One of my favorite weeks of the year has come to an end. It kind of makes me a little sad…but there is always next year. The week around the 4th of July is nearly perfect for me. The Tour de France is well underway (I still love it no matter how much Lance Armstrong f’ed things up, or how much doping has gone on) and Wimbledon is one channel away. In addition to that, Chicago is pretty low key over this week. A lot of people are on vacation, so traffic is easy and getting from point A to point B is with much less congestion. Because so many people are on vacation, both my husband’s and my work schedule ease up a little bit. We were able to grab a couple spontaneous lunches around our neighborhood. One of the places we went to last week is a great restaurant/cafe called Uncommon Ground. If you’re from Chicago, you’ve probably heard of it. If you’re not, but find yourself in the Lakeview neighborhood at some point (maybe to catch a Cubs game?), you should try it.

Uncommon Ground makes a practice out of sourcing their food locally. A lot of the items on the menu are organic, and sustainability is obviously a priority. It’s not cheap, but you pay for what you get. I ordered the Uncommon Huevos, Uncommon Ground’s version of huevos rancheros. The eggs didn’t come with a corn tortilla (which is just fine with me…see below) and I didn’t want cheese, but it did come on a really delicious black bean cake, and was served with a side salad.  Uncommon Ground is an anomaly to a lot of restaurants out there. The prices are a little more than your average restaurant, but I know that my food is very fresh and mostly organic. For me, that’s worth a couple extra bucks. Fresher means more nutrients, like enzymes and vitamins, and organic, especially when it comes to fruits, veggies, dairy and meat products, is huge.

There are a lot of everyday natural foods most of us eat without giving much thought that are actually not that healthy. In fact, there are quite a few foods that are either unhealthy or have very little nutrient value whatsoever. Twenty years ago, a couple of the foods below may not have made the list because genetic engineering of foods wasn’t nearly as pervasive as it is today. Looking beyond genetically modified foods, we’ve also increased the use of antibiotics in poultry and meat exponentially in the last decade, which ironically has increased disease in these animals.

Before I write anything like this – something that tries to persuade you, the reader, the think twice before eating something I believe is unhealthy – I try to put myself if your shoes. There is just a crazy amount of good and bad information about food out there that it’s probably mind-crushing to discern what’s right from what’s wrong.

If food is left as it’s meant to eat, that is perfectly natural, I don’t think there would ever be a debate about what’s healthy to eat and what’s not. Problems with our diets could then be pinned entirely on us, the consumer, for eating too much. But that’s not the case, and the consumer isn’t entirely to blame for health problems that are the result of eating certain foods…even natural foods.

Below are a few foods that are over-consumed, linked to health complications and should definitely be on your “watch” list:

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1. Corn
There is a strong chance that the corn you’re eating is genetically modified. According to the Department of Agriculture, 88% of crops are genetically engineered. GMO corn contains a chemical called glyphosate. Glyphosate is a harmful chemical that the Environmental Protection Agency maintains strict thresholds that our water supply not contain more than more than .7 ppm. There are 13 ppm in GMO corn (and none in non-GMO corn). Glyphosate has been linked to birth defects and destruction of bacteria in our guts. GMO corn also contains formaldehyde to the tune of 200ppm (non-GMO corn contains 0). It can’t be washed off and it stays in our system for a long, long time after ingestion. This is not a global issue, as we’re the world’s largest producer of GMO corn. And since very few other countries are willing to take accept exports of our GMO crops, there is plenty for us to eat.

tofu and soy beans

 

 

 

 

 

2. Soy
I’ve trumpeted about this food before. Even if 94% of the crops in the USA weren’t genetically modified (which, as of 2012 are), I would still emphatically push that people steer clear of unfermented soy products, like tofu, edamame and soy milk. GMO food is paired with antibiotic resistant marker genes that let scientists know if their GMO food is behaving correctly (is the soy bean big enough? green enough? etc). These little marker genes don’t just vanish into thin air. They’re potentially be passed onto other plants, animals and people. Bottom line: why aren’t antibiotics working as well as they should? Go ask the soybean. Soy, if consumed via soy milk or tofu, contains high concentrations of isoflavones, which have a profound estrogenic effect on the body. To put this in perspective, the amount of isoflavones in soy milk given to an infant contains the equivalent (hormone) estrogenic amount of 4 to 5 birth control pills.  No adult, much less a baby, needs that much.

Chicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Antibiotic Treated Meats & Poultry
A vast majority of conventionally-raised factory farmed animals, including cows, pigs and chicken, are given low doses of antibiotics on a regular basis. Today 80% of antibiotics used in the United States are used on farms. According to Barry Estabrook, this is a number that has grown from 18 million pounds in 1999 to 30 million pounds in 2011. This may sound benign, but it’s actually really alarming. These animals are becoming resistant to disease. In fact, MRSA is commonly found in pork, beef and poultry shipped to grocery stores around the country. What’s more, the antibiotics farm animal ingest ultimately get ingested by us. That’s downright dangerous. If you enjoy eating pork, beef or poultry – great! You’ll just be a lot healthier if you buy it organic and preferably local.

 

Breakfast toast

 

 

 

 

 

4. Wheat
Wheat is a hugely inflammatory food on its own. Pay attention if you have any sort of inflammation, including arthritis, stomach problems, irritated skin, or even a cold. It’s all inflammation. When you have inflammation, it’s very difficult to lose weight. Cutting back on foods that cause inflammation is a first step. Wheat is also highly addictive. Once you start eating, you can’t stop. Not all carbs are created equal – and wheat is a lot less valuable and nutritious than most carbs. Give it a shot for a least a week. Cut out all patries, breads, pastas, wraps, crackers and see how you feel. You might be surprised.

 

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