Food and Liberty

There is no generalized right to bodily and physical health. -FDA
People do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish. -FDA

Photo courtesy of the University of Florida

So last night, Ron Paul gave a speech and answered a few questions here at UF, and I went. A libertarian, he spoke a lot about the importance of liberty, and in the context of today’s world, how the disappearance of our liberties are causing many problems.

He talked a bit on the subject of how we can’t control what we put into our bodies, and said with irony that soon enough the government will restrict the growing of hemp and the sale of raw milk (the irony being that they already do). Given that he also spoke about a person’s decision to do drugs, he probably does not think that raw milk has its virtues.

That aside, he brought up a good point, whether or not he knew it: our food liberties are under attack. Not just raw milk. Farmers at farmers markets will tell you the difficulty they have with government regulations: they’re one-size-fits-all. Milk and eggs can’t be sold in Florida as human food unless the farmer pays thousands of dollars for licenses and other fees…needless to say most of them can’t afford this. And one of the reasons meat is so expensive at these markets is the fees the farmer must pay to have it inspected.

Ok, so what? So it’s a little difficult to sell some things as a small farmer. Well the truth is, government policy for the past few decades has been directed at eliminating small farms altogether, in favor of huge, factory farms. New laws, with clever, innocent-sounding names, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act, continuously add new regulations and requirements by which farmers must abide. For large farms, with tons of employees to do the paperwork, these regulations don’t matter much. For small, family farms, these regulations make it much more difficult to keep things going. The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law by Obama in 2011, is one example of these new laws. With the pretext of preventing foodborne illnesses, most people saw this act positively. Though what this act really does is give the FDA unconstitutional control over small farms and adds thousands of new regulations for them. Read more about silly regulations here.

Some small farmers face even worse problems. A documentary entitled Farmageddon brings light to a dark situation: some small farmers, guilty of nothing but providing food to interested buyers, have been shut down by authorities, sometimes with SWAT teams on the scene to intimidate and bully these farmers. Here’s a note from the director:

When my son Charlie was four years old, he had horrible allergies and asthma. Doctors said he was allergic to “the world”. Charlie was allergic to animals, flowers trees, grass and dust. He was always sniffing and had excess fluid in his ears, causing a hearing loss. Our life was full of many drugs, epipens, asthma inhalers, beds wrapped in plastic, and Hepa filters. We could not have pets, carpets or even curtains.Drugs were not helping, and had many side effects. I did some research and learned that some people found their allergies subsided when they consumed raw milk directly from grass fed cows. This is because unpasteurized milk contains healthy bacteria and enzymes that are missing in so many of the foods consumed today. I cautiously gave my son the raw milk, and his allergies and asthma eventually diminished until he was fully cured. Charlie is now fifteen. He is six feet tall, an amazing athlete, and doesn’t even sniffle.The effects of raw milk on my son, inspired me to make an effort to introduce healthier foods into our diets, We decided that we didn’t want to eat factory farmed foods tainted by antibiotics, steroids, and genetically modified grains. We tried to get as much food as possible from smaller, grass fed and organic farms. I joined a food co-op, an agreement to share the resources needed to get milk, meats, vegetables and eggs from local farms and have them delivered close to us. This arrangement has worked well for our family.

One day I heard about a raid that occurred at a food co-op in Ohio. Armed agents, by order of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, entered a private home and held eight children and their parents at gunpoint for six hours, while they ransacked their house, took their personal food, food from their co-op, and their cell phones. I then learned that there were more farms and co-ops that had been raided for simply providing the foods that the members wanted to eat. This hit me hard.

Henry Kissinger once said that if you control the food, you control the people, and this is very true. I don’t know about you, but I can’t do much without food in my stomach. With much of the food supply in the US controlled by the FDA, the USDA, or the Monsanto Corporation (many of the same people work for all of these organizations), we are very much at their mercy. And the government is cracking down hard on small farmers, diminishing what little control the people still have left. Ron Paul, in his speech, discussed many of the liberties Americans should be fighting to retain or get back, but none of those liberties, none of our freedoms, are important if we do not have the liberty to eat how we want. If we don’t have control of our food supply, we are slaves to those who do (but I’m sure your outdoor cat comes back because, despite his dependence on the cat chow you provide, he loves you).

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Top 7 Nutrition Myths: Number 4

Myth: Eating carbohydrates, especially complex carbs, is vital for health

Myth 7: A Plant-Based Diet is Healthiest
Myth 6: Counting Calories
Myth 5: Government and Nutrition Organizations Provide Healthy Advice
Myth 4: Eating carbohydrates, especially complex carbs, is vital for health
Myth 3: Grains are Good for You
Myth 2: Exercise is Integral to Health
Myth 1: Saturated Fat Causes Heart Disease

Carbohydrates are not essential nutrients for humans. An essential nutrient is one the body requires for normal, healthy functioning, but cannot synthesize itself (the body can synthesize every carbohydrate it needs). This is to say that humans can live healthy, normal lives without ever touching a carbohydrate.

This however should not be construed to say that carbohydrates should not or cannot be eaten. But while they can be a healthy part of a diet, carbs (especially the processed kind) are the primary cause for weight gain in the modern world (and they also have been linked to inflammation of the arteries, a precursor of heart disease). When carbs enter the body, they elevate the blood sugar. To lower the blood sugar, your body secrets insulin, causing the sugar to be removed from the blood and stored as fat. Processed carbs tend to spike blood sugar more, causing an exaggerated insulin response, and thus more fat storage. Complex carbs are in some cases no better–with many reports showing that a slice of whole wheat bread spikes blood sugar faster than a tablespoon of table sugar! There are many reasons why processed-complex carbs would be high on the GI (glycemic index, or how quickly a food breaks down into sugar), and this article by the Wellness Mama discusses some of them.

So how do carbohydrates cause excess weight gain? Let’s compare nature with modern life. In nature, carbohydrates for humans come typically in two forms: vegetables and fruits. Compared to a can of soda, or a bowl of Cheerios, carbohydrates in nature are extremely small in quantity, even more so when you consider that the presence of fruits and veggies themselves in nature is low and limited by season. Today, we go to the store and buy all the carbs we want, whenever we want. Carbohydrates from nature, i.e., unprocessed carbs, are also lower on the GI, and typically come attached with all sorts of neat vitamins and minerals.

Now, if we ate food that came directly from nature (a farm, perhaps), obesity would not likely be a major problem, and here’s the reason: foods at the store typically have an exaggerated amount of sugar in them (think sodas, cookies, factory-made bread; almost anything that comes packaged has some form of added sugar). Our diet today consists of many foods that have sugar levels MUCH higher than anything to be found in nature. And, if you read that article by the Wellness Mama, you’ll know that our foods today also have higher GI’s than in the past due to the way they are grown or processed, and this is especially the case with grain-based foods such as bread or pasta. The book Wheat Belly goes very far into this topic.

What does all of this mean? We are consuming sugar in extremely high amounts, amounts our bodies are not designed to handle. Let’s compare a cup of tomatoes to a cup of Cheerios. According to my quick search on Google, a cup of tomatoes has anywhere between 5-10g of carbs, and lies at 38 on the GI. In contrast, a cup of Cheerios has 22g of carbs (highly processed carbs at that), and lies at 74 on the GI. This is typical of processed foods. Pasta, while having a GI lower than Cheerios, has a lot more carbs to begin with–on average 40g per cup. Watermelon, though very sweet and with a higher GI than pasta, has but a small amount carbs in total, meaning the effect on blood sugar will not be that great.

When carbs enter the body, they are quickly broken down into sugar (except for fiber). This sugar then gets used to restore reserves in the muscles and the liver. When these reserves are full (which happens very quickly), the rest is converted to fat by insulin and stored. Some people, however, are insulin resistant (and some moreso than others), causing them to store more fat and burn less of it for energy. This phenomenon explains some people are always skinny, and why some people struggle with weight.

So, when the average American diet is based off of processed, high-carbohydrate, high-glycemic foods, it’s no wonder that the average American is also overweight. Our great-grand parents ate more meat (which is very low in carbs), and ate only fruits and vegetables that were in season, and prepared grains in such a way as to render them much lower on the GI. And the amount of people that were overweight in their day was remarkably low.

Please leave your thoughts below!