Whole Food Nutrition VS Processed Foods
February 2, 2011 § Leave a Comment
We often hear from various sources that we should be eating whole, fresh foods, not highly processed foods. Do we really know what that means? Do we know the difference between whole foods and processed foods?
Ask our children where meat comes from and many of them will answer, “The grocery store”. I find this comically sad. Our children think meat comes in a cellophane wrapped package. They never give any thought about the animal that gave its life for us to have that delicious, juicy hamburger or thick slab of steak. It couldn’t be farther from our childrens’ minds that meat actually comes from a real, living creature.
Then how about those vegetables? Offer your child a bright green or red vegetable and they may very well look at you like you have two heads! If you don’t offer vegetables covered up and disguised in a heavy sauce or blended beyond recognition, then your family will not even think about scooping them into their mouths.
But offer your family something that is easily prepared, right out of the box; they immediately think “Food, yummy, it’s time to eat!” And soon they are scarfing down something that has a little amount of color, texture that mimics meat, gooey-like cheese, and fillers that make them feel full. Often, when you read the ingredients, just a couple of ingredients down the list you don’t even recognize the words. And even after the first couple of ingredients, you are left wondering just how healthy those ingredients really are.
Parrots don’t eat highly processed foods in the Wild. Nature has supplied a vast array of healthy whole food options from which to choose from. Just think about it, grasses, berries, seeds, nuts, bugs, dirt, tree leaves, bark, bushes, the variety of foods is almost endless. And it should be nothing less in their captive environment.
Their digestive systems were not structured to consume, absorb and utilize laboratory developed, machine-ground, hydraulic-pressed, oven-heated “foodstuffs” and synthetic vitamins. And considering that parrots are not yet considered to be truly domesticated animals by any traditional standards, then we really need to take into consideration what their delicate biological systems need not only to survive, but to enthusiastically thrive in their relatively new environments. Yes, even those parrots that have been born in captivity, they still have the instincts of the Wild in their basic DNA because they are not that far removed from their ancestor’s generation of living as totally wild and free creatures. This transition from their ancestors living in the Wild, to the neo-pet parrot, needs to make a slow conversion in order to maintain health and vitality. This needs to be done, first and foremost through a healthy, whole food, organic diet. We cannot expect a wild creature to be plunked into our lifestyle, where we, as humans, have had years and years to adapt to an existence of consuming highly processed, cardboard-like foodstuffs, and expect these wild creatures to thrive on the same type of a poor excuse of what we lamely call “food”.
It’s plain and simple, a fresh, whole food, organic diet is best for our companion parrot. Finely ground and highly processed ingredients, pressed together, often under high heat (but not always), especially when the majority of ingredients used are questionable, with laboratory-produced synthetic vitamins added to make up the difference for the lack of real nutrition, just don’t offer the nutritional value our companion parrots deserve.
Let’s take a look at how highly processed foodstuffs are manufactured. Most of the time when you purchase your bird’s food from your brand name company, you are not purchasing from the actual manufacturer. Your brand name company contracts with a mass manufacturer to produce the food for them. And that’s okay as long as the mass manufacturer is a reliable one. But so often the reason an outside mass manufacturer is chosen is because the mass manufacturer produces food for many, many other companies, not just your brand name company. The reason behind this is because it’s economical for your brand name company, because the same ingredients are used in all of the brands that are being produced at that particular mass manufacturing plant. In other words, the mass manufacturer is using the same finely ground (any product finely ground will allow for the nutrition to begin the leaching out of the nutrients, and for an ingredient that is already questionable in the amount of nutrients it has to offer, this is a grave concern) corn, rice, wheat, soy, hulled seeds (leaving the raw seed exposed allowing for the leaching out of delicate nutrition), and all of the other ingredients, as well as all of the same laboratory-produced synthetic vitamins for all of their customers.
The only thing different about your brand name company’s recipe and all of the other brand names produced at this mass manufacturer’s production plant is your brand’s recipe’s “order of ingredients”, or the “amount of each ingredient” going in to the formula and whether your brand name is using “organic” ingredients or “conventional” ingredients”, and your brand’s name. However, you must note, if both organic and conventional brands are produced at the same plant, there is no guarantee that some amount of conventional ingredients aren’t making their way into the organic formulas unless they have totally separate facilities for each.
Now let’s break this process down, step by step.
After grinding the ingredients down to a very fine powder, and adding other unknown “inert” ingredients that the FDA doesn’t require the manufacturer to list on the packaging because “inert” ingredients do not provide any nutritional advantage, they are usually “fillers, dyes, preservatives, and pest killers like food grade diatomaceous earth (DE)” and especially binders to make the product “stick” together, the product is then placed under high heat and pressed under high pressure to make it bind to itself, making those cut little kibble pieces your pet bird eats. Grinding to a fine powder, then pressing and heating literally causes all nutrition to be lost and this is why you see synthetic nutrition added back in to the product.
If the manufacturer states they don’t use heat, well, okay, that’s only one step they have eliminated in the process, but by grinding to a fine powder and then pressing the powders together under extremely high pressure in order to form a pellet or kibble still removes all of the nutrition. The result? They still have to add nutrition back in to the product if any real nutrition is to be present in the product. Otherwise your bird will need to consume a fairly large quantity of the kibble in order to receive any credible amount of nutrition. The end result for you? More money spent. The end result for your bird, obesity with malnutrition. The end result for the manufacturer? More money in their pocket.
Some manufacturer’s use the “extrusion” process where they run the moist product out through holes in tube-like fixtures. This method is just as bad, as if not worse than the high-pressure method because this method literally forces the mixture through the holes of the equipment.
Keep in mind too, that the equipment being used is usually metal equipment and is NOT stainless steel. This adds the element of metal toxicity to your bird’s food. Stainless steel equipment is VERY costly and most pet food manufacturers do not go to the cost of using it in their factories because they are not mandated by law to do so.
So here you have the same quality of ingredients used for all of the brands across the board. The only difference is the slight difference in recipe your brand name is using and whether it is “organic” or “conventional”. Unfortunately if the manufacturer is grinding all of the ingredients down to a fine powder, pressing them together or extruding them and then adding heat to the mixture, and finally coating them with synthetic nutrients, or worse not adding any nutrients back in to make up for the lost nutrients due to the manner in which the food was produce, your bird is consuming a very nutrient-poor “food”. Your bird will need to consume a larger amount of food to receive the amount of nutrients it needs to barely survive, never mind about “thriving”. The end result will be an obese bird that is malnourished leading to poor health that may end up with illnesses like avian diabetes, fatty liver disease, kidney failure, cardiovascular problems, and/or feather destruction or skin mutilation.
In addition, almost all of the major brands are using “fillers” as their major base ingredient. This is the ingredient you will find listed as the first ingredient in your parrot’s food. The “filler” is known as the ingredient used to “bulk up” the product in an economical and cheap way to increase the volume of the product. It is not normally the ingredient that gives any real nutrition to the product. It is there to “make the profit” for the company. The caveat to my statement would be this, if you find a food that lists its base ingredient as one of the “super green foods”, such as alfalfa, barley grass or wheat grass, go with that brand, and then you know you have a company who most likely believes in providing super nutrition through and through in their product.
Law requires that a company lists ingredients in the order of predominance by weight in the product. If there are two ingredients that are contained in the product in the exact same weight, they are listed in alphabetical order. For example, if corn is the main ingredient, it will be listed first. If wheat is the second heaviest ingredient, it will be listed second, and so on and so forth. For further example, in a pound of food, maybe there are 9 ounces of highly ground corn and 5 ounces of highly ground wheat, which would leave 2 ounces for other ingredients, for a total of 16 ounces, which may include highly ground seeds, nuts, herbs and last, laboratory-produced synthetic vitamins. Corn would be listed as the first ingredient and wheat would be listed as the second ingredient, so on and so forth. But you can quickly see that most of the “nutrition” is found in the synthetic vitamins in this particular formulation.
But what about whole food nutrition, what does it have to offer over highly processed foods? And just where does “highly processed” end and “whole-food” begin? How do we differentiate?
We know whole food by the way it looks. When we look at a piece of fruit, we can name it because it looks like a “pear” or “carrots” or some other kind of fruit or vegetable. Its original state-of-being has been basically untouched. But whole food doesn’t have to be totally “whole” to be considered whole. It can be slightly cut up and still be considered whole. We just can’t grind it beyond recognition, powder it and mash it, then mix it with preservatives, dry it out, re-shape it and place it in a box and still call it whole food. No, it doesn’t work that way. As long as you keep it basically recognizable, then you are still consuming whole food.
You can even dehydrate your fresh food and it is still considered whole food, just dehydrated. Dehydrated food was one of the first methods used to preserve food, and the safest way too. Dehydration is still used today and it actually maintains almost all of the original nutrition, even the natural enzymes and amino acids are maintained. In some cases dehydration actually increases the concentration of nutrition simply because it removes the moisture content.
Fresh, whole food contains its own enzymes that combine with a living creature’s enzymes. Highly processed foods don’t contain living enzymes, they are basically “dead” matter. Also, whole foods contain naturally occurring amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks to proteins. However, if the amino acids in your highly processed foods aren’t “naturally occurring”, in other words, if they are chemically introduced, or altered in any way, then they are considered “un-natural”. Many times amino acids are chemically altered into preservatives such as MSG or other kinds of preservatives.* For instance, let’s take two very important amino acids that must be included in a diet in order for a complete protein to be present, Arginine and Lysine. If the natural forms of these amino acids are present in a formulated food they would simply be listed as “Arginine” and “Lysine”. But if they are interjected in the food as their chemical alternatives they would be listed as “L-Arginine” and “L-Lysine”. In fact, if they occurred naturally in a food they wouldn’t be required to be listed at all. Why? Because the actual whole food would be listed instead! Not a chemical that was replacing the food.
All living creatures have digestive enzymes for a reason; they help to begin the digestive process. These enzymes, very basically, wake up the entire biological system when food enters the mouth. This is true for parrots as well. But think about it, if the “food” that enters our parrots’ mouth is already “pre-eaten”, or “processed”, then not much waking up has to be done. In other words, the body doesn’t have to work as intensely as it should. As a result, the entire physiological system becomes sluggish and in its own way, gradually begins to shut down. This is the slow onset of disease.
With whole-food nutrition, when food enters the mouth, the digestive enzymes come alive! Immediately the physiological body recognizes this fresh, whole food as something that needs to be “attacked” and broken down for the body to digest and consume and process into something the body can utilize for energy. In other words, the work isn’t already done, so the body realizes it has to do the work. Immediately the body goes to work and exercises its innate ability to do what it was designed to do, make energy out of raw materials. Every cell in the body is activated to do what it was designed to do, receive the nutrition from the food source introduced into the “gas tank”. The motor starts humming and every organ begins grinding and churning; the “food” doesn’t just pass through the system like it would if it were already pre-digested as in the case of highly processed food, the body actually has to do what it was designed to do, function. If whole foods are being fed there is no need for pre-biotics or pro-biotics unless a bird has been on an antibiotic which may have wiped out natural digestive enzymes and good digestive bacteria.
When we look at the difference between highly processed foods and whole foods in such a basic way, it really becomes easy to distinguish the best way to feed our parrots, as well as ourselves. A living creature is physiologically designed to operate, and function with vitality, on raw materials such as whole foods. Living creatures need the ongoing stimulation that comes with the progression that takes place in the natural digestive process in order to activate their living cells and organs so that the natural exercising of the body’s functions takes place, and normal, healthy well-being ensues.
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