Same-Same but Different: Not all food is what you think it is.
Claire - July 3, 2014
Sometimes, things appear to be the same thing but in reality they are vastly different. This can create so much confusion when trying to make decisions about the best ways to optimise your health, especially when the research does not make these distinctions. So here is my top 4 list of things that look the same, but are in fact completely different:
Himalayan/sea salt vs Regular table salt
Surely you can’t stuff up something as simple as salt right? Unfortunately, yes we can. Most of the salt you buy at the supermarket is almost purely sodium chloride (NaCl) with some added anti-clumping chemicals added. On the other hand, pure sea salt or Himalayan salt is almost completely sodium chloride as well, but contains up to 84 trace minerals.
Yes, these 2 products are almost identical yet one costs a bit more than the other, but the key to health is in that word “almost”. Many of these trace minerals are vital for health and wellbeing and we really only need a small amount of them, but there is a huge difference between getting a small amount and getting none at all. For example selenium is an essential trace element found in both Himalayan and sea salt. Selenium is known for its powerful cancer-fighting properties, it is needed for heart muscles to function properly, to ward off damage cause by mercury and recycle vitamin C in the brain as well as keeping your thyroid functioning and regulating your metabolism by promoting methylation. Selenium deficiency leads to lowered immunity, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer. All we need is just 60mcg per day. Every trace of it we get our bodies benefit* so having it make an appearance in our salt has amazing protective benefits to our health.
But selenium is just one of these 84 trace elements, I could have also written about the need for zinc, boron, copper, magnesium, manganese, iodine, chromium etc.
My personal favourite combination for adding healthy salt to our food is Himalayan salt with dulse flakes for added iodine and an extra mineral boost.
Unhomogenised milk vs homogenised milk
“Can you buy some not scary milk?” Was the request from my 14 year old step-son (sort of). What he meant was can I buy milk that is a completely consistent white fluid instead of one that was thick and creamy at the top and a little watery at the bottom. It is not his fault he was completely challenged by my purchase of unhomogenised milk, all he has ever known is that stuff we get for $1 a litre at the supermarket. So, why would I pay more than twice the price for something that the kids are hesitant to consume?
There is a huge difference between how your body deals with these two different types of milks and the results on your health can be astonishing, but first let’s look at the process of homogenisation. During homogenisation, the milk is pushed through a very fine membrane at high pressure. It is done to break up all the clumps of fatty cream and disperse them evenly through out the milk. In the process the proteins are also broken up into smaller proteins and some amino acids. The problem with breaking up theses milk proteins it that it means some of them can pass through the walls of the intestines and into the blood stream without being broken fully into their amino acid forms. This results in the body producing antibodies and inflammatory responses to protect itself against these free proteins. This can be a major contributing factor to health issues such as allergies, eczema, asthma and even mental health issues like ASD. Lite milk is even worse as it has added “milk solids” (read broken up proteins) to make it creamy unlike the watery almost blue looking skim milk of days past.
Even though they kind of look like the same product, not all milks are the same. I go for the “scary milk” at every opportunity.
Organic fruit and veg vs conventional fruit and veg
This is one the most people sort of get, but what they miss in the detail can make all the difference. Yes your organic fruit and veg don’t have the herbicides and pesticides sprayed all over them like your conventional fruit and veg, but there is another factor that is just as significant as the lack of serious toxins.
Growing your own organic fruit and veg can be really hard, most people who try it give up and either stop growing stuff or start spraying the bugs. The reason it can be so hard is that to have bug resistant plants, they actually need to be super healthy. This means they need their water, sun and nutritional requirements met and that is not always simple. But on the flip side, a plant that has all of those elements attended to, also grows fruits, roots and leaves with a higher density of nutrients. A small organic apple contains more vitamins and minerals than the largest of a conventionally grown apple, you need much less organic fruit and veg to get the nutrition you need.
Where possible, go organic. If it is not in your budget, have a look at lists like the “dirty dozen and clean 15″. For where you can save money and where organic is vital.
Grass-fed meat vs grain-fed meat
The difference between grass-fed and grain-fed meat is a bit like why you would choose organic fruit and veg. What you feed your food changes how nutrient dense it is going to be when it comes to you eating it. For an example lets compare 2 pigs. The first is kept in a shed with no natural light, is fed a diet of corn and other grains lives on a concrete floor and is watered from a trough. The second is outside in the elements, sun, rain, wind, mud, grass. He scavenges some food from the ground, roots, fruit that has fallen from trees, leaves, grass and even insects and small reptiles and he drinks from a stream.
The first is going to have very high levels of inflammation in his tissues, from his diet, from the stress of lack of freedom, from standing on a hard surface all the time. He is going to have a much much high white fat content from both his diet and being protected from the elements and his gut flora will be completely off from the lack of soil bacteria and a narrow refined diet. This pigs meat would be very high in Omega 6 fats and lacking in many nutrients.
The second pig will be high in omega 3 fats due to the more wild diet and drinking water, also much higher in brown fat and therefore increased levels of vitamin A. Actually the differences in the nutrients from each of these animals would be so vastly different they wouldn’t even taste the same even if they looked identical in the supermarket. The first pig would produce an inflammatory response in your body, where as the second would produce and anti-inflammatory response. This example is much more extreme than say a grass fed steak and a steak from a cow that spent 120 days being “finished” in a feed lot, but even then there is a significant difference.
Always go for the grass fed where possible.
These are just my top 4. There are many other examples of same-same but different, these include cacao vs cocoa, bread vs real sourdough, honey vs raw honey… The list goes on, but let’s start with these ones and see how your health changes.
*The upper limit for selenium is 400mcg per day, beyond this selenium becomes a toxin in the body. This can be said for many of these vital trace minerals. The easiest way to avoid toxic levels is to get you nutrients from real food sources, which rarely allow you to overdose.