Saturday, February 15, 2014

Food Chemistry: Why you should cook your food! {Week 6}

After reflecting back on my last 6 weeks in this class, it got me thinking as I came to write this post on a beautiful Saturday morning outside a local coffee shop. "Man, how applicable this class is to my blog and Paleo lifestyle". For example, I mentioned before how everyone assumes that Paleo = "raw diet". Come 'on paleo people you know you hear this all the time, "so you are primal? Meaning, you eat raw meat?" No. Don't you know, primal people had fires  ;)

But really, the Paleo diet (as mentioned, everywhere else on this blog) is all about wholesome nutrient -dense food with the most minimal amount of processing. Basically, this means... I have to do a lot of meal-prep, home cooking and farmers' market excursions — all sound great to me! But I do cook my food. Generally, as just a personal preference I don't usually like to cook my vegetables. I mean, i'll cook sweet potatoes, cauliflower to make things like cauli-mash or cauli-rice, but yummy cruciferous vegetables or dark leafy greens I generally like raw. Plus, don't even get me started on things like celery, spinach, arugula, broccoli... you cook these things and you are a crazy nut!

But meat.

Yeah, we cook that.

I mean, just look at that lamb chop — can't you just imagine it on top of a grill on a nice fall day with crisp weather. Maybe with a side of vegetables, cauli-rice and some coconut milk "yogurt" sauce? Ooh, did I just create a new recipe. (more about this in another post)  So back to the "raw" diet. In doing my background research for this blog post, when I started to look up what others said about the raw diet, everyone kept bringing up one name: Weston Price. So I started thinking, "who is this dietician, Weston Price who has created this diet for people". Haha. Jokes on me, he is a dentist not a dietitian, or nutrition educator. Heck for all I know, he has no nutrition education at all.

Price started looking at old native american cultures who would consume raw animal products often time, including raw meat. Other Paleo bloggers who I routinely follow like The Primal Parent claims to have been eating raw meat since 2007 with no issues at all. Heck, they even claim that their digestion/GI tract has changed and improved so much more since going raw.

Personally, I think it's kinda of sickening. Not sure why, it might just be a cultural thing. Sushi, I can do. I know, I know, sushi is technically "Raw meat" as well. But for some reason it's different. The thought of eating blood just freaks me out. Even worse than just raw, Aajonus Vanderplanitz is known for his push to eat, "rotten raw meat". Now that is just an absolute joke. 
In class this week, we talked about viruses. I know in the food safety post about two weeks ago I talked about e.coli and salmonella outbreaks. But now, lets talk about viruses. Food handlers can contaminate the food you eat and cause viruses to flourish. Although viruses are not living cells, but do thrive in living cells and use these as a way to multiply. Some common foodborne viruses are things such as Heptatitis A and Norovirus. Hepatitis A had it's first outbreak in 1988. Guess what it was from... the consumption of raw shellfish. Norovirus was first discovered in 1990 with a contamination to fresh cut fruit.

But besides these illnesses there are also parasites to worry about. Parasites are different than viruses because they actually glean nutrients from their host cell to thrive. Viruses just exist. Outbreaks in parasites occur with consumption of raw foods. Hello, raw meat? Bacillus cereus is a gram-positive, rod-shaped bacterium that makes you feel like you got the flu. The most common ways to acquire this bacterium is via inadequate cooking time, improper refrigeration or by keeping warm food at an awkward temperature for some time. Cool— lets just eat raw meat, huh? Bet you didn't wish you were considering the raw diet now, do you?

It's important to know how microorganisms grow, thrive, reproduce, and how we can control them better so that we can prevent the spread of illnesses. Food should be nutritious. It should not be out there to kill you. The FDA, CDC have gone through great lengths to keep food safe for consumption. Trust them. They are created for a reason, to keep us safe. Public safety is crucial to the thriving of a population. It is important for the general public to know the basic foundation of toxicity, illness, or scientific research behind a particular illness, parasite or virus. Then, we must judge the food product as safe or harmful and educate the population on this consensus. Without these facets in place, the entire food system would be messed up. No one could trust anything that was happening.

So why put yourself in harms way by consuming raw meat? Yeah sure there isn't that many scientific studies conducted on it. Doesn't that tell you something? I don't know, maybe that the ethics group won't approve of a human study to consume something that we know is harmful? People these days have created the greatest things, robots that clean your house, a phone that talks back to you, a car that can eventually drive itself. Do you think for some reason we don't have the means to do research on raw mea? No, that's clearly not it. It's that there is no organization, in the world that will get approved for purposely putting people in harms-way by asking them to consume something with potentially- high risks illness.

In addition there are various mechanisms that we put into play to eliminate the growth of microorganisms ultimately protecting ourselves from harm. One major way is through Pasteurization. Pasteurization commonly believed to be used only in the process of milk production is the use of a heat treatment for a few seconds at around 144 deg. F. This process is used to kill off pathogenic microorganisms. This is key to milk storage because this process kills off some of the microorganisms but does not completely eliminate all. This way, milk will spoil at some point, causing you to get a fresh supply. Because of the high heat processing, the polymer proteins in milk denature and aggregate together. This causes an irreversible process that can never be redone to these polymers. The alteration of these polymers also kills off microorganisms who cannot live at that heat. This process is always used in the food industry for storage and to improve the shelf-life stability of food. Another process can be, sterilization (used for can foods), sterile filtration (used for beers) and irradiation to eliminate bacteria, yeast or molds that can cause spoilage in foods. Industry has found a mathematical way to calculate the exact time (in high heat) needed to kill off bacteria.  They use a plot to calculate the time needed to kill 90% of viable bacteria cells @ the given temperature. The higher the “D” value (the time) the greater the stability of that food product.

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