If you count yourself among the living and breathing human-beings walking the Earth, this means that at some level food consumes your thoughts on a daily basis. That burger looks delicious… What's for dinner? Let me UberEats something right now… Of course, this makes sense because on a biological level, we would die without food. For the average person, starvation sets in after 40 days without eating. But even when food isn’t a matter of survival, it brings us comfort. When we eat, the brain releases "feel good" chemicals on a physiological level. This is partially why the temptation exists to over-eat even when our body doesn’t need the extra fuel. Going a step further, food has also been a significant part of culture for thousands of years. One of the first things you look up on a trip is what kind of delicious cuisine is nearby. Perhaps you may even feel more connected to places when you've tried foods steeped in cultural traditions. Which goes to say, we are constantly being reminded by the power of food, every day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, with snacks in-between. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission reported in 2007 that the average child viewed 15 food advertisements a day. And this was before social media exploded. But how are we, as humans, supposed to view food? Is it simply a basic necessity? Like water or the air we breathe? Or rather, is it something to be consumed for pleasure? Calories in, calories out. A case could be made that a large percentage of us consume food without any level of critical thinking. Unless we shear otherwise, then we think of food is generally neutral. Neither good nor bad. Like, does it really matter what we eat, as long as it gives us that energy boost we need? Isn't it all about consuming certain foods in moderation? I exercise, so a few cheat meals a week are harmless, right? A recent round-up of the 50 most popular U.S. chain restaurants shows that the American population often puts more of a premium on "getting the most bang for your buck" than transparency about ingredients or how a particular food might affect their health. Some of the most notable names on the list are Outback Steakhouse and Buffalo Wild Wings, where you can get copious amounts of meat for relatively good prices. And then there are the Americanized "Italian" restaurants like Maggiano's and Olive Garden that offer heaps of pasta and bottomless breadsticks. And at face value, the messaging coming our way makes perfect sense. If food is neutral, why wouldn’t you want the most bang for your buck? Why wouldn’t you want the most tasty and convenient food to be had? Why wouldn't you want the best deal at the grocery store? A decade ago, we lived by these same sentiments. But as we began our own journey with food and nutrition, what we discovered was nothing short of eye-opening. What follows is a revealing of those discoveries, outlining how food is more powerful than we could have previously imagined. From brain function, mood and our ability to resist disease to socioeconomic policies and the air we breathe, food quite literally impacts everything around us. As you keep reading, you'll learn how food might just be at the epicenter of pain and suffering in your life.


The common view of most Americans – that food is neutral – didn’t happen by accident. This perspective was carefully planted into the minds of millions of people over the last 60 years by major food companies. In efforts to get us to fall in love with their brands and maximize profits, they’ve spent billions of dollars in advertising trying to get us to overlook a life-or-death truth. The link between the foods they’re selling and disease.  If you were to look at a chart, you’d find that during the same time period that big food companies have risen to power, disease has been rising at breakneck speed.  Scientists have discovered that the kind of food we’re eating causes everything from cancer, digestive disorders and mental health issues to heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

And on second thought, why WOULDN’T the stuff we put in our bodies everyday have either a positive or negative effect? There has been so much controversy in recent years over the effects of the COVID vaccine, and that’s just a few doses being put into our body. With food, we’re talking about putting harmful substances into our body on a daily basis over a lifetime.

So what kinds of food cause disease, you ask? In their original form, all foods have various nutrients that would be good for our health. Think picking an apple from an apple tree. So for a food to be unhealthy, it mainly comes down to a conversation about THE WAY our food is produced. In efforts to increase profits, some companies alter our foods in such a way that makes them unhealthy. A company could take that apple, throw in a bunch of chemicals that will maintain freshness, aroma and taste, while increasing shelf life, and then package it as apple pie. This would be considered a processed food, which makes up about 60-70% of the American diet. “At least a thousand experiments have demonstrated a very close association between ultra processed foods [and disease],” says molecular biologist Marion Nestle, who is one of the top food researchers in the world. Most of the foods found in convenience stores are highly processed foods that are toxic for our health. For example, while the base component of a popular food like M&Ms is chocolate, there are also a ton of additives included that are either banned and/or highly regulated in Europe. Not only is the average American supermarket full of these kinds of processed foods, but they also contain whole foods (i.e. chicken or broccoli) that are unnecessarily altered or contaminated. Some animals are injected with growth hormones and antibiotics to speed up the breeding process and make the animal bigger, leading to more profits. Additionally, some fruits and vegetables are contaminated with pesticides when they are grown, especially a category of produce known as the dirty dozen. This is a MAJOR ethical problem. This does not mean that we are doomed, however.  It just underscores the importance of buying organic foods. When companies receive the organic certification (i.e. USDA organic), it largely ensures that the animal is raised without hormones or antibiotics.  For produce, it ensures that there were not any pesticides sprayed on them. It’s not a perfect system, though, as there are is a greater need for regulation. Not to mention that smaller companies and farms often can’t afford the certification for the USDA Organic label. So as you shop, in the worst-case scenario opt for products that simply have any organic label. The second way foods can cause disease is through the AMOUNT we consume. Obesity rates in America have quadrupled. In the early 1960s, just 10% of the population was obese.  Now? 42% of the population.  In Food Power, professor Bryan McDonald of Penn State University explains, “Companies navigating the consumer landscape [in the 1950s] faced a number of challenges. Chief among them was the problem of “fixed stomachs,” the fact that Americans were unlikely to eat more food. Profitability for a restaurant, then, came from finding ways to cook food.. more cheaply than in the past. The McDonalds Brothers are a [notable example of this].” Food companies, like McDonald’s, slowly increased portion sizes and thus increased stomach size. And as we mentioned above, they also decreased the cost of the food by using cheaper, more harmful ingredients. The reality is that the human body was not designed to eat this much or consistently consume this level of portion sizes. In fact, for much of human history, especially in the hunter-gatherer days, food was scarce. As we mention in our blog on fasting, the human body does much better on a LACK of food, rather than an excess. What’s more alarming is that since the same practices are not allowed in other countries, portion sizes tend to be much larger in the United States. In some cases, overeating has become a sport in this country. Take Joey Chestnut, for example. On July 4, 2021, the competitive eater crammed a 76th hotdog into his mouth. We'll spare you the details, but his strategy was to dip the 'dogs in water and smoothly funnel them down his gullet. It’s quite grotesque to watch, but nonetheless has millions of views on YouTube. With 76 in a row, Chestnut had broken his own record for the most hotdogs ever eaten in 10 minutes.  Chestnut's feat is undoubtedly impressive. However, it's also indicative of a culture that at times celebrates overeating and doesn't view this as much of a concern. While we may not be consuming 76 hot dogs in one sitting, the fact remains that America has a huge problem with overeating and over-portioning. Today, heart attacks among younger people are on the rise, per the American Heart Association. This is troubling, as in the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death, higher than cancer or contagious diseases like COVID-19.  Here are some telling statistics, according to the CDC:
    • Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability.
    • 70% of annual deaths are due to chronic diseases.
 The crazy part is that many of the chronic diseases that bring us so much suffering are preventable, NOT simply a result of our genetics. Meaning, it doesn’t have to be this way.  A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed a clear link between disease and a lack of healthy nutrients: "Of 702,308 adult deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, 318,656 (45%) were associated with inadequate consumption of certain foods and nutrients widely considered vital for healthy living, and overconsumption of other foods that are not." Living in this environment has caused many of us to develop an unhealthy relationship with food, and we can feel trapped by the psychological effects of overeating. However, all is not lost. We can heal from this, and take steps towards reducing our food consumption. Additionally, just as research has exposed what foods are unhealthy and cause disease, it has also shown that eating foods that are minimally processed, organic and/or are in their original form can help PREVENT disease. This is critical for us to live longer and healthier lives. In the fight for longer and healthier lives, we aren't powerless in this battle. The knowledge of the truth must be put into action.


Next, when it comes to food we find that it not only has a powerful effect on our bodies, but also our minds. As Harvard explains, there is a two-way connection between our guts and our brains, and each can reciprocally affect the other:  "The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines. For example, the very thought of eating can release the stomach's juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut." Some even refer to the gut as the "second brain." Our digestive system, contrary to popular belief, is quite complicated. For years, scientists saw it as an efficient machine. And while it is efficient, it's more like a supercomputer than a factory. It was designed with its own nervous system – the enteric nervous system, and has 50-100 million nerve cells.  It's no wonder that when we feel nervous, our stomach begins to throb.  Or when we prepare to go onstage before a big performance or speech we feel "butterflies" in our stomachs. Which goes to say, what we eat can play a massive role in our brains, particularly when it comes to mood, sleep, and mental health Gastroenterologist Dr. Emeran Mayer, author of the Mind-Gut Connection, found research to suggest that "the gut can influence our basic emotions, our pain sensitivity, and our social interactions, and even guide many of our decisions – and not just those about food preferences and meal size." Here are just a few examples:

Food & Mood

Imagine the mind-gut connection as a highway in which communication signals can go both ways. The brain can make you feel a certain way in your gut, and in turn, the gut can affect your mood and disposition.  Dr. Mayer explains what's really going on inside you when you feel road rage, for instance:  "As you sat fuming about the driver who cut you off, your stomach went into vigorous contractions, which increased its production of acid and slowed the emptying of the scrambled eggs you ate for breakfast. Meanwhile your intestines twisted and spit mucus and other digestive juices. When you're depressed, your intestines hardly move at all. In fact, we now know that your gut mirrors every emotion that arises in your brain," he said.   This means that sometimes our emotions and moods are not random or arbitrary.  Though eating a cheeseburger won't make us immediately depressed, Dr. Mayer's research reaffirms that food isn't neutral. Food affects our body chemistry, as the microbes in our gut "live in intimate contact with the major information-gathering systems in our body," he added.  Over 50 trillion bacteria organisms live in your gut and communicate with your brain. They have "conversations," just like an ongoing text thread.  Crazily enough, the gut bacteria that we rarely think about can influence anxiety or stress. And part of our gut composition has to do with diet, so we have a level of control.

To note, 90% of serotonin (a chemical messenger) receptors are located in the gut. Yes, the very same neurotransmitter we try to boost with antidepressants.

Low serotonin levels can lead to sleep issues, depression, memory and learning issues, and anxiety. Which goes to say, when we binge unhealthy foods, it perpetuates our lethargy and apathy. We feel weighed down and lack the energy needed to make meaningful change in our lives.  Of course, we're not ONLY influenced by what we eat. This is important to clarify. There are other deeper factors (like genetics, trauma, personal histories) that play a role. However, food should not be dismissed when talking about mood, as research is showing a clear link.

Food & Sleep

As a kid, you may have heard that milk and cookies before bed could affect your dreams. While somewhat true, eating badly before bed doesn't just lead to weird dreams.  Unpacking the findings of a recent study, Harvard explains, “When we don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin increases and leptin decreases. Researchers looked at the sleep patterns [of 495 women], their daily quantity of food, and quality of food. They found that poor sleep quality was correlated with greater intake of food and lower diet quality.”  It's pretty normal in our culture to scarf down some sweets or snacks before bed. Yet eating sugary foods before we fall asleep can have an adverse affect on how many Z's we catch at night. A recent New York Times article, "How Foods May Affect Our Sleep," by Anahad O'Connor underscored this point. "Researchers have found that eating a diet that is high in sugar, saturated fat and processed carbohydrates can disrupt your sleep, while eating more plants, fiber and foods rich in unsaturated fat — such as nuts, olive oil, fish and avocados — seems to have the opposite effect, helping to promote sound sleep." In other words, the unhealthy forms of foods we discussed in the first section cause disruptions in sleep, while the healthy forms of food lead to better sleep.

Food & Mental Health

As with mood, what we consume can also affect us on a mental health level. Mental health is a complex topic and affects each person differently, so the goal here isn't to draw simplistic conclusions. However, it’s important to understand how food could be potentially affecting our mental health. A new field called "nutritional psychiatry" charts the relationship between diet and mental wellness. Leading research has shown that certain nutrients are necessary for brain health and function. Historically, it's been an easier process for us to acknowledge the links between the food we consume and physical illnesses. But now scientists are experiencing breakthroughs with food and mental health. For instance, a 2008 study done in the Journal of Indian Psychiatry, researchers found that depression is not just biochemical or DNA-based. "Nutrition can play a key role in the onset as well as severity and duration of depression."  Scientifically speaking, how is this possible? It starts with understanding the role of neurotransmitters. As a refresher, neurotransmitters are the body's "chemical messengers." Just above, we talked about how lack of serotonin can cause issues and that over 90% of serotonin receptors are located in the gut.  Tying it back into food, research has shown that certain types of foods can produce more of those positive-feeling brain chemicals like serotonin. However, the research done around this subject is not black and white or definitive.  Many of us could probably think of someone who has a very unhealthy diet and never has experienced depression. But it IS to say that at the bare minimum, eating an unhealthy diet may make you more prone to depression. And in an effort to cover all bases when trying to tackle your mental health issues, you should consider the impact your diet is having.


In addition to being a chart-topper by Kendrick Lamar, DNA determines how a living thing looks and functions. The Human Genome Project has uncovered much about DNA over the years, but there's still a ton we don't understand. However, there's new research about how food can affect DNA, which is crazy considering the general population tends to view DNA as an untouchable part of our genetic code. These findings argue that what we eat can potentially affect our children and future generations. The report states that "rather than change DNA itself, epigenetic signals can, for example, prompt changes in the number of methyl chemical groups attached to a gene, turning it on or off." Think of a light switch with different dimmer settings. It still turns the light on but changes the way the light is "expressed."  Or if that's too simplistic, think of it this way.  DNA interacts with other molecules, which can activate / deactivate certain genes. It's like going into the hardware of a computer and disabling or enabling certain switches in the motherboard. The switches may still be there, but may not function unless properly turned on.   A new field called "epigenetics" has shed new light on this topic. Epigenetics is "the study of how cells control gene activity without changing the DNA sequence," per, a service from the United States National Library of Medicine.  "Epigenetics…shows how environmental influences – children's experiences – actually affects the expression of their genes." This emerging research shows us that it's not nature or nurture, but both," said the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child. What are some real-life examples of epigenetics in action?
    • In 1944, a famine struck the Netherlands, forcing pregnant women to live on limited calories. As a result, babies conceived, carried, and born during that period had "elevated rates of obesity, altered lipid profiles and cardiovascular disease in adulthood," according to the Scientific American article.
    • After the atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many children born in the radioactive environment had birth defects like "anencephaly, cleft palate, cleft lip with or without cleft palate, club foot, polydactyly (additional finger or toe), and syndactyly (fusion of two or more fingers or toes)," according to the Radiation Effects Research Foundation. 
 A study done on fruit flies shed some light on how this concept works. Scientists fed the parent flies the same type of unhealthy diet that we covered in the first section, finding that this caused the flies to develop symptoms of heart disease (yes, flies have a heart…kind of.). But in this case, the surprising finding wasn't how it affected the parents, but the offspring. The offspring and eventually even the third generation of offspring had the same heart disease symptoms despite being fed a healthier diet. They were ultimately more prone to fat cell accumulation in the heart, even though there was no apparent "fault" of their own. A study done on mice had similar outcomes.  As we consider this research, it’s important to keep in mind two things. One, you aren't instantly going to develop health issues just because your parents didn't eat healthy. Just because you have a certain gene predisposition, it doesn't mean it will become a reality. This is where gene expression comes into play. And two, "bad" genes can also be silenced by eating healthy foods.  Which goes to say, as you have learned from this entire blog, there are always two sides to the food coin. Maintaining a diet full of organic and whole foods (whilst not overeating) often leads to positive results for your body, brain and genes.  Maintaining an unhealthy diet full of ultra processed foods, additives and meat that has been altered often produces negative results. Of course, anomalies happen. Like when an ultrafit marathon runner with a lineage of health collapses unexpectedly or when a chain smoker who eats mostly fast food lives to be 100. Outcomes aren’t always guaranteed, but there is a rule of thumb that holds for the general population. And that rule of thumb is a reason to be proactive.  Given what we know so far, your diet plays a huge role in your body on a molecular level. And those patterns can continue along in your family lineage. Recognizing that you have the power to impact yourself and others by the way you eat might shift your perspective.


Another area where food holds immense power is in the justice conversation. Of course, you could argue that much of what we’ve talked about thus far related to food companies could fall into the justice category. We expand on that further through this section, primarily talking about food labor and food corruption.

Food Labor

Cheap food comes at a cost, but so often we’re so focused on price that we ignore WHY these foods are cheap to begin with. In addition to using cheap ingredients and unethical practices, there is a serious problem with farm workers being paid extremely low wages. In some cases, they are completely exploited and forced to work for no pay. These are common practices among farmers who work for larger corporations that prioritize price at the expense of labor. To reduce costs, companies will employ undocumented migrants, seasonal workers and marginalized communities and force them to work in inhumane conditions. Some food companies work hard to keep these practices out of the public eye. For example, Nestle, the company known for that charming Nesquik rabbit, would seem to be a beloved childhood brand. Many grew up with their products, like DiGiorno Pizza, KitKat, or Cheerios. But Nestle has had documented human-rights issues, especially around child labor. In a stunning piece by the Washington Post entitled "Cocoa's child laborers," journalists Peter Whoriskey and Rachel Siegel document the hardships faced by child laborers harvesting cocoa in West Africa, many of whom are told to lie about their age and say they're older. Unsurprisingly, a host of household name corporations are involved: "About two-thirds of the world’s cocoa supply comes from West Africa where, according to a 2015 U.S. Labor Department report, more than 2 million children were engaged in dangerous labor in cocoa-growing regions…When asked this spring, representatives of some of the biggest and best-known brands Hershey, Mars and Nestlé — could not guarantee that any of their chocolates were produced without child labor," they noted.  They also found that 49% of Nestle's products could not be traced back to their source farm. To be fair, Nestle made a statement around this, saying that "child labor has no place in our supply chain and we are opposed to all forms of child exploitation." However, the fact that they could not trace most of their product origins is troubling.  Sadly this goes beyond Nestle, and these exploitative practices happen every day.  So what power do we have? Food companies are backed by massive budgets and robust legal counsel, but it’s important to understand that they aren't invincible. At the end of the day, they still need consumers to buy their products in order to make a profit. Money talks, and when they sense that their business is on the line, they'll make changes to appease the customer.  For example…  In 2010, Greenpeace, an environmental justice organization, successfully campaigned to stop Nestle from adding to deforestation in its harvesting of palm oil. According to Greenpeace, "the expansion of palm oil and pulp plantations [was] driving the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests and peatlands and pushing endangered orangutans to the brink of extinction." In response, Nestle pledged to "identify and exclude" companies from its supply chain linked to deforestation. Of course, it's not uncommon for companies to make bold promises to protect their sales interest and placate their consumers. But still the campaign produced a response.

Food Corruption

As we discuss elsewhere, for decades food companies have been "in bed" with government agencies, politicians, lobbyists and even nutrition societies to ensure that their products can continue to exist on the market hassle-free. Additionally, they will also use deceptive marketing tactics and misleading labels to persuade the American public to buy their products. There's a whole web of corruption to unpack when it comes to the politics behind food This raises a very important question. With how much is spent on marketing and how many powerful players are advancing the unhealthy food agenda behind-the-scenes, how much free choice do we really have? The psychological manipulation is nothing short of seductive. For example, in 2020 McDonald's spent $1.62 billion on direct media advertising, a figure that is likely to climb. And nearly 70% of food advertising in America is "for convenience foods, candy and snacks, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and desserts, whereas just 2.2% is for fruits, vegetables, grains, or beans."  Ever remember seeing a commercial for vegetables growing up? Didn't think so. However, you were probably quite familiar with Tony the Tiger or the Lucky Charms leprechaun.  Courting from food giants begins at an early age, making it even harder to break. Children often fall prey to these marketing tactics, as research has shown that children have trouble differentiating commercials from regular TV programming before age 10.  That, paired with the high volume of commercials promoting sugary, high-calorie foods (breakfast cereals, yogurts, etc.), and lack of programming promoting healthy food choices, creates a vicious cycle – particularly for children in low-income areas who rely on their school system for even remotely nutritious choices.  All the while, the United States allows tons of toxic food additives in our food supply that have been banned in Europe for decades. BHA and BHT are prime examples of this. These man-made preservatives are widely used in processed foods to increase shelf life, and preserve pleasing smells. For many large food companies, using ingredients like this increases profits. Because there is extensive research linking BHA and BHT to cancer and blood clotting, both additives are banned in Europe and Japan. Yet the United States has allowed food companies to continue to put these additives in our food since the 1970s.  Why?


Lastly, the way we produce food has a major impact on our environment.  Things like monocropping and meat production create ripple effects on our floating sphere of finite resources. These issues give us a small glimpse and window into the toll our planet is taking when we disregard care and intentionality when it comes to food production.


As the name suggests, monocropping is growing the same crop on the same plot of land for a prolonged period of time (i.e. corn). This is unnatural, and not something that was commonly practiced previously in history. This ultimately weakens and depletes the previously rich soil, making the land poor and infertile. Historically, farmers would use methods like crop rotation or crop diversification in order to keep the land sustainable for years to come.  This method was more difficult but ultimately more proactive, ensuring the land has time to develop deep nutrients. In fact, ancient cultures like ancient Israel, would let the land rest every 7 years as a means of preventing overharvesting and letting the land reset. Over the last half-century, farmers have been put in a precarious position by the “eat more” agenda from large food companies. We are overproducing food at incredibly unsustainable rates. But as we talked about in our blog on the rise of disease and greed, money talks, so farmers keep producing and taking whatever measures needed to do so. How does this affect you, the consumer?  For one, land that has been ravaged by monocropping often compensates by using pesticides and fertilizer, which could in turn show up in your products. As we saw in the landmark Monsanto legal case, harmful pesticides contribute and/or cause cancer.  Just as monocropping reduces the diversity in soil, it also reduces diversity in our diets. Corn is in nearly EVERYTHING we eat: cereals, snack bars, chips, and processed, prepared foods.  A possible solution, despite being more expensive on the whole, is again to shop for organic produce. Another is to diversify your diet and eat other foods that don’t include overproduced crops like wheat, corn, or soy. 

Cattle Ranching / Deforestation

Per Greenpeace, 80% of global deforestation – the action of clearing a wide area of trees – is a result of agricultural production. Which goes to say, raising most livestock requires a copious amount of land and water. Given the booming demands of the aforementioned meat industry, a huge amount of land has been cleared out.  The World Wildlife Foundation has done extensive studies on the unsustainability of cattle ranching in the Amazon Rainforest. They found that cattle ranching is "responsible for the release of 340 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere every year, equivalent to 3.4% of current global emission."  To be clear, this is not to say that red meat or the consumption of cattle is inherently, but rather we are pointing out the unsustainable volume at which it's being cranked out to fit the needs of meat producers. In other words, here again we see the “eat more” agenda at play. For example, JBS is a Brazilian company that has subsidiaries, including JBS USA, a $28 billion dollar company headquartered in Colorado. You may not be familiar with JBS, but you've likely seen one of their brands, such as "Certified Angus Beef" in the grocery store. In an extensive feature by Bloomberg, it was highlighted that "while marketing itself is a friend of the environment, JBS has snapped up more cattle coming out of the Amazon than any other meatpacker in an industry that’s overwhelmingly to blame for the rainforest’s demise." In other words, JBS claims to defend the very land it's destroying in the process.  It would be overly simplistic to say the Amazon's decline is solely based on the meat industry. There are other contributing factors such as illegal logging, illegal gold mining, and lack of governance," per the Amazon Conservation, a nonprofit based in Washington D.C.  But the pace at which the world, particularly Americans, are consuming meat, is not sustainable in the long run. Major food companies want us to eat more and will destroy our environment to do so, but health means eating less. The USDA notes that the average American consumes 67 pounds of beef a year. The U.S. clocks in at #1 in the world in beef consumption at over 27.5 billion pounds consumed in 2020. So it’s no coincidence that the caloric intake and obesity has skyrocketed in the last 60 years.


How do we respond to everything that we’ve learned? By understanding this simple point: food is not neutral. It’s either good or bad. All five of the areas we’ve covered – disease, our brains, genes, injustice, environment – highlight this point. Greed is the name of the game. Some food companies are willing to marginalize people through labor injustice and poison us with unhealthy food to make a dollar. A case could be made that the corruption and greed surrounding the food industry is one of the largest justice issues in history, since it affects billions of people. Food affects our personal health, our society, our brains, our environment and even future generations. When we eat minimally processed foods that are organic and ethically produced, it can have a hugely positive effect on all of these things.  But when corruption comes into play, and food companies use toxic additives, unethical practices and worker coercion to increase profits, we all suffer. Which goes to say, we’re of the mind that food itself is designed to be a beautiful gift to humanity. If we grow and consume food in the way we are supposed to, it can contribute to human flourishing. It’s pleasurable. It provides natural medicine and remedies for the human body. And it can also be a beautiful avenue for gathering community around the table. The current food system makes it challenging to realize that vision. For many of us, going up against any corrupt system can feel daunting and overwhelming, especially when you feel alone in doing so. However, consider this story as inspiration: In 1989, the Chinese government cracked down on its own citizens during the Tiananmen Square Protests. They sent tanks into the city, but one man decided enough was enough. In what's now an iconic photo, this unidentified man stepped out in front of a tank. One man in front of dozens of killing machines that could end him in a second.  Instead, the man became an inspiration and a symbol of hope in the face of oppression. Did he single handedly change the whole system? No. But his actions started a ripple effect that empowered others and caused them to consider their own choices. You may not have to stand in front of a tank, but don't underestimate the seemingly "little" choices you can make in your everyday life. You can create change with your wallet, namely by not buying products from the companies who are perpetuating disease.  Of course, one of the most frustrating things in all of this is conflicting information you'll come across. Some of which will be valid, some of which may not. If you've ever been told "chocolate is good for you because of antioxidants," and then simultaneously read a blog bashing the sugar content in chocolate, you may be wondering…which is true Generally speaking, when you look underneath the hood you’ll discover the same corrupt food companies influencing these studies and intentionally causing confusion in the public square.  To help, let's boil it down with just a few practical takeaways. This isn't a one-size-fits-all plan, but rather a few things to consider as you go about your everyday life:

Eating Habits

How do we even eat as we were designed to? This isn't always an easy question to answer, as we all have a different starting point. We need to consider our own bio individuality. This term was originally coined by Joshua Rosenthal, the founder and director of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in New York.  He explains, “Bio-individuality means there is not a one-size-fits-all diet, each person is a unique individual with highly individualized nutritional requirements.”  Bio individuality is why one person could claim that going vegan saved their life, while another makes the same claim about the carnivore diet. Because we all have different starting points – different conditions often sprung about from the unhealthy food being produced by the food industry – we need to take different measures to reclaim our health. This will largely happen by trial and error, and trying different things to see what works for you. Over time, you’ll start to identify what works best for you. However, there are some general principles that apply to everyone in the population. We know what to STOP eating, which are the ultra processed, disease-inducing foods that we’ve spent so much time talking about in this blog.

Navigating the Landscape

You might be wondering, how do I identify these foods? It starts by doing your research. Before you start consuming loads of food from a particular company or buying chicken that was produced from a particular farm, investigate the company. What are their practices? Who do they employ? Is there worker exploitation? This might sound like it requires some work, because it does. But once you develop a trusted list of brands you buy from, it will become second nature. The easiest shortcut is simply to look at the back of the package (and the labels) of the food you’re buying. Generally speaking, if the product is not organic, don’t buy it. There’s too much risk involved with how the food was produced and this will provide an easy baseline to go about shopping. Buy organic for everything – packaged foods, meat, vegetables – everything. Read our full blog here to fully understand how to read food labels. Secondly, consider the entire ingredient list of the food you’re purchasing. Whole Foods, one of the biggest grocery chains in the United States, has banned 260+ ingredients from ever making their way in the grocery store. Shopping there, over alternative grocery chains, will at least ensure a baseline of quality. But not everything in Whole Foods is healthy. Their hot bar is a mess and not all their products are organic, and some still include ingredients that are questionable for our health.  If you are eating out, a general rule of thumb would be that all traditional fast food chains are unhealthy. By all means, do not eat there. Popularized by companies like McDonald’s, the entire fast food structure is built around cheap and unhealthy ingredients. Chipotle is just one of the few fast food chains around the country that actually uses organic chicken. But even their products have loads of sodium. Reduced salt means reduced sales. Some chains are changing the game when it comes to producing quality, mostly organic food such as the Seattle-based Homegrown or the nationwide Sweetgreen As of 2023, there were 992 Sweetgreen locations across the United States. But companies like these tend to be in their infancy stage, and stand in the vast minority to fast food chains like McDonald’s, who have 13,514 stores in the United States. Nonetheless, if you live in a major metropolitan area, chances are that a Sweetgreen (or equivalent) exists near you. The only caveat being their dressings tend to be unhealthy, and are composed of oils that are not good for us. Which goes to say, opt for adding a simple mixture of oil and vinegar to your salads. Additionally, beware of the “faux” healthy chains that masquerade themselves as good for you, but further underscore the importance of looking at the ingredient list.

Consider Your Wallet

Money talks. We may not think that our dollars play that big of an impact, but be encouraged that brands and corporations do notice. Ultimately they are dependent on you, the consumer, for profit and expansion. And if there is a market for healthy food, they will cater to it. Just look at the rise of a company like Sweetgreen or the fact that Kraft, a known offender in the disease space, bought the health-conscious Primal Kitchen in 2018. Or consider Apple or Nike, who pledged to exit Russia following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They're widely aware that they could make more money by selling their products to one of the biggest countries in the world. However, they've clearly made a calculated decision that they'd lose more of their consumer base and reputation if they continued aligning with a cause that many disdain.  Point is, even if it's not for "virtuous" reasons, companies will react to how you choose to spend your dollars. The reality is that most people are simply unaware of what's going on. It's not their fault – the system is designed to be deceptive. However, once you possess the knowledge about how your brands can affect people around the world, such as the cocoa farmers in Western Africa, it may alter what you buy at the mall or grocery store. This is not intended to be a way of "virtue signaling" but rather raising awareness of how our dollars can perpetuate broken systems of injustice.  The hope is to consider the following when we make the seemingly little, everyday decisions at the grocery store:
    1. What's in this food?
    2. Who made this?
    3. Where did this come from?
 If knowledge is power, then so too are the choices we make around food. Being informed and then putting plans into action to maintain a healthy lifestyle are two keys to harnessing food for our longevity and benefit.  For more on nutrition, click here to visit our Nutrition Hub.


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