about bliss

Monday, June 23, 2008

uncovering the process

photo of tank car full of corn syrup courtesy of wikipedia

Yesterday I watched the documentary King Corn, an interesting peek into the world of corn growing and corn ubiquity. Did you know that the typical American's carbon profile is largely corn based? As the movie illustrates, a great portion of the SAD (Standard American Diet) is corn based, from added starch, flour, meal, to the primarily corn fed meat in our food supply, and, most significantly, the heretofore cheap sweetener, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). The problem is that in its processed forms, corn is not very nutritious, and so much of the food in the SAD is composed of poor to empty calories.

I've been on a "eat as few processed foods as possible" kick for the past several years, and I'm mostly pleased with my dietary choices, but I'm thinking about doing a little experiment and cutting out as much processed food as I can. Last night I started listing foods I eat on a daily basis, and trying to determine the degree of processing so I can figure out what I need to eat instead. The problem is deciding what level of processing is acceptable for the purposes of my experiment, since most of the foods I eat are at least minimally processed...for example...

No Processing
fresh fruits and veggies, in their whole, natural state
fresh herbs
dry beans
dry whole grains in their natural state

Minimal Processing
orange juice, 100% pure, not from concentrate
grains that have been processed, like rolled or steel cut oats, flours
raw sugar
maple syrup
canned beans

More Processing
Boxed cereals
corn chips
pasta, couscous

And these are most of the foods that I eat on a daily basis. What I'm thinking of doing is making all items (except for chocolate) in the "More Processing" category from scratch. And, I'm thinking of switching to steel cut oats or another less processed grain than rolled oats for my breakfast, making my own yogurt, and cooking my own beans from the dried state to make a difference in the "Minimally Processing" category.

Any suggestions for me? Am I missing something here? Am I categorizing a certain food the wrong way? How long do you think I should run my experiement?


  1. I am excited and inspired by your post, Jessica.

    We have been making all our own bread for 6 months (cheating, of course, with a bread machine), and we have an amazing recipe for swedish crackers that I would be happy to share. The only pasta I have ever made was gnocchi, and that is time consuming as all heck. There are some things I would just have to give up if I were to take on your challenge...

    And, of course, I have a hard time giving up some of these snacks and carbs. They are such comfort foods, and such a part of my/our cultural dietary lives.

    Cereal. Chips. Crackers. We have whole aisles in the store dedicated to these things. There are many, many corporate interests represented in the foods where corn, wheat, and corn syrup meet. Corn syrup is in *everything*.

    You have given me a lot to think about. And I affirm your decision to not try to make your own chocolate ;)

  2. thanks for sharing your enthusiasm, amy! i'm stalling because i'm nervous. i'd love your cracker recipe! i found a good whole wheat tortilla recipe in my Mark Bittman cookbook...and I have a good granola recipe.

    have you seen *king corn*? it's an interesting look at all that corn...and timely, too, since all of that corn is now burried under so much iowan floodwater.