Homemade vs. Manmade

Below you will see part of one of my projects for school.  I am attending Clayton College for Natural Health to get my degree in Holistic Nutrition.  Since this is my passion and I spend all my spare time reading and researching in this area, I thought it would be a good idea to go ahead and get a degree and some credentials behind me.  I considered going to a traditional nutrition school but decided I wouldn’t be able to stomach someone telling me to use sugar substitutes instead of sugar and margarine instead of real butter.  Yep, there are nutritionists and doctors out there telling people this.  No thanks, I’ll stick with the foods God and mother nature put on the planet.  It’s worked since the beginning of time- I’m not going to mess with it 

This project was fun for me because I got to showcase how wholesome home cooked meals can be and how corrupted processed foods are.  I probably could have come up with better examples but I figured any processed food I pulled off the shelf could be ripped apart.

A good portion of the report also ilustrates the benefits of grass fed beef which a basic nutritional change everyone should make. 

I couldn’t get some of the graphics in, but you’ll get the idea.

Abstract

 

The purpose of this research project is to compare and contrast the qualities of three foods based on whether it was homemade, conventionally processed, or naturally processed.  To accomplish the objectives of this project, I took three random recipes from my regular recipes to compare my homemade versions to the conventionally processed variety from the grocery store.  The items that were randomly selected were guacamole, chili, and chicken soup.   

 

After purchasing the ingredients and pre-made products I set out to examine the ingredients in detail.  I discovered ingredients in each of the three foods that were associated with significant health risks.  Although many of these products are very quick to prepare and have a fairly good taste, the detrimental health consequences possible from some of the ingredients is a major concern.  It is my intention to use this research paper to educate the general public as to the potential risks of eating the processed foods that are so common in our culture.  

Method

 

To accomplish the objectives of this project, I took three random recipes from my regular recipes to compare my homemade versions to the conventionally processed variety from the grocery store.  The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast the quality of the foods, the amount of additives and preservatives, the effect (either positive or negative) on health, the overall taste, and the ease of preparation. 

 

The three recipes that came up in my random sample were:  guacamole, chicken soup, and chili.  These are all items that can be purchased at any grocery store so I set out to do some shopping.  As I went to the store, I decided that I would not check the ingredient labels at all.  Instead, I would just pick the brand name that stood out to me or that I know is a popular product.  Although these items were ostracized to the back of the cart, away from my precious organic items, they made it home unscathed.  However, it should be noted that I kept my receipt so that I could return the items after this project (my money is a vote after all).   

 

Results

 

Guacamole

 

Let’s take a look at the first item, guacamole.  The recipe for my homemade version is as follows:

 

1-2 Organic Avocados

1 Organic Tomato

¼ Organic Onion                  

1 Clove Garlic

Fresh Cilantro

 

For preparation, I mash up the avocados and run the rest of the ingredients through my juicer using the non-filtering attachment.  I then add it to the avocados for fresh, delicious guacamole. 

 

I bought T. Marzetti ready-made guacamole from the produce section of the grocery store.  This was the only option available at the store.  The ingredients were:

 

Soybean oil, sour cream (cream, modified corn starch, gelatin, lactic, acid, guar gum, mono and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate added as preservatives, disodium phosphate, citric acid, artificial flavor), green chili peppers, water, tomatoes and tomato juice, avocado, egg yolk, distilled vinegar, sugar, salt, dehydrated onion, spices, dehydrated tomato, modified corn starch, monosodium glutamate, xanthan gum, mustard seed, caramel color, citric acid, natural flavors, dehydrated garlic, yellow #5, calcium disodium EDTA added to protect flavor, blue #1.

 

I discovered that avocados were the 6th ingredient which I thought was unusual for a product based on avocados so I took another look at the label.  It actually said Guacamole Veggie Dip which explained the demotion of avocados down the ingredient list.  Also notable are the extensive list of additives, preservatives and other unnatural ingredients.

 

So now let’s look at the two from a health perspective.  Avocados have numerous health benefits.  You can see the nutrients in an avocado below.  They are considered a nutritionally dense food, meaning it gives you a lot of bang for your buck. 

The World’s Healthiest Foods  (para 2) http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5

 

Avocados sometimes get a bad rap because of their high fat content.  Typically the avocado contains 30 grams of fat but 20 of them come from monounsaturated fat (just like olive oil).  Monounsaturated fats have been shown to have many health benefits though I won’t go into all of them here. 

 

It is a shame that the Guacamole Dip I purchased at the store puts this superfood way below the #1 slot on the ingredient roster.  In addition to this unfortunate occurrence, the dip is also filled with non-nutritious and questionable ingredients.  I may go as far as to call them anti-nutrients. 

 

The first ingredient is soybean oil which, in doing much research, I feel is very detrimental to health.  Dr. Joseph Mercola (2008) describes these bad oils this way, “In my opinion, polyunsaturated oils, which include vegetable oils like corn, soy, safflower and canola, are the worst oils to cook with because of the trans-fatty acids introduced during the hydrogenation process, which results in increased dangers of chronic diseases such as breast cancer and heart disease.” (para 4)

 

Along with corn, soybeans are the most genetically modified food crop in the United States.  It often appears on food labels and in processed food because it is readily available and one of the more inexpensive oils.

 

The T. Marzetti dip also lists several other chemical ingredients including monosodium glutamate (MSG) which I will cover in later in this paper. 

 

Unfortunately, I cannot give my opinion as to the taste of the two items comparatively because I could not even bring myself to try the store-bought brand. 

 

There are other naturally processed options that could be a viable alternative to the conventionally processed guacamole.  One brand I looked at contained only Hass avocados and sodium benzoate (for freshness).  There was even an organic version of the same product.  For people looking for a slightly faster preparation, this would be a possible option.  However, it is very important to read the ingredient label.     

 

Chili

 

My homemade recipe:

 

1 lb grass fed beef or bison

1 small organic onion

1 can organic crushed tomatoes

1 can organic kidney beans

1-2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

½ – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 chipolte peppers, chopped  OPTIONAL

 

Brown ground beef in a large pot over med-high heat, using a wooden

spoon to break up the meat as it cooks. Drain off the fat and add the

chopped onion. Continue cooking (and stirring) until the onion is

translucent. Add the remaining ingredients (adjust spices to your

liking) and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to warm, cover and let it

simmer.

 

I purchased Bush’s Homestyle Chili which contained the following ingredients:

 

Diced tomatoes (tomatoes, tomato juice), water, seasoned ground beef (beef, salt, flavoring), pinto beans, kidney beans, onions, seasoning blend (chili pepper, enriched bleached wheat flour [wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid], salt, potassium chloride, spices, sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, jalapeno pepper, extractives of paprika, dextrose, natural flavor), tomato puree (water, tomato paste), green bell pepper, modified potato starch, pepper sauce (vinegar, red pepper, salt).

 

This is a recipe that I make very often.  It is very easy, uses ingredients I typically have on hand, and tastes great.  Although I was glad to see that there weren’t as many additives and chemical names on the label of the store-bought brand, there were a couple of things that stood out to me.  1)  the ground beef (see below), 2) the words “seasoned” and “flavoring”  What are these seasonings? What are these flavorings?  Unfortunately the FDA allows companies to list ingredients under common names which can sometimes hide the true ingredient.  (for example, MSG can be lumped under “flavors”, “natural flavors”, etc) Whenever I see things like this on the label I have to wonder “what are they hiding?”  3) modified potato starch – this often means that it contains monosodium glutamate and finally 4) sugar- it seems that food manufacturers sneak in sugar in just about everything.  The health detriments from sugar are numerous and extreme.  It seems that we cannot avoid it, even in a savory dish like chili. 

 

The main ingredient I wish to discuss here is the quality of the beef used in the homemade versus store bought chili.  Cows were designed to graze pastures and eat grass.  Although most Americans know this, they do not make the correlation between this natural state and the fact that the beef they eat is not grass fed but grain fed.  This could be a whole research paper on it’s own but it is my intention to try to relay the information I have learned in a way that will elicit others to go and research on their own. 

 

So the food that the cow eats results in the overall health of the cow.  I’ll start with the beef most Americans eat today.  Today’s cows are typically raised in a giant feed lot where the animals are crammed so tightly they are barely able to turn around.  The typical feed contains things like:  hay, corn, barley, processed grain by-products, rendered animal products (i.e. other dead animal parts/pieces), animal waste, restaurant waste, antibiotics, etc.   See the Table 1 attached at the end of this report.

 

Because the cows are not being fed their normal diet, their body composition changes.  This results in several problems which include, but are not limited to, a sickly cow that requires the frequent (often constant) use of antibiotics just to keep it alive, a food product that is deficient in many nutrients normally present in a grass fed cow, and an unbalanced ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fats which is normally balanced.

 

So now let’s switch to the differences and benefits of eating grass fed beef. 

These types of cows are raised humanely and naturally, roaming the pastures, grazing on grass that has not been sprayed with pesticides, and are healthy animals.  Here is a summary of the benefits of grass fed beef as obtained from www.eatwild.com (2008).

 

  • Lower in Fat and Calories- grass fed beef is leaner than grain fed beef resulting in fewer overall calories.

 

  • Has more Omega-3’s- grass fed beef can contain up to 4 times as much omega-3 fats (these are considered the “good” fats and are essential for every cell and system in the body).  Omega-3’s have proven heart benefits, lowers blood pressure, have a positive effect on the brain (helps with depression, hyperactivity, Alzheimer’s, etc.), aids in weight loss, and helps prevent cancer. 

 

  • The richest known source of CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) which has shown a dramatic impact on cancer prevention.  Grass fed beef has 3-5 times more CLA than the conventionally fed cow. 

 

  • Vitamin E (which is a powerful antioxidant)- grass fed beef is 4 times higher in this important vitamin that many Americans are deficient in.   

 

  • Purchasing and eating grass fed beef is not only good for your health, it supports local farms and farmers, is more humane, and is better for the environment.

 

Also important to note is my use of organic tomatoes.  It is widely known that conventional tomatoes contain pesticides that can be harmful to our health.  Pesticides have been associated with short term problems like nausea, vomiting, breathing problems, and headaches and longer term problems like allergies, cancer, reproductive problems, etc. 

 

I did find some more natural products at Whole Foods that contained more natural ingredients without some of the additives and preservatives.  However, all of them were still made with conventionally processed meats (i.e. grain fed beef).  Based on the benefits of grass-fed beef, I feel that the homemade version is the only healthy option. 

 

Chicken Soup

 

The third item that was randomly selected was chicken soup.  This is another favorite of mine.  It takes a fairly long time to cook but it is basically just simmering and cooling time.  The rest is very easy.

 

Here is the homemade recipe:

 

1 whole free-range organic chicken

2 quarts organic/homemade chicken broth or filtered water

1 large organic onion

1 organic tomato

1 bunch fresh parsley

5-6 stalks of organic celery (leaves included)

6-8 organic carrots

Sea salt and pepper to taste

OPTIONAL  Whole Wheat Noodles

 

Put everything except carrots into a large stock pot and boil 3-4 hours.  Remove chicken and pull off meat.  Strain broth mixture over a screen colander to remove any skin, loose bones, celery leaves, etc.  Put strained broth back into stock pot with separated chicken.  Add carrots and cook another 30 minutes or until carrots are finished.  Let cool in the refrigerator or other cool place until fat rises to the top.  Skim fat off with a spoon and reheat soup to serve. 

 

Cook noodles and put into a bowl.  Pour soup over noodles.

 

Here are the ingredients from an American favorite, Campell’s Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup. 

 

Chicken stock, enriched egg noodles (wheat four, egg solids, egg white solids, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), cooked chicken meat, water, carrots, contains less than 2% of the following ingredients:  salt, chicken fat, modified food starch, celery, monosodium glutamate, yeast extract, onion powder, vegetable oil, beta carotene for color, dehydrated parsley, soy protein isolate, sodium phosphates, chicken flavor (contains chicken stock, chicken powder, chicken fat), dehydrated garlic, spice extract.

 

Again, the home made soup contains all natural ingredients, no preservatives, no additives, and no harmful compounds.  If the long cooking time is a concern, it can be simmered overnight, cooled during the day, and skimmed before re-heating to serve.  It can also be frozen (without the noodles) and defrosted right in the saucepan.  This is a very healthy soup because is contains chicken which is a good source of protein and vegetables which are a good source of vitamins and minerals. The nutrients from the vegetables stay right in the pot. 

 

The Campbell’s soup, while convenient, has cons that far outweigh any gain in preparation time.  As mentioned in the grass fed beef section, conventionally raised and processed chicken contains antibiotic residues, hormones, pesticides from the chicken feed, etc.  An organic, free range chicken has not been altered from it’s intended form.  The conventionally processed soup is often criticized for it’s high sodium content but I feel that more alarming than that is the additives that appear on the label.  In particular, monosodium glutamate is listed as it is in most soups and processed foods.  It is a flavor enhancer which helps the food manufacturers sell products but it has many insidious health consequences.

 

“MSG has now been implicated in a number of the neurodegenerative diseases, including ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Huntington’s disease.”  Jack Samuels (2008, para 9) 

 

MSG is a know allergen with detrimental effects.  It is an excitotoxin- a substance that causes the cells of the brain to become overstimulated and possibly die.  It is known to cause immediate reactions like seizures, allergic reactions, migraines, hyperactivity, etc.  However, many of the effects of this additive are cumulative and may not be noticed right away.  Mark Gold relayed on his online article that Dr. Russell Blalock, author of “Excitotoxins- The Taste That Kills” estimates that 80% or more of the neurons in a concentrated area of the brain have to be killed before any clinical symptoms occur.   

 

My own father had a severe reaction to MSG at a restaurant.  Within minutes, he collapsed to the floor, stopped breathing, and suffered heart palpitations.  He was rushed by ambulance to the hospital where he was brought back around.  The doctors were able to link his condition back to MSG.  That is an extreme reactive example but imagine what this harmful substance can do over time.  And it is in almost everything.  The tricky part about it is that food manufacturers have found ways to list MSG under other names. 

 

Below is an excerpt from “Excitotoxins – The Taste That Kills” by Russell Blalock as included in the article Monosodium Glutamate by Mark Gold (5/8/95)
 
Additives that always contain MSG:
 
        - Monosodium Glutamate
        - Potassium Glutamate
        - Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)*
        - Hydrolyzed Protein*
        - Hydrolyzed Plant Protein*
        - Hydrolyzed [Anything else]*
        - Plant Protein Extract
        - Sodium Caseinate
        - Calcium Caseinate
        - Yeast Extract
        - Textured Protein
        - Autolyzed Yeast
        - Hydrolyzed Oat Flour

 

Additives that frequently contain MSG*:
 
        - Malt extract
        - Malt Flavoring
        - Bouillon
        - Broth
        - Stock
        - Flavoring
        - Natural Flavoring
        - Natural Beef or Chiken Flavoring
        - Seasoning
        - Spices
 
        [* Often have between 30% and 60% MSG when it is added.]
 
        Additives that may contain MSG or excitotoxins
 
        - Carrageenan
        - Enzymes
        - Soy Protein Concentrate
        - Soy Protein Isolate
        - Whey Protein Concentrate
 
    Accent is a trade name for a common MSG seasoning.

 

Eating this type of soup may taste good but it is pretty clear that it is not healthy in terms of nutrition or taste.  I don’t think anyone could argue that it would compare to home made soup.  It is also clear that we eat is because of it’s convenience and because we are not educated as to what it actually contains.  We assume that the food manufacturers and government agencies (like the FDA) are protecting us but that is very far from reality.

 

Several organic, natural soups are available at health food stores like Whole Foods so this does give consumers some feasible options for healthy soups.  However, I did find (even in the health food stores), several soups that still contained MSG or it’s derivatives.  Again, it is important to stress that people must read and understand the food labels. 

 

 

 

 

Discussion

 

My takeaways from this project are fairly close to what I expected.  I have been eating a more holistic diet for about 3 ½ years so I had a good understanding of what harmful ingredients are in our food supply.  This project reinforced my commitment to purchasing, preparing, and eating natural foods.  It is apparent that the nutritional value of foods prepared with natural foods at home are much healthier that those that are processed.  The detrimental health consequences of eating processed foods far outweighs the slight difference in price and preparation time.  I consider food an investment in my future and I am willing to spend the extra time, money and effort to nourish my body. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 1

Animal feed ingredients that are legally used in U.S. animal feeds.a

Origin, raw material

Examples

Plant

Forage

Alfalfa meal and hay, Bermuda coastal grass hay, corn plant, and soybean hay

Grains

Barley, corn (organic and genetically modified), oats, rice, sorghum, and wheat

Plant protein products

Canola meal, cottonseed cakes and meals, peanut meal, safflower meal, and soybean (organic and genetically modified) feed and meal

Processed grain by-products

Distillers products, brewers dried grains, corn gluten, sorghum germ cake and meal, peanut skins, and wheat bran

Fruit and fruit by-products

Dried citrus pulp, apple pomace, and pectin pulp

Molasses

Beet, citrus, starch, and cane molasses

Miscellaneous

Almond hulls and ground shells, buckwheat hulls, legumes and their by-products, and other crop by-products

Animal

Rendered animal protein from the slaughter of food production animals and other animals

Meat meal, meat meal tankage, meat and bone meal, poultry meal, animal by-product meal, dried animal blood, blood meal, feather meal, egg-shell meal, hydrolyzed whole poultry, hydrolyzed hair, bone marrow, and animal digest from dead, dying, diseased, or disabled animals including deer and elk

Animal waste

Dried ruminant waste, dried swine waste, dried poultry litter, and undried processed animal waste products

Marine by-products

Fish meal, fish residue meal, crab meal, shrimp meal, fish oil, fish liver and glandular meal, and fish by-products

Dairy products

Dried cow milk, casein, whey products, and dried cheese

Mixed

Fats and oils

Animal fat, vegetable fat or oil, and hydrolyzed fats

Restaurant food waste

Edible food waste from restaurants, bakeries, and cafeterias

Contaminated/adulterated food

Food adulterated with rodent, roach, or bird excreta that has been heat treated to destroy pathogenic organisms

Other

Antibiotics

Tetracyclines, macrolides, fluoroquinolones, and streptogramins

By-products of drug manufacture

Spent mycelium and fermentation products

Arsenicals

Roxarsone and arsanilic acid

Other metal compounds

Copper compounds and metal amino acid complexes

Nonprotein nitrogen

Urea, ammonium chloride, and ammonium sulfate

Minerals

Bone charcoal, calcium carbonate, chalk rock, iron salts, magnesium salts, and oyster shell flour

Vitamins

Vitamins A, D, B12, E, niacin, and betaine

Direct-fed organisms

Aspergillis niger, Bacillus subtilis, Bifidobacterium animalis, Enterococcus faecium, and yeast

Flavors

Aloe vera gel concentrate, ginger, capsicum, and fennel

Enzymes

Phytase, cellulase, latase, lipase, pepsin, and catalase

Additives generally regarded as safe (GRAS)

Acetic acid, sulfuric acid, aluminum salts, dextrans, glycerin, beeswax, sorbitol, and riboflavin

Preservatives

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and sodium bisulfite

Nutraceuticals

Herbal and botanical products

Plastics

Polyethylene roughage replacement

aData adapted from AAFCO (2004).

Environ Health Perspect. 2007 May; 115(5): 663–670.

Published online 2007 February 8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.9760.

Copyright This is an Open Access article: verbatim copying and redistribution of this article are permitted in all media for any purpose, provided this notice is preserved along with the article’s original DOI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

 

The World’s Healthiest Foods  Avocados Retrieved March 3, 2008 from        http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5

 

Mercola and Droege (Oct. 15, 2003).  “Which Oils Should You Be Cooking With and Which Should You Avoid?”  Retrieved on Mar 3, 2008, from http://www.mercola.com/2003/oct/15/cooking_oil.htm   

 

Eat Wild (2008)  www.eatwild.com

 

Jack Samuels (2008) MSG Updates Retrieved on Mar 3, 2008 from http://www.westonaprice.org/msg/index.html

 

Mark Gold (May 8, 1995) Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) Retrieved on Mar 3, 2008 from http://www.holisticmed.com/msg/msg-mark.txt

 

AAFCO (2004)  aData adapted from AAFCO (2004), Environ Health Perspect. 2007 May; 115(5): 663–670. Published online 2007 February 8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.9760.  Retrieved on Mar 3, 2008

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