Yes, it's true: You are what you eat

You are what you eat. How many times have we heard this phrase, yet not given it the consideration it deserves? Despite the simple wisdom in this age-old adage, many of us unconsciously continue to eat things with unpronounceable ingredients that...

You are what you eat. How many times have we heard this phrase, yet not given it the consideration it deserves? Despite the simple wisdom in this age-old adage, many of us unconsciously continue to eat things with unpronounceable ingredients that satisfy some sensory desire.

If we are what we eat, then what about the things animals eat? Well, research is revealing a direct connection between the feed consumed by an animal and the composition of the animal products we consume. Take chickens for example, when chickens are fed flax in their ration, which are very high in omega-3 fatty acids (the good ones), the concentration in the resulting eggs is significantly elevated and is transferred to us. In fact, some claims suggest that a serving of "omega eggs" provides a much of the "good fatty acids" as a serving of salmon.

Red meat has been given a bad rap. However, nutritionists now contend the negative health benefits of red meat may not be the meat itself, but how the animals were fed -- corn-fed that is. In fact, there is good research that shows that grass-fed meat and milk have a much greater proportion of omega-3 fatty acids and a much lower proportion of omega-6 fatty acids (the bad ones).

Corn is rich in omega-6 fatty acids, which when fed to cattle, increases the omega-6 fatty acids content in the meat. Conversely, cattle fed a forage diet have 60 percent more omega-3 fatty acids and a more favorable ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. When fed 100 percent forage, the ratio in the meat or milk is improved even better, the ratio in which nature intended. Indeed, today's conventionally fed beef, is not the beef of our grandparents' era.

Michael Pollan, professor, nutritionist and author of food and health topics, recently published an article, "Unhappy Meals," in the New York Times.


In the article, he tackles the complex problem of determining what healthy food is, and the inherent problems in conducting scientific nutrition research into a web of incredibly complex interactions when that food is consumed. (For the full article, see .)

In the article he refers to the importance of eating "food." At first glance, this sounds ridiculous -- isn't everything we eat food? Apparently not, he goes on to say: "Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foo-like substances in the supermarket.

These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you're concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it's not really food, and food is what you want to eat."

If nothing else, the article is very thought provoking and makes you wonder how Americans have gotten so far away from eating "food."

If you have an interest in the connection between the food we eat and our health, here's just the learning opportunity you've been waiting for.

The Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association's Lake Agassiz Chapter, the University of Minnesota Northwest Region-al Sustainable Development Part-nership, and the Minnesota OCIA Chapter 1 are joining in sponsoring a day-long event exploring relationships between the production of healthy food, nutritional aspects, and their relationship to human health on Thursday, March 15, at the Student Center meeting room at the University of Minnesota Crookston campus.

The event, "Nutrition and Diet as the Ultimate Key to Vibrant Health," will start with registration and coffee at 8 a.m. The educational event will kick off with Jerry Brunetti's talk, "Diet as the Ultimate Key to Vibrant Health."

Jerry Brunetti is a nationally recognized author and speaker on cancer, nutrition and healing, and healthy foods.


An organic lunch will be served at noon. After lunch Dr. Debra Bell, Crookston based MD, will explore the food-health connection from a physician's perspective. Dr. Bell is the Medical Director of Riverview Family Practice and Integrative Medicine Center in Crookston. The program will conclude with a talk by Dr. Paul Dettloff, a veterinarian who has studied food and nutrition. Dr. Dettloff is a consultant for Organic Valley Cooperative of Wisconsin and is an author and speaker. Registration is $20 per person. No pre-registration is needed. You can pay at the door.

For more information, contact me at the Polk County office in McIntosh or at the Clearwater County office on Wednesdays. Our toll free number is 800-450-2465. If e-mail is your thing, contact me at .

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