Monday, March 9, 2009

Health Rule of Thumb

If it won't spoil, don't eat it!

Have you heard that one before? I have read it in several places over the years. Last night, I saw it in a magazine article. Since the thought has returned to the front of my mind, I thought I would share it with you.

Think about the shelf-life of the food you eat. Can it sit in your pantry for ages without spoiling? Will bugs eat it? I have heard a story about a lone twinkie that was left on a windowsill in a simple experiment. Seven years later, not a single bug had attempted to eat it. And it looked exactly the same, although it was probably hardened. No mold. No fungus. It was still a twinkie!

While I have not verified that "legend," I've got another story I can support with evidence. A local friend of mine has an 11 year old Wendy's hamburger. The hamburger makes its home in a clear plastic take-out box (not air tight). At first glance, you might guess this burger is just a few days old. People are shocked when my friend reveals how long she has kept it! No spoilage. No mold. It would probably be a little tough if you dared to bite into it! But, the hamburger is still a hamburger. (Just in case you are wondering, my friend uses the hamburger as a visual aid for nutrition presentations. That's why she has it.)


We wouldn't keep a banana for 11 years. We wouldn't keep an avocado that long either. But, we could keep a box of cereal that long. It may be stale, but it would still be cereal. Staleness aside, think about your food. The rule of thumb suggests we eat only foods that would cease to be recognizable in 11 years (or less!). Otherwise, we are eating a highly processed or chemically preserved "food."

I would like to add another element to this rule of thumb. If the bugs won't eat it, leave it alone! Some foods naturally store well for long term. Beans, grains, nuts and seeds would be included in this group. We could keep wheat berries for 11 years, but without properly sealing them, the berries would become a feast for pests. We can learn something from the little critters. They eat real food. We should too.

Keep in mind, a "rule of thumb" is not a hard and fast rule. I can think of some exceptions. For example, Coffee Creamer spoils, but it is a highly processed and fractionated "food." I am sure you can think of more exceptions. But, as a general rule, "If it won't spoil, don't eat it!" can be a simple reminder to choose whole, natural foods.

Photo Credit:


Sharon said...

The hamburger thing is totally disgusting. I'll think twice before eating one ever again.

Teresa R said...

We've not had a hamburger at a fast food joint (or any place outside of the home) in years and years. Aside from the totally creepy factor of non-spoilage that you shared with us, we just won't eat feed-lot beef if we can help it. We're always telling people to read Fast Food Nation (the movie is a start, if people must, but the book has citations and footnotes!)

We get our beef from friends who raise a handful of cows (Belted Galloways...very cute!) and the flavor is so much better. Plus, if we do eat meat, we feel a little better that our meat came from animals that have been treated humanely their entire lives.

Thanks for the great post as a reminder to everyone!

Amy Ellen said...

Thanks for sharing about Fast Food Nation, Teresa. That's a great book to pick up on this topic.

And thanks for your healthy beef tip. I would like to post about the difference between pastured and feed-lot meats when I get the chance.

Tonya said...

I remember seeing that very hamburger that you're talking about. I was shocked and disgusted! Haven't had one like it since!


Martha said...

Man oh man, my sister will LOVE this post. I shop at Costco and she is appalled at the amount of 'boxed' foods that I take home. They can be frozen or packed away for a long period of time. I tell people I'm preparing for a 'famine' (winks) but you're right... if the bugs doesn't touch it, I should probably avoid it eh? ;) Thanks for sharing!

Cascia said...

That is the first time I heard of that one. I had no idea that you could keep a food for eleven years without it spoiling! That is a ton of preservatives. Maybe I will think twice the next time I am craving fast food. Thank you for sharing this!

two h's said...

In a recent class we had a discussion about the origin of the phrase "rule of thumb" check out this link- its interesting, though no one really knows exactly where it came from...