Most Americans don’t eat food anymore. They eat factory-made, industrially produced food-like substances – what I call Frankenfoods – that contain things like trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), monosodium glutamate (MSG), preservatives, pesticides, and antibiotics.
Today’s industrial food-like substances have hijacked our taste buds and brain chemistry. Food giants have taste institutes, where they hire “craving experts” to identify the “bliss points” of foods to create “heavy users.”
Our industrial food system, sponsored and supported by our government policies, has taken over our bodies, minds, and souls. Most of us have no clue. And worse, most of us blame ourselves for our bad habits, cravings, and weight gain.
Even so-called healthy foods are hijacking our health. Manufacturers know that we’re becoming more health-conscious, and they’re staying three steps ahead of us. Most “healthy” foods today are owned by big-food manufacturers.
The real corruption happens in our kitchens. The food industry has invited itself into our homes and encouraged us to “outsource” our food and cooking. They got us out of the kitchen altogether and as a result, we have raised at least two generations of children who don’t know how to cook a meal from scratch using real ingredients. Many spend more time watching cooking on television than actually cooking.
It’s time to take back our health, and that revolution begins in our kitchens.
Our health is the most basic human right and it has been taken from us. And we have the power to take it back by choosing real foods and not allowing the $1-trillion food industry to usurp our kitchens.
Real food doesn’t have a list of ingredients. It doesn’t have bold promises like “gluten-free,” because most real food is naturally gluten free.
Time and money are the biggest perceived obstacles to eating well. But are they really? Stop and consider how much time we spend watching TV and browsing social media. For some people, finding the time to plan, shop, and cook for our families would require only a fraction of that time.
True, it might cost a little more to buy fresh meat, fish, and produce than to eat processed junk and fast food. But it also doesn’t have to. In fact, studies find that eating real food is not more expensive than eating processed food.
You can eat well for less. To put it in perspective, Europeans spend about 20 percent of their income on food. Americans only spend about nine percent. We have to value our food and health. What we don’t spend on the front end we pay for on the back end at the drugstore and the doctor’s office.
What’s missing is the education—the basic skills, knowledge, and confidence—to purchase and cook real foods. When you don’t know how to cook a vegetable, how can you feed yourself or your family?
It is not a lack of desire to get well that holds people hostage to the food industry and the marketers. Without the confidence that comes from knowing how to prepare quality foods, people are left vulnerable to the aggressive marketing tactics of the food industry that sell us highly addictive, poor-quality, man-made food-like products that fatten us as well as their bottom line.
We have to literally cook our way out of this mess. Shopping, cooking, and eating are political acts with far-reaching benefits to our health, the earth, the economy, and beyond.
“The decline of everyday home cooking doesn’t only damage the health of our bodies and our land but also our families, our communities and our sense of how our eating connects us to the world,” says Michael Pollan in his book Cooked. Unfortunately, not cooking means we have lost our connection to our world and to ourselves.
I want to help rebuild that connection for you, which is one reason I wrote my new book Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?.
Cooking is fun, freeing, and essential to cultivate health and happiness. It becomes a great way to reconnect with your family, your friends, and yourself. And when you know exactly what foods to use, it becomes even easier.
Ultimately, cooking becomes a revolutionary act, one that we can all participate in. And it doesn’t take a lot of effort. Among the ways I teach patients and readers to take back their health, their community, and their lives in the kitchen include:
- Repurpose how you see cooking. Instead of a chore, look at cooking as an act of love that you share with your family. Remember that you are also serving as an example to your kids and significant others, so if you approach it with joy, that feeling will become infectious. In the process, you strengthen bonds, teach important life-extending skills to your children, and enrich and nourish your bodies and your souls.
- Make it simple. Keeping your kitchen well-stocked with staples saves you time, money, and effort. (How many times have we gone to the store for “just one thing” and ended up with a bag full of impulse purchases?) You can buy things like nuts and nut butters, coconut milk, and frozen organic vegetables in bulk to take the guesswork out of what to eat for meals.
- Make your kitchen warm and inviting. When your environment is welcoming and inviting, everyone happily gravitates to that room. Put on some fun music and make the ambiance lively while you’re cooking. Establish your kitchen as the ground-zero family meeting place and establish it exclusively for cooking and socializing. Many families have ground rules like no texting at the dinner table.
- Let yourself (and your kids) make mistakes. If you’re new to cooking or your skills have gotten rusty, don’t aim for perfection with your first recipe. Instead, aim for experimenting and practicing. Start with a more basic recipes with few ingredients and work your way up to something more complex. I have a ton of recipes here: drhyman.com/blog
- Get everyone involved. Enlist help from family members. Drag your kids away from their video games and ask them to measure ingredients, pull food from the fridge, or even chop veggies if they’re ready to take on this task. Even your youngest kids can help with basic tasks like washing and peeling. Decide on meals together to get everyone excited about what’s in store. Make cooking an event your whole family can participate in!
By purchasing real foods and cooking them yourself, you’re going to transform yourself, but you’re also helping to transform the food industry, one forkful at a time!
I’ve got lots more suggestions about what to eat and how to prepare meals healthily and inexpensively in my new book Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? I truly believe it has the potential to change your health and your life.
Dr. Hyman is a practicing family physician, a ten-time New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and has been a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, the Today Show, CNN, The View, the Katie Couric show and The Dr. Oz Show. Join Dr. Hyman on his path to revolutionize the way we think about and take care of our health and our societies at www.drhyman.com, on Twitter and Instagram @markhymanmd, and on Facebook at facebook.com/drmarkhyman.