Farm to Table

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We have all heard complains about the price of produce – it’s been even in the news for crying out loud. The infamous price of cauliflower has been making rounds over and over. Now, granted there are some valid stories about prices of food in the rural areas of the north – I won’t dispute them. However, if you live in the metro area of St. John’s, Newfoundland there is no reason that you should complain about the price of produce, its availability or quality – you just have to know where to find it and not settle for less.

It’s been a tradition of ours to drive up and down Route 60 to visit local farmers to get the best quality of produce at fraction of the cost our local grocery store sells it. May I just add that the local Sobeys and Dominion are proudly sourcing a section of their produce from those same farmers and charging the client sometimes twice the price of what you pay to the farmer. I digress, I will instead show you how farmer’s produce is better than the regular store bought stuff .

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There it is, the Butler’s farm located just west of Legion Road on Route 60 – go visit next time you run out of your vegetables and you won’t be disappointed. If you drive down Route 60, you will find many more stands selling their goods.

So let me show you what I bought last weekend from our local farmers and compare it to the regular stuff you would usually get at Dominion and how the prices compare:

Vegetable Farm price Dominion price
Zucchini $2.50 $8.04
Onions $2.00 $2.00
Parsnips $2.00 $3.49
Beets $2.50 $3.99
Carrots $2.50 $2.99

Total Farmer’s price : $11.50
Total Dominion’s price : $20.51

Shopping for these at Dominion you will pay 78% more than at the Farmer’s stand! Some items are comparable, but the total speaks for itself. Even if you take away the most expensive item, which is zucchini, you are still going to pay 38.5% more at Dominion. So, the choice is yours – go in and out of Dominion in 30 minutes flat and pay through the roof, or make a date out of it with your spouse and go visit your local farmers along Route 60. To me the choice is simple: not only am I getting quality, non-certified organic produce from the farmer at a great price, I am also supporting local economy and to top that off I’m spending quality time with a loved one. What could be better than that?

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How beautiful are these? Way more beautiful and more nutritious than the GMO stuff your Dominion is selling you!
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The truth is out there, but you won’t find it on social media – part 1

Disclaimer: this is a cautionary tale about the fact that not all that glitters is gold.

I remember the time when one needed credentials to make their knowledge available to the public. Back in the day it also required a fair bit of effort on the researcher’s side to acquire this information. Today, all this is very much simplified, in that anybody can get published, look at me – typing away – and finding information is also at the tip of your fingertips. This is great, right? Not so much, because anybody can spew their knowledge and opinions right, left and centre and we all do it. This makes the researcher feel overwhelmed with contradicting information and you will find it so much more confusing to sieve through all of it and decipher what actually has any credence. Low-fat better than low-carb? How about Paleo and Atkins? WeightWatchers anybody? Or IIFYM? As a matter of fact, the truth is in the pudding and you have to be able to see through the bull. Moreover, you need to be extra critical on social media when you read claims of this or that. I’ve learned this a long time ago, but there are still people believing everything they see – jumping from wagon to wagon. Most times when I see misinformation, I just walk away without saying a word, but let me tell you a story about most recent example of misrepresentation and fraud that I couldn’t watch in silence.

A friend of mine is a sales rep for a multi-level marketing company that sells dietary supplements – food replacement shakes (I will not name this company because I don’t feel like dealing with the implications of such an act, but look around, those companies are sprouting everywhere and chances are you have been offered their products). She innocently shared a post on FB made by another rep of that company that made claims that were untrue. The post revealed a before-and-after picture of a young woman. A typical, very common collage of a person’s picture from couple of years ago when they were not doing so well in terms of their appearance and a current picture showing her very fit and healthy – I’ve just recently made my own. Now, this is not an uncommon thing to see when promoting a product or services. IG is plastered with such pictures and so is FB. This one was a bit different because the before picture was her anorectic self – very thin, with bones protruding, hollow cheeks – and the after picture had her looking a lot healthier with some muscle mass built up.

When I saw the post I had to stop and look a bit closer. Normally, I would not have paid any attention to such claims, because:

  1. 9 times out of 10 I am not interested in the product. 
  2. As far as I am concerned anybody who is trying to sell you something to make you feel or look better is only after your money. And…. 
  3. I know how to use PhotoShop to enhance pictures.

This one, though, was different. It was different in that I was convinced I knew the person in the picture. So I headed to my IG account to find the person I thought this was and lo and behold I found her. I even found the exact same picture collage posted to her IG feed. I knew exactly what this person was all about and let me tell you, she was not about the supplements in question, but yet her transformation was being used as proof that using those supplements made you regain your health and fit physique….

 

Here is a screenshot that I took of the post before it was deleted. May I just add that's not the girl's real name, that would have been too easy to identify as fraud.
Here is a screenshot that I took of the post before it was deleted. May I just add that’s not the girl’s real name, that would have been too easy to identify as fraud. 

 

Here is how far it got with the comments, I am sure had the post stayed this thread would have gotten much longer.
Here is how far it got with the comments, I am sure had the post stayed this thread would have gotten much longer.

Of course, I made a racket about it. The post disappeared along with about a dozen comments (you can see in a screenshot above that I took prior to the deletion) that were made under the picture oohing and aahing about how great the supplements are because they helped this poor girl look healthy and happy. And everything came back to “normal” as if nothing had happened. Only something did happen. Somebody made false claims and showed them publicly for all to see in order to sell a product of very questionable quality and usefulness – a fake, man-made product to make money. That fact boils my blood because even if we all consider ourselves intelligent human beings, we are all being duped everyday without even knowing. So, next time you see pretty little pictures trying to convince you to jump on the wagon to bliss and happiness, think twice before you open your wallet. Instead, just go to a farmer’s market and buy some lettuce – there is no magic product (shake, pill, powder etc) that can do what real food can and will do and of course a ton of hard work. 

PS. BTW the girl uses some type of supplementation, like most lifters – minimally processed protein powders with natural ingredients and sweeteners, however her main focus is proper nutrition and heavy lifting. She advocates not being afraid of food and making it nourishing rather than being afraid of it.  

 

 

 

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What’s wrong with protein?

In my daily facebook browsing I have come across an article about the harmful effects of too much protein that showed in my feed from one of the fellow fitness-nutrition enthusiasts. Since I have been contemplating the amount of protein, as in grams of protein, we should be consuming, for as long as I have been weight training, I found the title of the article quite fetching. So, in hopes of getting some valuable information I jumped right in to read it. 

It turns out that the article is mostly about how the supplement industry is being supported by the bodybuilding community in that the “athletes” promote the powders (mostly whey and casein according to the author) by signing up with the supplement companies to be sponsored. So, you see a bodybuilder touting a certain brand of protein powder and in return the company pays them. The consumer sees that and believes big muscles cannot be obtained but by consuming large amounts of expensive protein powders and pays in turn big bucks for said powders. And that’s why protein powders and by extension consumption of protein are bad. Simplistic? I should think so.

There is no doubt that there is a lot of consumer manipulation going on in this little scenario and one should always employ sound judgement and view the heavily photoshopped shiny marketing photos with a grain of salt. However, to make a claim that you don’t need a whole lot of protein in your diet to build muscle would be preposterous. So, the author does go on to point out that too much protein in the form of cow’s milk, of which both whey and casein are derivatives, is a proven cause of cancer. He quotes The China Study  to support this claim – as I have yet to read it, I will not argue this point. But I will argue how slyly the author interjects the statement that too much protein literally kills bodybuilders. He says:

Two of my favorite professional bodybuilders, Nasser El Sonbaty and Mike Matarazzo, recently died in their forties, likely from diet-related health issues. In all probability, their deaths were a result of too much protein consumption, coupled with the use of performance enhancing substances day after day until their organs failed.

Yes, anabolic steroids are a dangerous substance and they have claimed the lives of many – protein or protein powders are not the same thing as steroids. If it were true that too much protein caused death, then we would all be dead, because the western diet is already high in protein without the supplementation. Too much of any macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) will just make you gain weight, which in turn can lead to diet related illness that may cause death, but it’s not as simple as what the author would have you believe. You can’t say that, if a heroin addict, who overeats on a daily basis, overdoses that they died of too much food! Clearly the culprit will be the drug they overdosed on… 

The author clearly has a problem with the supplement industry and I can’t blame him for that. What’s more, I agree with his claim that providing protein in the form of supplements and making it seem like you need them, is a great way of ripping people off – take their money and run. So he attacks the supplement companies but to make his argument stronger and more believable he decides to prove that, in general, too much protein is bad. So, you shouldn’t go looking for other sources of protein because you only need about 5-10% of your daily caloric intake in the form of protein. Let me show you how little that is:

Let’s assume that a healthy adult eats on average 2000 calories – which is a bit of a stretch, most sedentary people don’t need this much food, but for argument’s sake, let’s assume that one needs this much. Most food base their daily values on 2000 calorie diets anyway. So here is how little protein 5-10% of your daily caloric intake is:  

5-10% of 2000 cal = 100-200cal

Since 1g of protein is 4cal –> 100:4= 25g of protein   and 200:4=50g of protein

So consuming 2000cal a day you should be getting 25-50g of protein according to this fella. If this was what you were doing it’s a sure thing that you would not need to reach for supplements because you would get that from 3.5oz of cooked chicken breast which is a very measly amount of meat and contains 22.6g of protein! So, you would be getting half your daily allotment of protein in one meal, let’s say at dinner time. You might have another 3.5oz cooked chicken at lunch to bring it to the maximum of 50g, but forget about bacon and eggs for breakfast or any milk in your cereal, you have no more room! No other meal could contain any significant amount of protein from other meats, eggs, dairy and I’m  not even going to mention trace protein from veggies, beans, nuts etc.. All your other meals would have to be composed in big part of carbohydrates and fats!

Let me give you another, more realistic example of 1500cal for an average woman:

5-10% of 1500cal = 75-150cal from protein

75:4 = 18.75g of protein a day
150:4 = 37.5g of protein  a day

This caloric intake would have you consuming between 18.75 and 37.5 grams of protein a day which equals to, yes you guessed it, 3.5oz of chicken at the most! You might have one egg for breakfast which is about 6g of protein, but watch out for those foods with trace protein because they all add up! Did you know that a serving of 40g of oats contains about 7g of protein? And 100g of cooked rice is 3g of protein and 150g of broccoli is 4.5g of protein, natural peanut butter adds up too…  Forget about it, you’re at your max. So how on earth would you be able to eat such a small amount of protein?  

3.5oz of chicken breast
This is what 3.5oz of baked chicken breast looks like: it contains 22.6g of protein. It is on a regular size dinner plate and when I asked if this looks like a decent amount of meat I was told, that yes, it looks like about enough. I believe most people would serve themselves more than that, but for argument’s sake let’s say that this is what anybody would be content with. Now imagine that that’s the only piece of meat you will have in an entire day. Would that seem like enough protein if it was all you were allowed all day? I personally would find it extremely difficult to make do with this amount and make sure my other meals didn’t contain trace protein.

This recommendation is ridiculously impossible to attain – and for the sole purpose of proving that supplement companies are scamming us out of our money? No, Robert Cheeke, the author of this article is a proponent of plant-based diet so he doesn’t get his 22.6g of protein from chicken breast and he thinks you should not either, so that’s why you don’t need supplements and by extension protein: 

As a semi-retired bodybuilder and current health and wellness advocate and multi-sport athlete, I endorse a whole-food, plant-based diet for optimal results, even when bodybuilding. I aim to put the desire for elevated levels of protein to rest by showing how a relatively low protein, whole-food, plant-based diet can support all athletic endeavors effectively and efficiently. I have achieved great results as a plant-based athlete for the past two decades, and have sought to lead by example.

But it turns out that he used to eat high protein diet and only recently made this switch. So, my conclusion is: don’t believe everything you read out there and make your own decisions based on how your body responds to what you feed it. There is no right or wrong way to reach your goals. Your body is your own and only you can tell what will work for it and what won’t. Don’t copy mindlessly somebody else’s formula, make your own. I know I learned this the hard way. 

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This is why it’s so difficult to figure out the healthy eating game these days

These days you don’t need to go to the library to seek information, you simply open up your computer’s browser and head to Google. You’ll get thousands if not millions of results on any given subject. Health and healthy eating being probably at the top in terms of how much we Google them. In a way it’s great, because the information is quick to find and very abundant. But on the other hand, there is a lot of misinformation floating in the virtual world, because everybody and I mean EVERYBODY can express themselves on the Internet. So you have to be extra cautious and use own common sense to discern what’s good and what’s bad. Some people prefer to seek the information on government regulated websites of various government agencies, like the FDA. In my humble opinion (and I can’t stress it enough that this is just my opinion and is not based on any research or study) this is not so good either. Let me elaborate.

kind

You might have heard of the big crackdown on a popular energy bar by the name of KIND by the FDA. Or maybe you haven’t. In a nutshell FDA expressed their disapproval for the KIND company using the word healthy to promote their energy bars. You can find those bars in the Organic / Health section of your store, so by default they are recognized by the consumer as a healthier version of a candy bar. Mind you, I would not touch the KIND bar with a 10 foot pole, but that’s not the point here.  The point is that FDA has it all wrong when they define what is healthy and what is not. They regulate what can be promoted as healthy and here are their criteria:

  • Have less than 2g of saturated fat (aka be low fat).
  • Contain no more than 480mg of sodium (aka be low salt).
  • Contain at least 10% of the DRV of Vitamin A and C, Calcium, Iron, Protein or Fibre.

To an average consumer this sounds about right. Fat is bad, so a healthy product should be low in fat. Salt in your diet is bad too, so it’s a no brainer that if a company promotes a product as healthy there should be minimal salt in it. That’s what we’ve been fed (excuse the pun) by organizations such as the FDA! Notice though, that in their criteria for healthy labelling they don’t include the content of sugar and its derivatives. So, by that logic, if a Snickers bar was low in fat and sodium and we pumped in some Vit A and C, Calcium, Iron and sprinkled it with some protein powder, it could potentially have a healthy claim written on it’s wrapper?!  Yet, a KIND bar that contains healthy nuts, hence making its fat content slightly elevated can’t be promoted as healthy. Like I said, I’m the last person to pick up a KIND bar in the Organic Isle of my grocery store – unless of course I’m going for a hike *wink, wink* – but I can clearly recognize the backwardness of the FDA’s definition of healthy. Healthy is what grows in the ground, period. You don’t need to measure its health claims, because you know that a carrot, a tomato, a green bean, an apple, a potato etc. are all good for you.   

Are you still puzzled with the whole FDA’s “healthy” criteria issue? Let me go on then. Fat is not the problem and neither is salt. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, I highly recommend reading :

  • Fat Chance by Robert H. Lustig,  
  • Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes,  
  • The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz,
  • Death by Food Pyramid by Denise Minger.

Or watch That Sugar Film that I have blogged about before. 

And the list can go on of authors and scientists showing us that it’s not the fat or salt that are the villains here, but the sugar! 

 

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Is it a deal or is it a potentially dangerous scam?

I like a good deal as much as the next guy! Heck, I like it even more! That’s why I linger so much around Winners these days – everybody knows you got to be on the look out for those deals. Yes, I’m digressing and there is more about Winners that I could tell you to make you laugh, but back to the main point. I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I walk into a grocery store I’m looking for those discount stickers and labels. You know, the “50% off – cook it tonight” kind of stickers or the “buy one, get one free” labels. Like anybody who has to pay their own way in life, I want to stretch my buck and make it go as far as I can. Am I frugal? No, not if you ask my other half. Yes, if you ask me. But that doesn’t mean that if I really want something I’m not going to pay the price. However that something has to be very special and this rule would generally not apply to buying food. When buying food we will drive 20-30 minutes to get the deal. Yes, we’re probably burning the difference in gas, but the satisfaction I get when I see somebody at one grocery store paying 100% more than what I just paid for the same product at another store is… well, it makes me want to shake the person paying more and let them know they should go to such and such and save money! But are they always such good deals?

It turns out that you have to be extremely careful and sometimes you only find out at home that your deal is not such a good deal after all and can be dangerous to your health. Let me explain.

We do our groceries on a weekly basis, on Saturdays, first thing in the morning we start our rounds by visiting the stores closest to us to eventually make our way into town. But last week my other half was out and around on a Friday by himself and spotted “a deal” on salmon. He texted me a picture and I gave him a go to buy it (I deemed it a good enough deal and a good enough piece of salmon). I did notice (which you probably can’t tell in this picture) that there were multiple labels on the product. In the wake of the most recent food related article on cbc about bakeries tempering with best before dates I felt that I would need to investigate this multiple sticker thing once the salmon got home. However, the piece of salmon looked decent so I figured I am getting a deal. And you must admit, 12$ for this size of Atlantic Salmon is a deal any way you slice it! Or is it?

salmon good dealI never did inspect the stickers right away. I put the piece of salmon in the fridge and only looked at it Monday when I was ready to divide it into portions and cook the first meal out of it. So, I took the stickers off one by one to reveal the mystery. There were 3 of them and here is what I found:

Salmon

So, here is a timeframe in a more reader friendly format: 
Packed on Nov. 3 with a Best Before date of Nov. 7 for $16.67
Repackaged on Nov. 5 with a Best Before date of  Nov. 9 for $26.12
Repackaged again on Nov. 5 with a Best Before date of Nov. 9 for $11.85

You could give the store the benefit of the doubt and say, well the second sticker was an honest mistake and they corrected it right away. True. But you could be suspicious because you don’t know how long it was sitting there with that sticker waiting for a sucker to pay that much. It is also not reassuring knowing that a piece of fish, a perishable food item, got a best before date of Nov. 7 and then got that date extended to Nov. 9 two days later. So, you mean to tell me that two days later this piece of fish got fresher and now it’s good to eat until Nov. 9? Say what?! 

When I did unpack it on Nov. 9 (Remember that’s the best before date, so I should be fine, right? Wrong!) I did notice quite a discolouration on the end piece of the fish that I had to completely discard: salmon yuck

So, the moral of the story? Not all that glitters is gold or in this case not all that appears to be a deal is one. You have to be very vigilant and look out for yourself, because apparently the grocery store will not. Which is sad if you ask me, because it only proves to show that they are not any better than the makers of the pseudo food that the grocery stores are packed with. They are in it to make money. On Nov. 7 instead of cutting their losses for an unsold product, they decided to extend its life by 2 days hoping they may sell it for more than the original sticker, and when they didn’t, at least for less. I was the sucker who ended up with the fish. But could have I prevented being taken? Not really. Unless I got the buyer to peel off the stickers in the store, which I don’t think would go over very well. Buyers beware! 

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