is everything!

And food must be cultivated and served with integrity.

This brings me to my next point: Chipotle now labels GMOs and has switched from GMO soybean oil to non-GMO sunflower oil in their fryers.  This is HUGE.

Chipotle still uses GM soy and corn in other food products, such as corn tortillas and soybean oil used for rice, meat, and fajita veggies.

However – we must support baby steps.  Baby steps become bigger steps.  Baby steps become game changers.  Baby steps are everything.

This baby step – labeling GMOs in products and switching a huge portion of the GM soybean oil to a safer source – is an immeasurable success for those of us against GMOs.

I will continue to support Chipotle, because they are supporting me.  Even though they are not perfect, they listen, and they care.

Now… remember when I mentioned carrageenan, earlier?  Carrageenan is a thickening agent refined from seaweed.  Sounds innocent enough, but it is becoming increasingly controversial. It’s linked with inflammation and immune response.  Not good news for carrageenan.

However, like with all things, moderation is key.  I do not believe that occasionally eating some coconut milk ice cream with carageenan in it is going to drastically harm me.  So many foods are inflammatory, and I consider it a success that I managed to get gluten out of my diet!  Once again, baby steps are to be celebrated.

The carrageenan debate comes up a lot in the natural health community I am part of on Facebook, when people start discussing non-dairy milks.  Every brand of coconut milk, it seems, has carrageenan… except Silk.  Silk coconut milk is free of carrageenan, rejoice! Except that Silk’s parent company, Dean Foods, contributed over a quarter of a million dollars to defeat the recent GMO labeling bill in California, Prop 37.

So Delicious, another brand of non-dairy goodness, has a coconut milk that does contain carrageenan.  But So Delicious supported Prop 37 and your right to know what is in your food.  Furthermore, while they could hide behind the fact that the FDA considers carrageenan a safe food additive, So Delicious is reformulating their products to remove the controversial ingredient.  They are listening to customers.

Guess who gets my money?

To me, the overall message and promise of progress is more important than being perfect right now.

Even though Chipotle uses some GMO ingredients, I will continue to eat there, because they support my right to know what I am eating, and they listen.

Even though So Delicious has carrageenan, I will continue to meet my dairy free needs with their company’s offerings, because they support my right to know what I am eating, and they listen.

That is food with integrity.

9 thoughts on “Food with integrity

  1. I have been drinking Silk Almond milk after all the stuff going around about carrageenan. I didn’t know about Dean Foods / Silk and the GMO bill…very interesting.
    My diet has just recently gone thru some changes. Ever since watching a video of slaughter houses and a dairy farm operation, I have not been able to stomach any meat products…it’s only been a weak now, but it’s all gotten me questioning a lot of my eating habits and beliefs. It’s tough eating the right things and knowing what the right things are.

    1. It really is tough, and there is SO much info around. I do eat animal products but only from humane sources. Slaughterhouse videos still make me wonder if what I am doing is right, but I know that my body feels better with animal protein in my diet so I just do what I can to get it from as humane a source as possible.

      I don’t do dairy because of lactose intolerance, but sometimes I have a little goat cheese, from happy goats. Goat milk is actually close in composition to human breast milk – fun fact! – and many people use it for homemade baby formulas. It’s also okay for the lactose intolerant, which I still haven’t figured out.

      You will figure out what works best for you over time. And you may switch back and forth. I was nearly vegan for a year and then all of a sudden was back to animal products, although very selective ones. It’s a journey. I’d be happy to chat about food sometime!

  2. I had a similar discussion with a family member just the other day. I was rejoicing the fact that the farmers market would be open again in a month. I was told its too expensive to shop there. My response was that I shop there because its organic, local and I get to know the people who grew my food. In addition, I know buying directly from the farmers they see 100% of the profit which will encourage more to start growing food or those that do to increase what they grow. Its all about what you want to see happen. For me I want to see a local food economy where the food is fresh and healthy and the farmers receive fair income for their work.

    1. Local is great! I joined a CSA so I will be getting local organic produce all summer 🙂 AND I am going to grow my own! (Hopefully).
      Supporting local farmers is so important. Without them, everything will just be corporate-owned monopoly pieces 😦

      1. The latest figures I have found reports that farmers who must go through middlemen end up only getting .07 of every dollar.

        I’m looking forward to hearing how you like your CSA.


    Q. What is Carrageenan??

    A. Carrageenan is a naturally-occurring seaweed extract. It is widely used in foods and non-foods to improve texture and stability. Common uses include meat and poultry, dairy products, canned pet food, cosmetics and toothpaste.
    Q. Why the controversy?
    A. Self-appointed consumer watchdogs have produced numerous web pages filled with words condemning carrageenan as an unsafe food additive for human consumption. However, in 70+ years of carrageenan being used in processed foods, not a single substantiated claim of an acute or chronic disease has been reported as arising from carrageenan consumption. On a more science-based footing, food regulatory agencies in the US, the EU, and in the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) repeatedly review and continue to approve carrageenan as a safe food additive.
    Q. What has led up to this misrepresentation of the safety of an important food stabilizer, gelling agent and thickener?
    A. It clearly has to be attributed to the research of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, an Associate Prof at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She and a group of molecular biologists have accused carrageenan of being a potential inflammatory agent as a conclusion from laboratory experiments with cells of the digestive tract. It requires a lot of unproven assumptions to even suggest that consumption of carrageenan in the human diet causes inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract. The objectivity of the Chicago research is also flawed by the fact that Dr Tobacman has tried to have carrageenan declared an unsafe food additive on weak technical arguments that she broadcast widely a decade before the University of Chicago research began.

    Q. What brings poligeenan into a discussion of carrageenan?
    A. Poligeenan (“degraded carrageenan” in pre-1988 scientific and regulatory publications) is a possible carcinogen to humans; carrageenan is not. The only relationship between carrageenan and poligeenan is that the former is the starting material to make the latter. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan and cannot be produced in the digestive tract from carrageenan-containing foods.
    Q. What are the differences between poligeenan and carrageenan?
    A. The production process for poligeenan requires treating carrageenan with strong acid at high temp (about that of boiling water) for 6 hours or more. These severe processing conditions convert the long chains of carrageenan to much shorter ones: ten to one hundred times shorter. In scientific terms the molecular weight of poligeenan is 10,000 to 20,000; whereas that of carrageenan is 200,000 to 800,000. Concern has been raised about the amount of material in carrageenan with molecular weight less than 50,000. The actual amount (well under 1%) cannot even be detected accurately with current technology. Certainly it presents no threat to human health.
    Q. What is the importance of these molecular weight differences?
    A. Poligeenan contains a fraction of material low enough in molecular weight that it can penetrate the walls of the digestive tract and enter the blood stream. The molecular weight of carrageenan is high enough that this penetration is impossible. Animal feeding studies starting in the 1960s have demonstrated that once the low molecular weight fraction of poligeenan enters the blood stream in large enough amounts, pre-cancerous lesions begin to form. These lesions are not observed in animals fed with a food containing carrageenan.

    Q. Does carrageenan get absorbed in the digestive track?
    A. Carrageenan passes through the digestive system intact, much like food fiber. In fact, carrageenan is a combination of soluble and insoluble nutritional fiber, though its use level in foods is so low as not to be a significant source of fiber in the diet.
    Carrageenan has been proven completely safe for consumption. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan.
    Closing Remarks
    The consumer watchdogs with their blogs and websites would do far more service to consumers by researching their sources and present only what can be substantiated by good science. Unfortunately we are in an era of media frenzy that rewards controversy.
    Additional information available:
    On June 11th, 2008, Dr. Joanne Tobacman petitioned the FDA to revoke the current regulations permitting use of carrageenan as a food additive.
    On June 11th, 2012 the FDA denied her petition, categorically addressing and ultimately dismissing all of her claims; their rebuttal supported by the results of several in-depth, scientific studies.
    If you would like to read the full petition and FDA response, they can be accessed at!searchResults;rpp=25;po=0;s=FDA-2008-P-0347

  4. Debbie aka Debbie Young works for Ingredient Solutions Inc., the world’s largest independent supplier of carrageenan, by the way. She posts her company’s FAQ talking points on any blog that dares call her company’s money maker into question.

    My favorite part is where she calls us all “self appointed consumer watchdogs”…I hope to GOD we are all self-appointed watchdogs of what these megacorporations are putting in our food!! Shouldn’t we all be wary of tons of added processed ingredients? Shouldn’t we all have critical thinking skills and apply those to what we are putting in our bodies???

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