Just Because You Can Eat It Does Not Make It Food

by Kelley Johnsen on October 17, 2012

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Thank you to Kelley Johnsen for her contribution to Happy Mothering this month! I always love reading what she has to share about nutrition!

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I know some of you may look at the title and wonder, what can that mean? Isn’t that the definition of food – something you eat? Actually no… not in today’s day and time. Food is life giving, sustaining and nourishing. Much of what you find in the grocery store now days is processed and designed for quick and easy meals.

Most of it has been stripped of its nourishing qualities making it a non-food. Can you eat it? Yes, but does it nourish you? I am going to try and explain the difference between food and non-food. While you can eat and be satisfied by both, do you know if both promote health?

There are many items on the shelves at stores that taste good, but are they good for you? No, we call those items non-foods, meaning they have little nutritional value. Even when you look on a label you can be mislead as to the actual nutrients contained in the package.

Take enriched products like bread. While bread is being processed, it is stripped of its nutrients, and a synthetic form is added back in. Some may say this is sufficient as long as it has this vitamin or mineral, but the body does not recognize it as a natural form of that nutrient. If the body does not recognize it, then it does not absorb it and use it as needed.

So, we eat the bread it satisfies our hunger and it tastes great, but what happens when our body lacks vitamins and other nutrients?

Lets look at our body like a house. When you build a new house and the contractors skip a few steps, or omit a few foundational items, what happens? The house becomes unstable. It may not happen that day or even that year, but in time it will fall apart.

You can’t skip steps with your body either. The body was designed to run on automatic and it needs raw materials like proteins, vitamins and minerals. These are the building blocks, structure, insulation and master controls of the body. Our bodies are constantly building and repairing 24/7 on autopilot. If we do not provide the workers in our body with the supplies it needs, it can’t do the job.

Look at the picture I took in Scotland of a church that is in ruins. It has actually lasted a long time, but the workers that make repairs left it to fall apart. The structure was strong, but when the supplies are not available, things go unrepaired and fall to ruin.

In our body’s case, this leads to disease and illness. Keep you body strong and provide it with the nutrients and supplies needed for everyday life. When food is in its original nutritional form, it has a life giving force. For example, a plant or animal in its original unprocessed form contains the nutrients to feed the body and keep it running.

I usually tell friends that you want to shop on the outside of the store in the produce, dairy, meat and seafood sections. You can think of it as the foods that can spoil quickly. If it can spoil, then it can die, meaning at the present it is alive.

Most of the middle isles that contain rows and rows of boxes, cans and jars are items you want to have in moderation to very seldom. Just think, when foods can sit on shelves for months or even years, are those foods alive? The exception is your dried items like legumes, grains, spices, seeds and nuts. Foods have to be hydrated, cooked and they can still hold their nutritional value. Try to look at your foods a little more as if they can spoil then it’s a food. If it has been altered from its original form, then it is most likely a non-food.

Even healthful foods like fruits and vegetables can be found in cans. In the case of canned foods, they lack nutritional value because they have no digestive enzymes left from processing, and will not completely be digested. If the enzymes that help your body break down and absorb are missing, then that food is a non-food. This will then cause digestive issues that can lead to illness.

It should also be noted that cans carry heavy metals that are damaging to health, as well. While metal cans started with good intentions for transportation and keeping food from spoiling, we are unfortunately seeing more studies showing that it is damaging to our health. In addition, most cans are lined with BPA, which has been linked to breast cancer.

I do have a few cans in my pantry that I keep in the case of disasters. If we lost water, electricity or worse, I have a few items to hold us over until things are back in order. They are there for emergency use only, not as a daily food choice.

You are not always going to find foods you need in the outside aisles. Next time you are at the store and you start your shopping, try to stay to the outside aisles and see how much of your shopping includes the non-food items.

Where did this all start? This is another case of society becoming a “make it fast and make it convenient” lifestyle. Some meals take more time to make from scratch, but your health is worth it. In our house, we have become so used to making our meals that we can really tell a difference in the taste and how our bodies feel later.

Think of your body as a house. Do you want it thrown together with poor materials, or do you want to have it strong to weather anything that comes at it? Give your body all it needs to stay strong. It starts with your raw materials, foods that are alive and give life.

Just because you can eat it does not make it food.

About Kelley Johnsen

As a wife, mom of four, and Certified Nutrition Counselor, I care about my impact on the food choices we make. Everything we eat has a profound effect on our bodies, the environment and our future. We eat not just to satisfy hunger, but to nourish and enrich our lives. Eating and buying clean resources keeps your body and the Earth healthy and thriving.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Hannah C October 18, 2012 at 8:38 am

I love all of this and I love it so much, I completely agree with you! The part where you talked about bread.. well what about organic whole wheat bread? Thanks, I’m going to share this with some people!

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2 Maria October 19, 2012 at 8:17 am

Great points! To go even further with this is the fact that even the foods that are grown and sold in stores now do not contain the same life sustaining nutrients that the vegetables or greandparents grew did. This is because the seeds that are used have been genetically altered and the soil does not even contain the nutrients that the plant needs to thrive. The best ways to avoid this is by getting your own heirloom seeds and growing them in a garden free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

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