Saturday, May 29, 2010

Grocery Stores And Obesity?

The other night, J brought this article to my attention.  Basically what this article says is that people who shop at health stores such as Whole Foods tend to be skinnier and healthier than people who shop at conventional stores.  I read it, and re-read it, and thought about it, and decided that this makes sense.  I don't know about most health grocery stores, but I do know about WF, and I know that they not only carry a higher than normal amount of organic foods, they also have standards for what they carry.  They do not carry foods that have certain ingredients.  They do not feature foods that have artificial flavorings, colorings, sweeteners, preservatives or hydrogenated fats.  So even if a person doesn't really know what to look for on a food label, they would still be protected by default, as none of the foods in the store have a lot of what most processed foods have in conventional stores.  It's not really a secret that I love WF, I went there today for the first time in a few weeks and got a ton of stuff and spent $125, and yes, that food is for mostly me, and will probably last about a week or two.  It's ok though, because I like to support the stores that do what I think is the right thing in terms of foods and diet.
I want to make sure to say right now that I don't think that people who shop at conventional stores are always unhealthy and obese.  I shop at Target half of the time.  The difference is the selection, and people who don't know, who aren't informed, who are on a budget, are going to get the foods that they think are the best bang for their buck.  Would it surprise you to know that pound for pound, most healthy options are cheaper than the unhealthy?  I wrote an entire brochure on this in college for my local grocery store.  Apples, for example, are MUCH cheaper per pound than chips.  Produce in general is cheaper than meat.  Brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread, all these are only marginally more expensive than their white counterparts.  Reading food labels takes just a few minutes of time, and if products that contain HFCS or MSG are avoided, the impact on health is huge.  My headaches have significantly reduced since making sure these two ingredients are eliminated from my diet.
It amazes me to think of things that seem obvious to me that have caused this country to be in this mess we are in today.  For some reason, in the last hundred years, we have replaced good, healthy, organic produce with produce that is covered in chemicals and pesticides.  We have upped meat intake, and it isn't meat that is roaming pastures and eating grass, it's meat that has been stuffed into crowded buildings, eating grain, eating ground up predecessors, getting antibiotic shots, getting growth hormone shots, and all of these chemicals and toxins get stored where?  In the meat.  That humans buy, and consume daily, two or three meals a day, and they want people to think these toxins DON'T transfer?  DON'T cause problems?  What else have we done?  We have basically eliminated breastfeeding, portion sizes have more than doubled, we insist that carbs are the enemy and the more protein, the better.  We add HFCS to almost every single processed food, we add folic acid which now is being shown to cause cancer, we have foods where the entire ingredients list is chemicals.  And then we act surprised when obesity is slowly becoming the norm.  We wonder why cancer rates are going through the roof.  We don't understand the rising rates of diabetes, heart disease, all the things where the first thing questioned should be diet, but for some reason it's the last thing on anyone's mind.
I didn't really mean for this to turn into a rant.  I get worked up when I think about how deep of a mess this country has gotten into with food and disease rates.  I don't think everyone should be spending all their spare time reading up on health and nutrition and making sure they are getting all the right things at all the right times.  I DO think that the people in charge of our food supply should be doing this.  It infuriates me, the concept of making a profit over and above the health of people.  Splenda, diet sodas, HCFS, MSG, genetically modified produce and meat from sick animals... somehow this is what is taking over the majority of our grocery stores.  I am taking my small, tiny stand against it by spending my money elsewhere half the time, and spending more time reading food labels and making sure I am getting the best that is offered at other stores the other half of the time.  I like to think that I have slowly influenced a few people to do the same, even J, who when I first mentioned that I wanted to buy organic, his exact word was "Ew."  A couple of years later, and he mentions that he wants to be sure we are buying all the organic we can afford.  He read a couple of articles that scared him, such as the one linked above, and has heard me talk about this endless times, and it is finally sinking in.  I really want to think that it is slowly but steadily sinking in for the rest of the country as well.


Jennifer said...

I've often thought about this, and how if I had the money, I'd shop exclusively at Whole Foods. That way I wouldn't have to check labels all the time because anything in the store has already met a certain standard.