Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Food that will break your heart

As a high school student, I had the wonderful luxury of eating off campus for three years rather than eating in our school’s cafeteria. I know I know, this is definitely a shock to some of you but to others who enjoy the same privilege, you understand where I’m coming from. The freedom of forty minutes off campus during the school day was regularly too much for me to handle as well. I was left to the wolves a number of times by my teacher who commented on my profuse sweating after throwing the football in the parking lot in the sweltering heat. But it was worth it to me at the time because I could eat real burgers, not ones of a soy bean base. However, after being in college and enjoying a meal plan at a cafeteria that actually has healthy food, I started to wonder about the effects of eating at Wendy’s, King’s Bar-B-Q, Burger King, etc. will have on me down the road. All the recent talk about trans-fats and the banning of these in New York has made me realize that I was not very good to my body for three years of my life. All those trans-fats are probably crystallizing in my arteries right now and I thought I would enlighten the audience on some information I researched recently while my arteries still have some breathing room.

Along with smoking, food causes approximately 70% of all cancers, including gastric and prostate cancers. While we may believe we are eating healthily because we are religiously following the advice of the South Beach Diet or exercising like that workout machine Tony Little (check this guy out at, we may be (and are likely) mistaken. These diets usually focus on one aspect of eating such as eliminating excess carbs, rather than focusing on eating foods that will provide us with a balance of what we need. Just because we don’t super-size that number four combo doesn’t mean we aren’t putting dangerous things into our bodies. We may be cutting carbs, but what are we overlooking in this attempt.

Look, I realize you only live once and if you want to get that McRib that is OK with me, but do it in moderation. Even The Rock indulges in a cheese pizza every now and then. It’s not just the fact that certain foods are extremely hazardous for you, but naturally occurring agents in your food also pose a risk. I had no idea to what extent it is now generally accepted that many cancers are caused by chemical processes that result from certain environmental agents such as chemicals, ionizing radiation, infection and inflammation. In some form or another, these agents can find ways into our foods naturally as well as through improper packaging. For example, and not to get too scientific on you, the naturally occurring fungus Aspergillus flavus can survive in hot and humid environments and a consumer may find it in nuts and grains. This can occur naturally if the nuts are harvested in a humid area or if they are improperly packaged before a consumer buys them. Not an appetizing thing to hear.

The way in which food is cooked can also be problematic to our health. Foods that are cooked at over 180 degrees Fahrenheit are subject to (*deep breath) heterocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In plain English, bar-b-q’ing, frying and heat processing all fall under this category. In certain cases, more than ten of these hydrocarbons have been identified in cooked meats such as fish and pork. While the presence of these chemicals can depend on the packaging methods for these meats, the way in which these meats are cooked also influences the presence of the hydrocarbons. Try for some alternate ways of cooking meats.

Not only are foods liable to cause cancer but drinks may as well. Coffee and whiskey have been reported to induce certain cancers, one being ovarian cancer. Fortunately for everyone in this class and our target audience, excluding myself and the teacher, whiskey is out of the question because no one is 21 yet, and we are all law abiding citizens. But watch out for that coffee, because drinking four or more cups a day is reported to be a likely cause of cancer. Try going to bed a little earlier if you are chronically tired.

You may be thinking “Everything these days causes cancer Will” and that is probably true to some extent, but you wouldn’t stick your face up to the gas pump and in the same way, you probably shouldn’t eat three meals a day of only processed food. But just when you thought giving up eating might be a good idea, scientists bombard you with the pluses of eating certain foods and the cancer-preventing potential of these foods.

Some foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, are known to slow the growth of tumors by acting on the cycle regulators in these tumors which are responsible for the tumor’s growth. Certain foods like tomatoes protect against lung cancer while yogurt is considered to help prevent colorectal cancer, something that none of us want by the sound of it.

The key word for healthy foods is antioxidant: a compound that plays a part in a defense system for the body along with vitamins, mineral and amino acids. Antioxidants can neutralize damaging chemicals and protect against certain chronic diseases. Antioxidants also boost the effectiveness of Vitamin C, a protective substance for the body against disease.

This may seem like a lot of science, but actually you hear this every day. You should know by now that drinking soft drinks and eating processed foods routinely is not a healthy habit. You’ve always known that eating fruits and vegetables is better for you than eating 3-5 servings of Snickers bars a day. You may not understand the specific scientific reasoning behind all of this, but you should be able to understand the basics. It’s impossible to fully escape from the bad agents in what we eat and it’s probably psychologically important to indulge in some bad food every now and then but it is more important (if you desire a healthy body) to watch what you put into your body. Not only will you look and feel better but your body will have what it needs to fight off dangerous cancers which seem to affect everybody in some form these days. Also, now that you have read this, you do not have an excuse to sue McDonald’s if you continue to eat there everyday and have a heart attack at age 27.

Primary Source

Banning, Maggie. “Nutrition Management: The Carcinogenic and Protective Effects of Food.” British Journal of Nursing (BJN). 11/10/2005, Vol. 14 Issue 20, p1070-1074, 5p.

Supplemental Information

-McDonald’s Nutrition Facts

-Fruit’s Effect on the Flu

-Image Link

1 comment:

Daniel Lupton said...

Will, I think you've done a good job here. I especially like the fact that you didn't start by saying "I'm going to summarize this research by x..." Instead, you came up with your own thesis and merely used your research in support of that. As for criticisms, I think your in-text citations might be inadequate. At times it wasn't clear what you were referencing. Also, your article was very long. While students almost always concentrating on meeting the minimum length requirement, note that the maximum length matters as well. I think perhaps a section or two could've been eliminated with very little loss to your overall argument.