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Your Health & Wellness, Iss #56 -- Health news for the health conscious
August 13, 2010

(Guide to a Healthy Lifestyle)

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Early 20th Century Food in the 21st Century--Retro is Better

Joseph Elijah BarrettThere is no question that technology has grown by leaps and bounds in just the last 60 years. There were no cell phones, video games, internet, surround sound, cable or satellite TV, laptops or consumer computers of any kind in 1950.

Consumer televisions were in their infancy, and they were only black and white sets with screen sizes under 15 inches. The few computers that did exist were confined to research laboratories and were room-sized monstrosities with hundreds of vacuum tubes.

Although a few homes had television sets back then, most didn't. My father finally saved enough money to buy a set on which I remember watching Howdy Doody.

Not only was electronics technology in its infancy in 1950, but so was food technology. Factory farms, artificial sweeteners, monosodium glutamate, genetically modified organisms, cloning, and synthetic hormones did not exist back then. Neither did you have an obesity crisis, runaway cancer and heart disease, and men, women, and even infants with unnatural levels of toxic chemicals in their bodies.

Poultry and beef came from animals that grazed outdoors 60 years ago, and ate what God designed them to eat. And the meat then was not owned and raised by huge food conglomerates concerned only with their bottom line. And where consumer safety was at risk because their meat was given hormones to accelerate growth and milk production, and antibiotics to combat sickness caused by unsanitary and overcrowded conditions.

However the paths of food technology and electronics technology diverged from their points 60 years ago to where they are now--in the 21st century.

Normally technology and everything else improve as the years progress. Not so with food technology though. Whereas electronics technology improved phenomenally and benefited mankind, food technology regressed to the point of endangering humanity.

Of course food technologists, scientists, and manufacturers do not see food today as having regressed. They believe that unproven technologies such as cloning, genetically modified ingredients, and CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation), also known as factory farming, is progress.

The degeneration of food technology had a cascading effect. It caused obesity and chronic disease. And the chronic disease was not confined to adults either. They reached the most vulnerable segments of our society--the unborn and infants.

All age groups are now facing health issues which were not even dreamed of 60 years ago. And what is America's solution to this medical nightmare which is unique to the late 20th century and extending into the 21st century? Pharmaceutical drugs and weight loss surgery.

Pharmaceutical drugs and weight loss surgery are not evil in and of themselves. But they become a danger because they are (1) often the first medical solution offered and (2) they do not address the root cause of the problem. They become mere band-aids covering the problem which is then allowed to remain.

Medications often themselves have a laundry list of devastating side effects which mushroom into other medical issues. These issues are then 'resolved' by prescribing yet more pharmaceuticals. America's medical paradigm is a win-lose situation. Pharmaceutical and food companies win and the consumer loses.

21st century medicine in America is all about profit. Obscene amounts of money are to be had in 'treating' disease with drugs and weight loss surgery. It is a vicious circle in which the food industry provides a lifetime patient for the health industry. In the meantime sick patients continue eating processed and technology-driven food which perpetuates their illness and guarantees they will never get well.

Radio and early television in the 1950s were free of pharmaceutical drug advertising. The only 'drug' commercial I remember seeing in those early years was Bufferin for headaches. And then there was Speedy for the Alka-Seltzer commercials. But that was it.

But a headache is a legitimate symptom. Today the pharmaceutical industry is guilty of disease mongering, manufacturing diseases for which they provide drugs to treat.

Not everything advertised in those early days was good--I'm not saying that. Cigarette smoking was responsible for millions of cancer cases and eventual death--including that of my baby sister.

Although cigarette smoking is now recognized for the danger it poses and has been pulled from the airwaves, it has been replaced by foods and technologies now viewed as harmless. And this is without long-term studies proving their safety.

Today you will not view one commercial-driven program on network television without seeing an advertisement for drugs for insomnia, restless leg syndrome, cholesterol, depression, and diabetes. Or weight loss programs for America's 67 percent overweight population.

You will not see commercials encouraging viewers, or listeners in the case of radios, to eat vegetables or farm-raised meat. Do you remember the Green Giant commercials for vegetables?

Family eating practices were different 60 years ago too. For the most part, breakfast and dinner were eaten at home. The only exception was lunch. As a small child I can remember seeing high school students drinking sodas and eating sandwiches bought from the corner delicatessen. (We lived within sight of Lincoln High School in Jersey City.)

But other students either brought their lunches to school or did as I did--went home to eat.

I must add however that even the sandwiches from the corner delicatessen then were healthier than the food that is puchased from today's fast food restaurants. There were no concerns about trans fats, meat from sick farm animals, artificial sweeteners, and genetically modified ingredients.

Students and those in the work force who brought their lunches from home did so in brown paper bags. Remember those? There weren't plastic bags back then. And sandwiches were wrapped in waxed paper, not aluminum foil. This is the era which we get the term brown-bagging it from. It means to bring meals from home.

Today you will find a McDonalds, Burger King, White Castle, Quick Check, Wendy's, and dozens of other fast food restaurants and food marts inundating our communities. They virtually did not exist in the 50s.

Although the 50s had its share of fast food eateries, they were few and far between. And many such as Wendy's and Taco Bell did not even exist.

In addition to the glut of fast food restaurants, there are thousands of upscale ethnic eateries. More Americans eat outside the home than in any other period of history. Eat-at-home families are rare today.

Just as there were far fewer fast food restaurants 60 years ago, there were fewer upscale restaurants too. And the culture then was such that for a family to eat outside the home was a treat rather than an everyday event. Our family never did.

My father worked as a dental laboratory messenger in the early 60s. He would take me and maybe another one of my brothers to help him. My father would drive to the dentists in various cities and we would run up and down the stairs to make deliveries to the dentists.

Instead of eating breakfast at home, sometimes my father would stop for hamburgers at White Castle. But we would always bring our lunches from home. This was as much an economic issue as it was anything else.

Meals prepared at home are inherently healthier than those purchased outside the home whether 60 years ago or today. The consumer does not have access to monosodium glutamate, trans fats, or high fructose corn syrup, chemicals which are health-threatening.

Meals prepared 60 years ago were cooked on a stove or in an oven. The microwave oven was not on the market then. We now know that it changes the molecular structure of food. Microwaved food can cause disease as serious as cancer to develop.

There is now a growing movement to bring the state of food back to its healthy origins. This movement is being driven by programs aired on public television such as PBS (Public Broadcasting System) and alternative lifestyle websites such as this one.

In the case of food, retro is better. The 21st century continues to market products masquerading as food. This is all in the name of convenience and progress.

We can't recapture all of the quality food that was available 60 years ago however. For instance the soil then contained far more nutrients than it does today. That means the vitamin/mineral content of fruits and vegetables is not as high.

We can though buy locally and organically-grown produce, and meat from animals that were free-grazed. This will eliminate ingesting toxic pesticides and herbicides. And eating animals that were free-grazed means not consuming hormones and antibiotics from sick animals.

Studies have shown that organic produce contain higher levels of nutrients than nonorganic produce. Animals that are free-grazed have lower levels of saturated fat and a greater content of good fat like CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).

Going retro also requires buying basic food items and not pre-packaged meals. It means preparing meals from scratch like my mother did in the 50s and 60s. We didn't have instant this and instant that. We had real oatmeal and real potatoes. We didn't have pre-made biscuits which were simply heated in an oven or microwave. My mother made biscuits from flour, eggs, and milk. I'm talking about real food.

We were not afraid to eat plenty of butter and eggs 60 years ago. Neither did we shun red meat. Today doctors and food scientists caution people to eliminate these foods altogether, or eat them sparingly.

We now know that eggs are not the cholesterol trap that medical experts said they were. Butter will not clog your arteries putting you at risk for heart disease. And red meat, as long as it comes from free-grazed and organically raised animals, is completely healthy.

I admit that I wouldn't want to have to do without the internet, computers, and surround sound but I can do without what passes for food in the 21st century. As far as nutrition, my health and longevity is concerned--retro is better.

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