Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Are those grubs in your grub?

Food has been on my mind a lot lately. I know -- just for a change, right? It's due partly to the Personal Health course I just took, and specifically one assignment about 10 days ago where I had to measure my body mass index. That required weighing myself, something I hadn't done in quite a while, and the results were... well, less than inspiring. At the time, my 5-foot-9 carcass weighed 260 pounds, giving me a BMI of 38.4. If you're wondering, 30 is the point where you go from being overweight to being obese. Yikes.

While I wouldn't necessarily call that a "come to Jesus" moment, it was certainly eye-opening. Since then, I've made a point of cutting out soda and sugar-sweetened drinks from my diet, drinking more water, reducing my intake of heavy foods and getting more regular exercise. I know those are the steps to take if I'm going to undo some of the damage to my body after not thinking about my health during my 20s -- what I didn't expect was how quickly I'd see improvement. I weighed myself today (after a meal, which apparently is a no-no) and found I'd dropped 5 pounds in just less than two weeks, knocking my BMI down to 37.7. Still obese, of course, but surprising progress in so short a time. I read that a healthy rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week, so thus far it sounds like I'm on the right track.

With that in mind, I give you this gem from Scientific American -- your food is covered in insects. Predictably, the author does not mince words:
You’re deluding yourself if you think farming is as clean as making a microchip. We are always on insect territory. Try as we might with insecticides and other engineered poisons, bugs crawl all over our food to feed (and procreate) on it. When we harvest and package our crops, a lot of bugs come along for the ride. Be aware, all the hitchhikers aren’t removed. At least there are limits on how many bugs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lets you unknowingly eat.
The FDA’s Defect Levels Handbook lays it all out. Staples like broccoli, canned tomatoes, and hops readily contain “insect fragments”—heads, thoraxes, and legs—and even whole insects. (I won’t tell you about the rat hair limits…) Fig paste can harbor up to 13 insect heads in 100 grams; canned fruit juices can contain a maggot for every 250 milliliters; 10 grams of hops can be the home for 2,500 aphids.
Feeling hungry yet? I know I am. That article provided a nice counterbalance to another one I found thanks to Alton Brown, a blog post from the USDA advising people not to throw out food just because it's sat forgotten for long periods. That's understandable advice and a good way to cut down on food waste. That said, I know of certain family members whose shelves house items that don't even have barcodes, which came into use in the 1970s. This is the same family member in whose fridge I once found a bottle of barbeque sauce not too many years older than me (and this was within the past decade). Some things get better with age... others most definitely do not.

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