Last week I started eating vegan plus — no sugar, wheat flour, meat, dairy, alcohol, or caffeine. While it has only been a week, I’m quickly coming around to the belief that American food culture is killing us slowly. Before you start calling me a “foodist”, hear me out.
How Grocery Stores Are Killing Us
Outside of the produce aisle, there is no place safe from food being tampered with and converted into a “food product”. I can’t easily buy nuts or fruit juices; nearly all of them have some type of sweetener added — sugar, evaporated cane juice, honey, or agave nectar. I can’t buy popcorn; it’s mostly all cooked in some type of hydrogenated oil. I can’t buy hardly any pasta; it’s almost entirely wheat flour-based pasta, often misleading labeled “wheat” instead of “whole wheat”.
I understand why we add those chemicals and ingredients — we humans prefer to buy food that is sweet, salty, oily, or just all around tasty. My issue is that the “cleaner” options are very limited. A visit to Kroger or Publix is endlessly frustrating, especially when you are hangry. Nearly all the products they carry are filled with some additive or preservative.
As a result, the composition of a food has changed. If something is sold without a sugar additive, it’s suddenly “unsweetened”. Wait, shouldn’t the adulterated stuff be called “sweetened,” and the other stuff be called, oh, normal?
Even when someone takes out an extended credit line and shops Whole Foods, a quick glance at their products finds the same sweeteners sans white sugar — evaporated cane sugar, honey, agave nectar. I just want some quinoa and chickpeas without someone enslaving some bees for their honey! Did you really need to add more sweetness to a dish already brimming with superbly sweet dates?
How Restaurants Are Killing Us
I had resigned myself to not going out to eat for the 21 days of this experiment. For the most part, the only food I could trust that would be free of sugar, wheat, flour, meat, or dairy was a lettuce-based salad with balsamic vinegar and oil (and no I can’t have the balsamic vinaigrette; loads of sugar is almost always added). Again, I get it — if someone is going out to eat, they want something extra tasty for their $10+. But why most everything they serve be death on a plate? Don’t they want me us to come back for seconds?
And don’t get me started on “farm to table” and “local”. The next time someone says “it’s local”, ask them how many miles away the farm is. Here’s a nice surprise — there is no single definition for the label “local”. The closest one is as defined in the “Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act” from 2008, which groups “locally” and “regionally” together and defines them as follows:
‘‘(I) the locality or region in which the final product is marketed, so that the total distance that the product is transported is less than 400 miles from the origin of the product; or ‘‘(II) the State in which the product is produced.”
400 miles?! It would take someone nearly 7 hours to drive that far on a highway, let alone bike or walk. Dearest fellow Atlantan, would you say New Orleans, Raleigh, Saint Petersburg, Tampa, Louisville, or Memphis is “local” to Atlanta?
Here’s a quick shout-out to some exemplary Atlanta restaurants that serve vegetarian and vegan food. Mad props to Cafe Sunflower — perhaps the best vegan restaurant Atlanta has to offer.
How American Food Culture is Killing Us
Since starting this food experiment, I’ve measured my blood sugar daily. It’s already dropped 13%, placing me safely below 100 for the first time in years. Also, I’ve already started to drop pounds of weight, too. I’m not going to tabulate it until the end of the 21 days, but things are looking promising.
Think about that — just one week of eating mindfully has already reduced my risks of diabetes, something my past doctors have suggested I take pre-diabetic pills to ward off. How about encouraging me to skimp on the sweeteners, Dr. Know-it-all?
A lot of friends have asked what I’m going to do “after” the 21-day experiment. I’m adamant about not thinking about day 22; I really don’t know. I’ll let the results dictate my next steps. If the results, however, are continued optimal health metrics and looser-fitting clothing, then I may already have an answer.
NOTE: Since starting the experimental diet, I’ve decided to allow add red wine back into my diet. It’s hard to find a study that states a daily glass of red wine is bad for you; most state that it is beneficial.