With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people are taking a more active interest in their health. This is manifesting itself in the following ways – greater focus on weight loss, regular exercise, reduced alcohol and/or tobacco intake, engagement in mindfulness or meditation, and of course, more consciousness around the food one eats.
Regarding the latter, there are two steps to which everyone can easily subscribe. First, reduce processed foods in your diet and, second, become familiar with the market where you buy your fish, seafood and meats.
If food comes in a box, a can, or the grocer’s freezer case, read the ingredients – typically, there is a list of unintelligible multi-syllabic words. If that’s the case, set it back down. Almost any food prepared from fresh ingredients (even pizza!) is intrinsically better for your health than “food” with added chemicals such as flavorings, stabilizers or preservatives.
Create a relationship with your butcher and fishmonger. Ask where the fish is sourced. Ask if it is wild or farmed – there are numerous clean fish farms out there now. Ask whether it is fresh or has ever been frozen. Just like fruits and vegetables, many fish are seasonal. Become educated and buy the fish that is in season, as it will likely be fresher and more affordable.
By far, the majority of shellfish (crabmeat and shrimp) comes from the Far East – China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia or the Philippines. Who would argue that it makes more sense to source your shellfish from this hemisphere where you don’t have to worry about the quality of the water, the processing methods, or supporting abusive child labor practices? Make a habit of asking where your shrimp and crabmeat are sourced.
A relationship with your butcher is perhaps even more important. Ninety-nine percent of the beef and pork raised in this country comes from concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. As part of this process, the adult animals are packed together in enclosed spaces, fed a variety of grains – which they wouldn’t eat in nature – and administered growth hormones and antibiotics.
Also, be wary when buying beef labeled ‘grass-fed’. All cattle are grass-fed in their youth, until they are shipped off to the feedlots to be fattened up. Unfortunately, for the consumer, few retailers make this distinction and the use of the word grass-fed is widely abused. As is the case with ‘free range’ chicken.
Chickens are by nature flocking animals and the words free range mean little to nothing. Confined to small spaces inside barns, which can contain 100,000 birds, they are allowed access to a number of doors leading outdoors. Taken literally, they are “free to range”. The problem is they don’t. They take a few steps outside the barn, feel uncomfortable with being alone, and run back inside to be with the others. Look for ‘pasture raised’ instead. As we navigate these times, take these two easy steps to help improve your health and that of your family for the long term.