Nannette Ricaforte wants to know what’s in her food. Is that too much to ask?
Life’s defining moments often seem to take place inside a doctor’s office. One such moment revealed itself to me years ago when my doctor delivered a new diagnosis – hypertension. He might as well have told me that I had a bomb strapped to my body.
My doctor offered only one option – take a prescription drug to control my blood pressure. It wasn’t good enough for me because I was tired of friends and family whose motto was: “pop a pill and eat whatever you want.” No, thanks!
As a healthcare employee for over twenty years – specifically the pharmaceutical field – I knew better. I refused to take a pill that would solve one issue but cause others in its wake.
I bargained with my doctor who looked skeptical. I promised to alter my eating habits instead of popping a pill but he reminded me that genetics played a huge factor in my diagnosis. It was imperative that I lower my blood pressure as I was at risk for heart attacks and strokes.
“You’re a ticking time bomb and as a grandmother I would think you’d want to stick around for your granddaughter’s graduation. Take your prescription and come back to see me in one month.”
It was sage advice but determination fueled me. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle meant having optimal choices to take responsibility for my health.
I made radical changes to my diet and became hyper-vigilant in reading nutrition labels on every food item I purchased. Scouring the Internet led me to the DASH diet and I adhered to its eating plan as best I could. My preoccupation with nutrition labels became so infectious my 5-year-old granddaughter now announces the percentage of sodium on all labels.
The next time I visited my doctor my blood pressure was low – too low – and my doctor acquiesced in my madness to stop taking my hypertension drug. He stipulated one condition before he agreed and that was to read nutrition labels and eat clean the rest of my life.
I’ve come to depend on nutrition labels informing me of the ingredients in my food to keep myself on the straight and narrow path of proper nutrition. I was shocked to find the culprit of my hypertension – the “healthy” frozen meals I consumed during my lunch hour – contained excessive amounts of sodium.
Intensive research, altering my eating habits, exercise, and educating myself on nutrition labels were the ammunition I needed to control my blood pressure.
As a health conscious consumer I have a right to know the nutritional content in my food and whether it has been genetically modified. Gene splicing is used to modify the genetic code of food produced from plants, animals, and microbes by selectively introducing specific DNA segments.
Although there are opposing views to the potential health risks, safety, and long-term side effects that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have on humans, the lack of long-term safety studies sure isn’t reassuring.
One of my favorite foods is corn: cornbread, popcorn, corn-on-the-cob, etc. It shouldn’t surprise me that peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology released the only long-term feeding study conducted by a group of European scientists who discovered harmful health effects on rats that were fed Monsanto’s RoundUp-Ready corn.
The scientists’ two-year study revealed that rats fed GE corn and those whose water contained environmentally relevant levels of the herbicide RoundUp acquired 2 to 3 times more large tumors than the control group, females developed mammary and pituitary gland tumors, male rats also developed tumors but experienced serious kidney and liver damage; and premature death in males and females compared to those in the control group.
If I can’t buy corn that isn’t specifically labeled as pesticide/herbicide free or non-GMO then corn in its entirety will be eliminated from my diet.
What about the intense craving I have for sushi and the obsessive need to eat salmon sushi at least once a month? What if the sushi restaurant I frequented served genetically engineered (GE) salmon or “Frankenfish?” If the first approved “transgenic” animal entered our food supply there wouldn’t be a label informing consumers they were eating a modified fish.
I’m not naïve to think that I can avoid GMOs altogether, but I can try. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t ask the sushi chef if the salmon they’ve prepared was raised in overcrowded factory fish farms and fed on antibiotics. With the added concern of GMOs, monthly trips to my favorite sushi spots will cease.
I plan on living to 100-years-old, still active and volunteering for My Refuge House, instead of rotting in a recliner. I’d like to believe that by the time I reach such an age I’ll finally be given the right to know what was in my food. In this day and age, detailed food labels can be a matter of life and death. For this reason I believe they are worth fighting for.