We love food and eat lots of it but it has to be quality food! We tend not to place ourselves in a specific category when it comes to diet. The way we eat includes bits and pieces of many different diets and lifestyles: paleo, low carb – high fat, vegan, intermittent fasting… There are so many varieties and I am a firm believer of the fact that any diet can be practiced in both a healthy and an unhealthy way. It depends on the way you are doing it, how you feel about it and the quality of your ingredients. That’s why we prefer to call ourselves “qualitarians”.
As qualitarians we focus on the quality of the food we eat and make sure to always opt for the best quality available when ordering at a restaurant or shopping in the supermarket. Of course we also have a philosophy around food that we think is the most beneficial way for us to eat, which impacts every meal we eat. Check out our post How and why we live an anti-inflammatory lifestyle if you want to know more about how and why we have chosen this quality lifestyle.
Why quality matters…
So what is quality food? Well, to us qualitarians, it means as nutrient dense, clean and beneficial for our bodies as possible. It means fruits and vegetables free from chemicals and as locally grown as possible (the longer the gap between picking and eating, the less nutrients provided). It means meat and eggs from happy animals, free from hormones, antibiotics and other growth stimulating injections. It also means avoiding genetically modified crops like soy, corn, wheat etc. For more information on this check out our post on Why we don’t eat wheat. It means not going for the processed food with a long list of ingredients and additives we have never heard of. You get the picture, right?
It’s about choosing the best sources of food available and not compromising on quality by having what everyone else is having, what is convenient or what is cheapest. To us it is an investment in both our short-term health (mood, energy and how we feel every day) and our future long-term health, a life free from disease.
As mentioned above, I think every diet can be practiced in both a healthy and unhealthy way. For instance, imagine a vegetarian or vegan diet full of vegetables sprayed with all sorts of chemicals, lots of bread from GMO wheat and pre-cooked and processed food (these tend to be high in salt, sugar and additives). There is no doubt in our minds that this will have negative implications on our health, both in the short and the long run. This is also likely to be true if you eat a paleo or low carb diet including meat or dairy full of antibiotics and hormones. I don’t see how eating meat from sick animals can do anything but a disservice to the consumer, most likely creating inflammation in our bodies. Although if done with the right intentions and good quality ingredients, these diets can be wonderful in improving someone’s health.
The chart below by non-profit organization Mother Jones shows the use of antibiotic treatment in animals in the EU, US, Australia and New Zealand. They also note that animals in the US consume more than twice as much antibiotics as humans. If you want to see a global map of the use of antibiotics in animals, have a look at The Resistance Map by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy.
What your food eats…
As qualitarians we also go one level deeper than just focusing on what’s on our plate. Have you ever thought about what food your food is eating? Did I lose you there..? Well, you can get a very different piece of beef depending on what that cow has been fed. It really impacts the nutritional values of the end product. If an animal is fed junk food it will become junk food, as simple as that. This goes for fish too, just as much as cattle.
Let’s say a cow has been fed a diet rich in grains like soy and corn (subsidized and cheap grains), not only will they most likely be consuming GMO grains (which are messing with their bodies) and who knows what pesticides, but they will also have a much higher ratio of Omega 6 in them. Why is this bad? Well, to avoid inflammation in our bodies we need the right balance between the Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. We need both of them, but these days we tend to get overwhelmed with the Omega 6 fats as we eat a lot of grains, vegetable oils and very little Omega 3 fats from fatty fish etc. This is definitely creating inflammation in our bodies, which research suggests is linked to diseases like cancer.
So whilst the industry might like the fact that the cattle grow fatter and quicker on grains, which provides more profits for the farmer and cheaper meat for the consumer, it might just be a sign of inflammation in these animals. Additionally, the grain-fed animals tend to be cramped together in tighter spaces where diseases spread more easily, meaning that these animals are more likely to have been given antibiotics etc. This impacts the meat just as much as the dairy products!
If a cow instead has been raised on pasture, mostly eating grass and herbs (like cows are supposed to), they will be leaner and healthier. Their meat will be higher in nutrients like antioxidants, minerals and vitamins and also naturally higher in the healthy Omega 3 fat. As they move around on larger fields they are healthier and less likely to catch a disease. This also means, and research supports this, that eating grass-fed meat decreases your risk of food poisoning and results in fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria ending up in your body.
Unfortunately the same goes for fish. Most farmed fish is not eating what a fish is designed to eat, they are sadly also being fed soy and corn, along with chemicals and additives that for instance are making the salmon more pink etc. Did you know that wild salmon is actually grey!?! So whilst fatty fish, like salmon, is supposed to be such a good source of Omega 3 fats, this is unfortunately no longer the case for farmed salmon. They are still fat (much fatter than wild salmon) but this is because they are fed grains, which don’t contain any Omega 3, but instead more of the inflammatory Omega 6. The fish food in many cases also comes from polluted waters which results in farmed salmon containing different kinds of chemicals and heavy metals.
So does it matter what your food is eating? Oh yes! We do not want to compromise on quality and volunteer as guinea pigs these days where food is becoming cheaper and cheaper every day and less “food-like”. I wish there wouldn’t be a need for the philosophy of qualitarians, but sadly these days there is.
Being qualitarians doesn’t mean we’re perfect
No one is perfect and we are certainly not. It is not an easy ride being qualitarians and always be thinking about what’s in this dish or where does this come from… But at least we try our best every day to make the choices that will keep us on the path towards long-term health. We know why we are doing it, it makes us feel good and we are convinced it will provide us with a longer, healthier and happier life!
You might have read Our guide to anti-inflammatory eating and this is what we are aiming for every day in terms of diet. Of course we sometimes make exceptions to our “rules” when eating out or with friends and family, but our philosophy of being qualitarians is always at the back of our minds. What is the best I can do for my body today in this meal? If I know they are serving industry produced chicken from the supermarket, I will focus on the side dishes and the salad instead. The quality of meat is something I rarely compromise on when eating out or travelling, then I would go for the vegetarian options instead as I know I will get the quality meat I want back home.
Sometimes we feel like having ice-cream (even though we avoid dairy on a daily basis) and on these occasions we would go for the best quality available, which mostly means the hand-made gelato, made with real ingredients and no additives. This is our mindset of being qualitarians.
Again, we don’t want to be the guinea pigs of this world. Even though they might claim that a single substance is “safe” for human consumption, no one has tested what happens when it is combined with that other substance or that chemical. No one knows what the “cocktail effect” of everything we are exposed to every day actually is doing to our bodies. You know the saying of how a sick person only has one wish… It is just not worth it.
Care for your body every day as this is the “house” you will be living in for the rest of your life. Let’s make health a priority now and every day. This is the only way you can truly live life on your terms!