Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Corn, corn and corn

If you’re not a paranoid, label-reading grocery shopper already, take this challenge: Go into your refrigerator, your pantry, your cupboards and look at how many of the items that you eat have corn (or high fructose corn syrup, or corn-fed beed – which almost all beef is these days) as an ingredient. A few days ago, Rob and I finally got around to watching "King Corn," a documentary that aired last week on PBS’s “Independent Lens” series, after I’d been enticed to see the film by an interview I heard with the filmmakers on NPR. The documentary follows two recent college grads who learn that the carbon in their hair indicates that their diet is comprised largely of corn and who become inspired to go rent and plant an acre of corn on an Iowa farm and then follow its journey from “seed to feed.”

The saddest thing, of course, is the role the U.S. government has played in subsidizing the mass production of corn, sacrificing human health and agricultural diversity in the interest of producing cheap food.

So here’s to community-supported (and sustainable) agriculture, grass-fed beef, honey bees, 100-percent juices and plain old tap water.

If you missed the film on PBS, it's available on Netflix. And you can watch a preview here.

Here’s a quote from the filmmaker, Aaron Woolf:

“I feel that the seeds of an improved food economy and food culture will come from forging reconnections everywhere––between farmers and consumers at produce markets and in CSA subscription farms; between constituents and legislators collaborating on an agricultural policy that makes us healthy; between eaters and the food we eat. I hope KING CORN can be a small part of helping these conversations and connections grow."


Dana said...

There is a rising awareness of the perversion of so many of the foods that we eat and that we feed our children. I have been learning and becoming more aware lately in particular about refined sugar and of course the chemical BPA which has been in the news so much lately. It is my hope and prayer that this awareness will be translated into change! I am convinced that these perversions of food are closely linked to the dramatic increase in cancer, allergies and other medical conditions.

I recently did some research about sugar. I'm convinced that it's still better than artificial sugar, but I was greatly disturbed by what I learned, especially considering the widespread use and consumption of refined sugar. It is actually 'anti-nutritional'! When we consume it our body's stores of vitamins and minerals are are depleted rather than boosted.

Here's an exerpt from a blog entry I did on sugar

"Vitality talks about what the term "refined sugar" means:

When raw sugar is refined, a lot of the minerals are lost, including 93% of the chromium, 98% of the zinc and magnesium. Even more minerals are lost when wheat is refined to make white flour, including 88% of the manganese, 87% of the chromium, 77% of the potassium and 60% of the calcium. Refined sugar and flour are also lacking in vitamins. A number of these lost vitamins and minerals are actually needed by the body to turn these foods into energy."

shannon said...

There's a slow-food event at the Glover Farm in Douglasville, GA this Sunday starting at 5 pm. The Slow Food Atlanta Group has put together this dinner at the farm to benefit small farmers in Georgia. As I understand, the proceeds will send these farmers to Italy where the Slow Food Conference is held every other year. Tickets are $45. You can learn more about it at I'll be there!

Annie Addington said...

Thank you for bringing up the problems with sugar. I was too busy hating corn syrup in this post (in fact I just edited it so that I'm no longer lauding "old fasioned sugar" -- now that I think about it, maybe maple syrup is the real old fashioned sugar?). If I see sugar in a product like cereal or bread instead of high-fructose corn syrup it makes me feel slightly better about the product (even more so if it's brown sugar or honey doing the sweetening). But you're right that refined sugar's something to be wary of too -- at least I can't take much of it at a time without getting wired and feeling crappy. I found it's easy to keep sugar intake low for kids just by getting them used to lightly sweetened fare. We cut the white sugar in half when we make homemade oatmeal cookies (and use the called-for amount of brown sugar). And since storebought yogurts are loaded with sugar, I mix several spoonfuls of plain yogurt with just a couple of fruity yogurt and that's plenty sweet for Will's tastes and mine too. For Owen, I mix homemade whole milk yogurt with a spoonful of baby peaches for sweetener.
Of course maple sugar and honey are good options. But what do you know about brown sugar -- maybe it's not that much better than refined white??
And I'm glad you're going to the slow food dinner, Shannon. I'll be out of town but I want to learn more about it.

Dana said...

While unrefined brown sugar is available, I believe that most brown sugar is simply refined white table sugar with between 3.5-6.5% molasses added. Which makes it only marginally less unhealthy than refined sugar.

Natural unrefined sugars include maple syrup (be careful which brand you choose as some contain formaldehyde), raw honey and dehydrated cane sugar. This is available commercially as Rapadura by Rapunzel. Here in Mexico I buy it as "piloncillo".