Back To The Basics
● By Aimee Cormier
By Amanda Jean Harris / Submitted Photos
Gluten free. Farm raised. Organic. Grass fed. It can all sound like a jumble of hype to spend more money on food. Something new. A buzzword. A fad. A trend at the grocery store. But, the truth is that these very terms that seem trendy may just be as retro as it gets.
“Generations before us were eating clean food and fermenting — the way people preserved food back then was a natural probiotic,” says chef and farmer Molly Clayton of Bon Vie Kitchen. “All those things we stopped doing actually helped us to stay really healthy.”
Getting healthy is at the cornerstone of Clayton’s endeavor into farming and eating organic, grass fed, truly local and farm-raised foods. The local chef has six children, including one daughter who as a toddler was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder — vitiligo, which causes the pigment in skin to eventually be gone completely. She began searching for reasons why and found a new medicine — food.
At the time she had a food truck and as she began searching and changing the diet of her family she realized it was time to serve her customers the same thing. Cut to a few years later and a family farm that includes chicken and Berkshire hogs among other farm-raised products. They utilize other local farmers they know and trust and sell frozen meals through their website and at Top’s Appliances — including an auto-immune diet plan formed with dietician Daphne Olivier.
Farm To Label
Farm raised foods are just one of the buzzwords that fills nearly every grocery store. And, it’s a meaningless label when it comes to measuring the quality of an item. In Clayton’s case, she knows for a fact her animals haven’t been injected with antibiotics or fed grains that make them unhealthy. But, there is no regulation for the term “farm raised” and a “farm” could easily be a place where a chicken has never seen the light of day or is given hormones and antibiotics.
“Everything is raised on a farm. It doesn’t mean anything unless you know the farm it’s coming from,” says Tanya Campbell.
The founder of Green Mom in Lafayette began her own journey to eating truly farm raised, organic, gluten free when her son became sick years ago. Campbell and her two sons eat only eggs and meat that are 100 percent grass fed, they eat gluten free and only raw organic dairy. A farmer she knows and trusts raises all produce they consume if not they are not certified or are labeled organic.
Campbell, an occupational therapist, began her quest when her child faced chronic eczema and digestive problems. When the pediatrician said meds were in order, she began looking for a source to the problem and a solution that didn’t include a prescription. She says she found it in their diet.
“There were nights I had to leave my computer and pace the floors so angry at what I thought was ok to eat and what was safe,” she says. “I learned about GMOs and about seed lots and horrors of drinking conventional milk. A year and a half into it we were hardcore and now it’s just a lifestyle. It was not an easy task. It was for medicine and for my child. But I was also having chronic yeast infections and allergies as a kid. Me doing the diet along with my children, all my issues have gone away.”
While each of these terms certainly has its own meaning — gluten free, farm raised, organic, grass fed — they are difficult to separate in terms of how many people that do one of these in their diet usually begin doing the others.
In the simplest terms in the words of dietician Jennifer Jackson of Keystone Nutrition — “it’s all good stuff.”
The Full Shebang
The sticking point, however, often comes with pulling off the full shebang whether it’s a matter of convenience or cost.
“Not everyone can go to Whole Foods and make sure everything is organic,” Jackson says. “Yes, over time you will have benefits. But, realistically it’s difficult to do 100 percent of the time.”
Jackson says as the New Year hits people go overboard with diets, including trying to do an entire overhaul all at once only to find it too challenging and give up all together. Instead, start with one thing or begin first with eliminating artificial foods even if they aren’t all 100 percent organic.
The point is to start somewhere.
“Grass fed meat and eliminating as many artificial things as you can. Hormones are a big thing. Fast food — you’re going to pay for it in the long run. People spend $100 a month on medicine and you can get a gym membership for cheaper than that and get off your medicine,” Jackson says.
Gluten Be Gone
While gluten free is likely the trendiest of the bunch, it’s not less valid. People with Celiac disease were long thought the only ones to benefit from eliminating the element found in most grains (chief among them wheat).
“In the beginning gluten free was a buzzword and now people are seeing the healthy benefits,” Jackson says.
While weight loss was one of the reasons many people likely endeavored to banish gluten, the reality is that for some people going gluten free is its own kind of medicine — especially when dealing with any issues of inflammation. Going gluten free was the first step for Campbell.
“Wheat and grains are adulterated,” Campbell says pointing to the reality that the grains we eat now are not the grains our parents and especially our grandparents enjoyed. Thanks to genetic modification and pesticides, many grains have changed tremendously, which is why many people believe fewer and fewer people are able to tolerate them.
“My mom gave me mac ‘n’ cheese in a box. It’s not the same box of macaroni and cheese that it was in 1974,” Campbell says. “In the 1980s things that were never tested were dumped into our food. Hundreds of chemicals that were never tested and are now found in nearly every box of food. When our parents and I ate it we were fine.”
While starting somewhere can be overwhelming, a good place to go is eliminating GMOs — Genetically Modified Organisms — entirely or even starting with the annual Dirty Dozen List that includes the most pesticide-laden or modified produce items.
“Some people may never do this 100 percent. But they can start doing something even a little bit different,” Campbell says.
For both Campbell and Clayton doing the full 100 percent has been well worth it, even if not always easy. Clayton’s animals are out in the sun eating healthy food, which produces a healthy product. Even her pork. She eats two whole eggs from her farm every morning fried in lard from the healthy pigs she raises. Her cholesterol has dropped 40 points.
“I was going to figure out why my 3-year-old’s body was fighting itself and we made an autoimmune protocol of 21 meals and the response from that has been so unbelievable. In my daughter I have seen a difference and she is starting to repigment. Our doctor couldn’t believe it. There is no cure for vitiligo. The dermatologist said the same thing. It’s autoimmune and you are able to stop your body if you get serious about nutrition. It’s healing yourself from the inside out. It’s getting back to the basics. It’s knowing what your animals are eating and making sure they are well taken care of and it starts there. The number one thing is if you can’t pronounce it, think twice about eating it.”
What’s In A Name?
In the world of food, a label may mean a lot … or nothing at all. We’ll break it down for you.
The USDA Organic label means an item must have 95 percent or greater certified organic makeup meaning the organic portion must be free of synthetic additives including pesticides, chemical fertilizers and dyes and cannot be processed using industrial solvents. Farms are inspected annually to determine if they truly meet a laundry list of requirements for the organic label related to everything from soil quality and crop health to animal-raising practices.
A farm raised label carries no meaning or formal regulation. A “farm” could include an environment that is not natural for animals (like a dark chicken house) and uses pesticides, antibiotics or hormones. The term farm raised is only as valuable as the quality of the actual farm.
Gluten free items contain no element of the protein gluten that gives elasticity to the dough of certain grains. The following grains contain gluten: wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, bulgur. Gluten can also be found at times in soy sauce, spice mixes, salad dressings, veggie burgers, barley malt, chicken broth or malt vinegar. Those with Celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten and have long term effects without a strict gluten-free diet. Gluten can also cause inflammation and maintaining a gluten-free diet has proven beneficial for those with auto-immune disorders as well.
Grass fed animals are quite simply fed grass. This is a relevant label as the way an animal is fed and treated impacts greatly the health of the meat and therefore the health of what we consume. Conventional animals are fed grains (not their natural diet of grass) to cause rapid weight gain and some are given hormones to grow faster along with antibiotics to combat disease in unsanitary and confined living conditions. The results impact the nutrients of the animal. Some studies show grass-fed beef contains up to five times more Omega-3 than grain-fed, as well as beneficial vitamins like Vitamins A, E and more micronutrients like potassium, iron and zinc.
The More You Know
For a list of local spots for buying healthy foods and great resources and educational items check out greenmom-lafette.com.