Friday, January 23, 2009

Corn fed nation

I was talking to my friend Kramer at a friend's BBQ last week about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), government subsidizing of the corn industry in America, and how it has dominated the makeup of American food and negatively affects the health of Americans as a whole. It got me thinking... 
HFCS has been generating some negative publicity for some time now and subsequently many American food and beverage companies have had to replace it with another form of sweetener in order to avoid decreased sales. This is public knowledge at this point and I'd say avoiding HFCS has even become a trend in American dieting as of late, but what about corn in general? Is too much a bad thing? This was what I set out to learn.
Now I know it's healthy to have a balanced diet and that excessive amounts of anything (even corn) in one's diet can't be good for you which was one of the things that concerned me about my conversation with Kramer; the human digestive system probably isn't adjusted to breaking down as much corn as the average American is eating. So I decided to do a little bit of research when I got home to see just how much corn that really is. The results of my little research project were shocking. Not only did corn exist in my diet in high amounts, corn was in literally almost EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY GROCERIES in one form or another! Exceptions included water, cheese, and an avocado. My pasta, Tofurky slices, candy, iced tea, cereal, waffles, and whole wheat bread all contained corn-derived products. Even the almonds had hydrolyzed corn protein in the ingredients! Needless to say I was a little taken aback by all of this.
I did some more research and read up about it on the internet. It took some time but what I found was this: when we eat corn, we're essentially eating the seed of the corn plant, which is what the kernels are. Seeds are designed to remain intact as they pass through the digestive system of whatever eats them in order to be capable of germination once they reach the soil. The human digestive system isn't built to break down cellulose (which is what the outside of the kernel is made of), which is why it shows up in our stools after we eat it. The inside of the kernel is mostly made up of starch, sugar, and oil. Can you see now why Americans are so fat? This stuff clearly isn't helping. HFCS is especially hard for the body to break down and lives in the fatty tissue longer than other sweeteners (as if starch, sugar, and oil weren't fattening enough).
At this point you're either as shocked as I was, or this is already common knowledge to you; in which case you're probably saying to yourself, "that's really fascinating and all, Matt, but get to the damn point already!" The point is I've decided to abstain from all corn and corn derivatives for one week. Just to see if I can do it and what effects it will have on my lifestyle. Right now I'm finishing up day 2 and I have to say: this is HARD! I almost didn't make it through the first day because this stuff really is in everything! I had to end up buying all new groceries and spent hours reading ingredients at the grocery store, but here I am $80 later with more than enough food to finish out the week corn free. So far I've learned that by eliminating all corn from my diet I am forcing myself to eat healthier by default. I found myself having to buy many more whole foods and items from the health food aisle in order to avoid corn. And while I don't think anyone should go as extreme as to eliminate corn from their diet entirely, eliminating all processed food products containing corn is probably a step in the right direction.
So that's my update for now. Kind of a long post and probably boring for some but I am intrigued by learning new things like this and in all honesty I am kind of a nerd (I'm choosing to blog about this on a Friday night after all), so there you have it. Take that for what it is. 
Until next time, a slightly more self-educated Matt Wilson saying goodnight and thanks for reading.


actionxjackson said...

well done smalls, well done.

I heard you came into work the other day but I missed you apparently. that jen girl I work with said so.

every step is a reminder said...

i did! twice, actually! i'll catch ya one of these days...