I am a huge fan of Michael Pollan, the New York Times best selling author who, for the past twenty-five years has written about the places where nature and culture intersect. I am currently reading his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a brilliant read about the interaction between the food industry giants and what we eventually put in our mouths.
The opening chapters focus on corn. For background on why I no longer eat corn, please see my previous post here. In his book, Pollen explores in depth the inextricable link corn has to pretty much every food and food-related product. In turn, he demonstrates the disgustingly profound relationship corn has with the average American consumer.
I want to share an excerpt from the book with you as it really sets the scene for the reason why corn should be banished from the diet (as much as it can be avoided. As you read below, you will understand what I mean). Even if you avoid the plant itself, if you eat meat, dairy or basically any other food that is processed, in any way, shape or form, you will be consuming corn. I invite you to read on:
“Corn is what feeds the steer that becomes the steak. Corn feeds the chicken and the pig, the turkey and the lamb, the catfish and the tilapia and, increasingly, even the salmon, a carnivore by nature that the fish farmers are reengineering to tolerate corn. The eggs are made of corn. The milk and cheese and yoghurt, which once came from dairy cows that grazed on grass, now typically come from Holsteins that spend their working lives indoors tethered to machines, eating corn.
Head over to the processed foods and you will find even more intricate manifestations of corn. A chicken nugget, for example, piles corn upon corn: what chicken it contains consists of corn, of course, but so do most of a nugget’s other constituents, including the modified corn starch that glues the thing together, the corn flour in the batter that coats it, and the corn oil in which it gets fried. Much less obviously, the leavenings and lecithin, the mono-, di-, and triglycerides, the attractive golden colouring, and even the citric acid that keeps the nugget “fresh” can all be derived from corn.
To wash down your chicken nuggets with virtually any soft drink in the supermarket is to have some corn with your corn. Since the 1980s virtually all the sodas and most of the fruit drinks sold in the supermarket have been sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – after water, corn sweetener is their principle ingredient. Grab a beer for your beverage instead and you’ll still be drinking corn, in the form of alcohol fermented from glucose refined from corn. Read the ingredients on the label of any processed food and, provided you know the chemical names it travels under, corn is what you will find. For modified or un-modified starch, for glucose syrup and maltodextrin, for crystalline fructose and ascorbic acid, for lecithin and dextrose, lactic acid and lysine, for maltose and HFCS, for MSG and the polyols, for the caramel colour and xanthan gum, read: corn. Corn is the coffee whitener and Cheez Whiz, the frozen yoghurt and TV dinner, the canned fruit and ketchup and candies, the soups and snacks and cake mixes, the frosting and gravy and frozen waffles, the syrups and hot sauces, the mayonnaise and mustard, the hot dogs and the bologna, the margarine and shortning, the salad dressings and the relishes and even the vitamins (Yes, it’s in the Twinkie, too). There are some forty-five thousand items in the average American supermarket and more than a quarter of them now contain corn. This goes for non-food items as well – everything from the toothpaste and cosmetics to the disposable diapers, trash bags, cleaners, charcoal briquettes, matches, and batteries, right down to the shine on the cover of a magazine that catches your eye by the checkout: corn. Even in the Produce (section) on a day when there’s ostensibly no corn for sale you’ll nevertheless find plenty of corn: in the vegetable wax that gives the cucumbers their sheen, in the pesticides responsible for the produce’s perfection, even in the coating on the cardboard it was shipped in. Indeed, the supermarket itself - the wallboard and joint compound, the linoleum and fiberglass and adhesives out of which the building itself has been build – is in no small measure a manifestation of corn. And us?”
Disturbed yet? It is vital that you get educated about corn and try to rid it from your diet and household as much as you can. The best way you can do this is by eating fresh, organic vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds. Completely cut out processed food, refined sugars and wheats and reduce your intake of meats, even if lean cuts. Yes, corn is everywhere but these changes will at least minimise its impact on your body and health.