What Does Eating Fresh Really Mean?

Eat Fresh?  What does that mean?  Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines “fresh” as “having its original qualities unimpaired” or “not stale, sour, or decayed <fresh bread>.”  In the context of processed food, the manufacturers might be able to piggy-back on that second definition on a technicality relating directly to how recently the food was prepared, and that it has not rotted yet.  We have all probably seen the pictures circulating of burgers and fries that have still resisted break down and rot 6 months to a year later.  Is that considered “fresh?”

I would like to turn the attention back to the first definition and see how that holds up as we take a closer look.  The purpose here is not to single out any specific organization, but to develop a method of questioning what you eat.  Think of this as installing a filter.  Its purpose will be to selectively strain out foreign objects that may become a detriment to the system as a whole, specifically our bodies.  We have filters in our computers to keep out spam.  We have filters on the air, fuel, oil, and coolant systems of our cars and similarly in the planes we fly.  We have filters for the air we breathe at home.  We have filters for everything …  except what we eat.  It all goes down the hatch without a thought.

So I chose “fresh” for a reason.  To reveal a clever marketing campaign that is synonymous industry wide, with vague terms like fresh, natural and so on.  Also, how exploiting the weight loss success stories of individuals changed our perspective of an entire organization.  Fast food and sandwich shops weren’t just selling cheap food anymore, they are selling a fresh solution!  It seemed like they had found the cure to the obesity epidemic.  Just eat this and see what can happen!  Well, that isn’t the whole story.  There was definitely a time that it had me fooled.  Their products are not a simple sandwich, with fresh ingredients like meat and veggies in a “grain bread.”  There is a lot more in the mix, and very similar to the ingredients used industry wide.  Most of us can’t even pronounce these chemical ingredients, let alone spell them.

After the movie “Super Size Me” was released, Americans finally saw the results of what happened when you eat processed food on a regular basis.  How much added sugar, salt, and fat is added to every ingredient to create an addiction, forming lifelong customers.  We all saw the consequences of this in just 30 days.  So of course, when concerned consumers want to make change without having to change (change their dietary lifestyle habits), it’s easy to see how marketing something as fresh or unaltered can seem like the magic bullet.  As we will see, the meaning of the term fresh can be used rather loosely to suit certain agendas.  Feel free to download your own copy of the ingredients list from a fast food sub shop for the discussion.

As you go down the ingredient list, you might notice that there are quite a few ingredients that make up these “fresh” sandwiches.  Does this resemble anything that is fresh or having its original qualities unimpaired?

Hardly.  Starting with the laundry list that makes up the breads, you will see that all of the flour is refined, or bleached and all containing salts, sugars, and oils, usually in multiple forms.  There are many uses of chemical preservatives and “natural flavors” which generally include animal byproducts and preservatives similar to the banned MSG, which have been linked to numerous neurological disorders.  Why is that necessary when the bread is “fresh?”  Or is that why they can call it fresh, because it won’t go stale … ever?  Additionally, nothing is organic, meaning that there is a high probability of the corn fillers and sugars being from a GMO source and containing higher amounts of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers by not being organic.

Enough kneading the bread though, let’s move down the assembly line to the animal products.  The meat products don’t even come close to being fresh or unimpaired.  Every type of meat is produced with fillers formulated from multiple types of sugar and fat, then loaded with salt.   Corn syrup solids, dextrose, sodium erythorbate and nitrite, “flavorings,” modified food starch, calcium lactate, rendered pork fat, ploysorbate 80, and so on.   Some even had to add chicken type flavor to the chicken so it would actually taste like, you guessed it,  chicken!  It’s comical!

But wait, there’s more!  How about this, would any of you walk around the airplane during winter and slurp up some tasty de-ice fluid off the ramp?  Maybe scrape some snow off the ground and make a de-ice fluid, propylene glycol slushy?  Well if you have ever started your day off with an egg omelet sandwich from one of these establishments, then you have.  I couldn’t make this stuff up.  While their breakfast sandwich does include real eggs in the mix, there is another fun ingredient that at least all pilots can relate to.  Propylene glycol.  It is part of their “egg blend,” which ironically contains no egg whatsoever.  Why would you need to add an egg blend to your egg sandwich, when it already has eggs?  Let alone propylene glycol?

The point here is not to list every chemistry experiment processed food manufacturers have made edible, but to illustrate a larger problem.  Commercially produced food is highly processed with chemicals to increase shelf life and maximize profits.  Many of these chemicals are to improve or cover up the texture, coloring, and/or taste of using lesser grade, base ingredients.  Then there is the obsessive over-use of salts, sugars, and fats to make you addicted and reliant; a repeat customer.  Commercial food companies have high-jacked the pleasure receptors of your brain and altered your own chemistry to choose their food products over your own health and happiness.  Isn’t this a repeat of the tobacco companies tactics?

This doesn’t even address the health hazards of consuming the actual animal products in the first place, even in their own free range, organic state.  I write this because I often here co-workers asking, “what is wrong with a sub sandwich?”  It’s not there is anything inherently wrong in particular, there is something very wrong with our entire food industry.  Thus the need for an elevated awareness of the consumer.  Our goal at Pilot Fitness is to shift your habits of blind consumption to conscious purchases and install some filters.  Begin questioning and analyzing what you are eating.  Now.

The information is available, and the majority of us carry the internet in our pocket/purse through our smart phones.  Take a minute from lurking on social media and go to the food company’s website, check the ingredients and make an informed decision!  If for some reason you were stuck with absolutely no other food options, then one look at these ingredients could lead to a choice you might not have otherwise considered, like a salad made with the vegetables only; no meat, no cheese, no oils, no bread, no chemically laden foods with DATUM, TBHQ, calcium sodium EDTA, etc., etc., etc.

Wait, sorry, hold that thought.  There even needs some discretion with good ‘ol veggie patties served at food chains.  Take a look at the some of the veggie patties being offered.  A plant based option, right?  Nope.  Again, we need to look a bit closer.  The ingredients can contain both dairy and eggs plus the plethora of chemicals that is in everything else.  Alright, then just plain veggies should be fine.  Oh no, seriously?  Those too?  Yep.  If not for just the chemical preservatives, but artificial food colorings and those mysterious “natural flavorings.”

In fact, if I had to eat at any one of these chains, the only thing I would even consider consuming would be the cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes.  Basically, any vegetable that has only been chopped up.  Anything that has been processed into a patty, pickled in anything, or accompanied with any sauce should be suspect.  The iceberg lettuce is actually “fresh” too, but it is also just iceberg lettuce, not a dark green leafy green.  One of the most nutritionally void vegetables.  For me it wouldn’t be worth the trade off of the chemicals from being non-organic.

But what about the success stories of weight loss consuming these products?  Smoke and mirrors people.  Have individuals successfully lost weight on these products?  Yes.  But losing weight is not what Pilot Fitness is about.  We are about building health from the inside out while forming real, sustainable healthy habits.  No crash diets, or any diet for that matter.  Not preying on insecurities and emphasizing vain, outward appearances.  Many individuals can lose weight and increase their sex appeal with poor food choices by limiting calories, but chronic disease doesn’t discriminate (regardless of your blood type).  Cholesterol (only found in animal products) still clogs arteries while those same animal products still promote cancer and initiate auto-immune diseases.  Furthermore, we are not really sure yet of the full consequences of our chemically processed food or long term health effects of GMO (genetically-modified organism) consumption.  More research is needed, and in the mean time, it might be wise to take the conservative stance of avoidance.

Adopting a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle is the ultimate win-win where you can avoid processed, chemically laden, GMO foods as well as disease promoting animal products.  Oh, and the best part, naturally maintain a slim, healthy body weight without having to count calories or starve yourself!  Beauty both inside and out, for good.

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