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local v. organic: the complex landscape of sustainable food production

3 Mar
organic kale sprouts

Organic greens sprout at Los Poblanos Organics in Mesilla, NM.

When examining food production, there are three identifiable areas of concern: health impacts, environmental impacts, and ethics. These are all, of course, interrelated. However, when faced with the daunting task of honestly examining food production, it’s easier to take one topic at a time. I talk a lot about the health impacts of our dietary choices in some of my other posts, and I discussed ethics in a recent post as well. So now let’s look at the environmental impacts of food production, specifically as they relate to sustainability.

Humans experience life through contrast. We tend to simplify the grey areas of complex topics into black and white whenever we can; our minds automatically distill muddied waters into crystal-clear solutions, even when none exist. When confronting the issue of sustainable food production, many a well-intentioned activist has been caught up in the following false dichotomization:

Which is better – buying local produce, or buying certified organic produce?

If there is one thing I have learned thus far in my wellness odyssey, it’s that food is NOT simple. There are no simple answers. Humankind has entrenched itself deeply in an unsustainable system of feeding its ever-growing population. How do we feed billions of people without destroying our health and our environment? Is it even possible? Continue reading

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a pill for everything?

20 Dec

pill supplementationI am proud to report that I have been effectively dairy-free for 5 months. Not just lactose-free, but dairy-free. That means no lactose-free milk, no bread with whey in it… NO dairy at all. (I have indulged two or three times in a cheesy snack, and I paid for it immediately.)

The reactions I get from others about this topic are frustrating. Most people ask, “Are you lactose intolerant?” And I reply that I suspect I am, since ceasing dairy consumption has alleviated my digestive problems. They invariably reply with, “Oh jeez, I’m sorry. You know, they make pills now that you can take before you eat dairy so you don’t have such a bad reaction.” Continue reading

clean food, slow food

18 Aug

eating well includes fresh produceI’m always a little sad when I talk to people who adhere to one of the myriad “fad diets” that come and go, promising fast weight loss with minimal effort (South Beach, Atkins, etc.). These diets make big promises about weight, but can they really deliver a healthy lifestyle? For example, I could eat nothing but lettuce for two weeks and lose a lot of weight, but I wouldn’t have attained a state of healthful living. So much emphasis is placed on weight, that it seems we have lost sight of the real goal: whole-body health. Really, it seems a bit absurd that weight management has become so difficult at all; that we have allowed ourselves to lose touch with the fundamentals of healthy living. Truth be told, maintaining a healthy weight – and a healthy lifestyle – is not rocket science. It just takes a little thought, a lot of dedication, and a good amount of self control.

In today’s world, everything comes at us fast. Instant communication, tighter deadlines, larger workloads, and all of our basic necessities on demand. We don’t have to create our food anymore; it comes to us in neatly-packaged portions, conveniently created for us to “eat on the run”. It’s time to slow down when it comes to our food. Continue reading

the case against dairy: part 2

23 Jul
dairy negative impact on the environment

A typical American Dairy farm. Image courtesy of the USDA.

Day 4 of dairy-free living. I am happy to report that I have not had ANY dairy during those 4 days; not even tortilla chips with whey as a seasoning ingredient. I have already begun to notice the impacts on my body. Without subjecting you to the gory details, I will say that I have been suffering for months from severe digestive problems. It got to the point where the doctors suspected I had Ulcerative Colitis, and performed a colonoscopy. Those symptoms have all but disappeared in just 4 days. It hasn’t been as difficult as I had anticipated, and I’m not craving the grilled-cheese sandwich or the quesadilla (yet). My urge to eat certain other undesirable foods like French fries, however, has seen a sharp increase. Ha. Continue reading

the case against dairy

19 Jul

I love cheese. From cheddar to Gruyère, Gorgonzola to Havarti, and everything in between. My favorite salad dressing is Bleu Cheese. My favorite sandwich is grilled cheese. I love cheesy fries and nachos. I really, really, love cheese.

dairy cows being fed en masse

image provided via public domain from the EPA

Having said that, there has been a nagging suspicion in my subconscious for some time now that perhaps I shouldn’t be eating so much cheese. In fact, maybe I shouldn’t be eating dairy at all. No cream, no butter, no yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, or… cheese. This proposition is a sad one for me, like leaving a lover after many years of fond memories. Most dairy products have suitable alternatives; soy/rice/almond milk instead of cow’s milk, soy cream (actually pretty darn tasty) instead of ice cream, olive oil instead of butter. But I have yet to find a cheese substitute that doesn’t leave me pining for a grilled cheese sandwich. Continue reading

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