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Not surprisingly, we regularly talk to Clients about their diet and the impact it may be having on their health generally – or a particular issue. To us, much of our advice comes under the “common sense” heading, although it’s amazing – to us at least (!) – how often it comes as a complete revelation to other people… 
This means we’ve learnt to be much more specific on what does – and definitely does not (!) – tick the “healthy diet” boxes. We did a slightly tongue in cheek reminder about this a while ago, it can be found here
Having said that, things are constantly changing and there are some foods which would have previously ticked the “healthy diet” boxes but do not do so now. And there’s a very simple reason for this. It’s all to do with how they’re produced – and processed – which is very different to how this would have been done in the past. 
An easy example of this is wheat, which is a completely different plant, farmed in a very different way to that available 50 years ago, let alone any longer ago. This, in turn, affects both its quality and nutritional value, as well as the products then made using its flour. Again, we’ve written about this before and the posts can be found here and here
Interestingly, while Clients find this easy to understand with fruit and vegetables, they often don’t seem to realise that exactly the same applies to animal based foods. While they may like to think of them living out in the fields or in traditional farms, sadly, in the vast majority of cases the reality is very different. Intensively reared, spending their short lives indoors and eating food very different to that they would naturally eat. 
And it’s this we’re going to talk about today. Just as the soil on which plants are grown affects their nutritional value, so does the food an animal eats – and that’s without taking any other factors into account. All of these, in turn, determine the quality and nutritional value we derive from the end product. 
Animals living outside, grazing on pasture – or rootling around – provide very different meat – eggs or milk – to those kept inside and fed on commercial feed. Not only do they mature at a much slower rate, but the end product is very different in terms of quality and nutritional content. And, yes, we know that many people don’t want to think about this… 
In particular, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that commercial feed itself may have affects beyond helping animals mature more quickly and so be ready for market earlier. It actually changes the quality and nutritional value of the end product. 
An example of this are the high levels of grains and seed oils which many commercial feeds now contain. Not only do these help keep the cost of the feed down but, just as important, are aimed at helping animals put on weight more quickly. Unfortunately, this changes the nutritional profile of the end product which is also likely to contain more fat, particularly Omega 3, which comes from seed oils. In addition, research is now indicating that the change in the animal’s diet towards foods it wouldn’t naturally eat – and so find more difficult digest – may, indirectly, be another factor driving increasing rates of food sensitivities / intolerances further up the food chain. In other words, with us. 
Sadly, these changes are all too often driven by simple economics rather than anything else. How quickly – and cost effectively – will the product be ready for market… 
Chicken is an example of this, traditionally thought of as healthy, low fat, meat which was also easily digestible. These days its intensive production produces a much more fatty meat – just look at how much fat comes off it when cooked – with many people finding it now triggers digestive issues and sensitivities. 
Not surprisingly, similar comments apply to eggs. Traditionally high in Omega 6, the balance is increasingly shifting away to being high in Omega 3, again due to the seed oils contained in commercial feed. We’ve written about vegetable and seed oils before and why the balance between the different Omegas is so important, not to mention the dreaded Linoleic Acid. The posts can be found here and here
Now here’s one food you may not have considered. Farmed fish, particularly salmon, which is now a far less healthy option. The environmental cost of farmed fish is high, ranging from water pollution to the decimation of wild stocks in the vicinity. This is without the impact on the fish themselves, intensively reared in stressful conditions, with their natural diet being replaced by a completely different one high in grains and seed oils. Again, the effects of this can be seen in the fat produced during cooking. 
So where are we going with this? 
Well, once again, it’s about doing a little research of your own before making any purchase and not listening to the hype. Sadly, it’s not just about the food itself but how it was produced. The price is always a giveaway (!) and labels such as grass fed, free range, organic all show you’re heading in the right direction. Remember that just because a food was considered a “healthy option” in the past, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is now. 
And if you’re thinking this sounds like too much work, not to mention expense, it doesn’t. Good quality food means better nutrition, so your body needs smaller quantities of it to get the nutrition it needs. It also easily addresses one very simple – and often overlooked – reason for over eating. Poor quality food. In other words, our bodies requiring larger quantities of lower quality foods to get the nutrition they need. It’s also the reason why these foods aren’t filling and you find yourself reaching for the next snack or meal so quickly. In all aspects of life – not just food (!) – quality wins every time. 
As always, the choice is yours. 
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