For seven years, Mira Calton and her husband Jayson, lived and traveled on The World, a private residential yacht where they got to visit many countries and cultures.|
It was during this time that Mira, a licensed certified nutritionist and Jayson, a Ph. D. in nutrition, learned about the eating habits of other cultures and determined that Americans and American food was deficient in many micronutrients.
They took this knowledge and penned "Naked Calories," a book about how modern practices, such as global food distribution, factory farming and food processing are creating foods filled with "Naked Calories" – or foods without any real nutritional value.
Their follow-up book, "Rich Food, Poor Food," released in March, is a comprehensive handbook of grocery store aisles that takes you step-by-step through the store and helps you to avoid foods containing the 150 "poor" ingredients, such as disodium EDTA, benzoates and high fructose corn syrup.
The authors believe that regardless of which diet program one follows (low-fat, low-carb, Primal/Paleo, low-calorie, vegan, vegetarian, etc.), the ultimate goal should be to reach a micronutrient-sufficient state. Consuming as many micronutrient-rich foods as possible helps achieve optimal health, preventing disease while naturally increasing youthful energy.
Question: It can be overwhelming to completely change your diet or eating habits. How do you get started with the concept of rich and poor foods?
"Read the introduction to the book, but after that take one aisle of the grocery store – say dairy – and learn how to purchase those items," Mira said.
"Learn about homogenization, how cheese is cut and more. Go grocery shopping with the book. What did you find that fits into your choices? Make that your new lifestyle. Don't get overwhelmed. Within a year you'll have it all understood and it will become part of who you are."
Jayson also explains that learning about one aisle will help you to learn about the others. "For example, you learn what organic milk is and what hormones are in regular milk," Jayson said. "Then that knowledge will carry over into when you learn about hormones in your meat."
Q: Many people are on tight budgets and better food often is more expensive. How can they manage?
"If you're not going to pay now, you're going to pay with your health later, but we hear that people think eating better is more expensive," Mira said. "Farmers' markets have amazing options. You can get bags upon bags of veggies for $20. In the book we put a piggy bank symbol [next to thrifty ideas] that give tips along the way about how to buy things and save money doing it. It's true that organic spices are more expensive, but at Whole Foods you can buy just a teeny bit, not the whole container, so it doesn't cost you as much."
Q: In your book, for example, you show Nutri Grain Bars by Kellogg's, as a European version and an American version. The European version is healthier, yet it's the same product?
"In Europe and Canada, they have banned certain ingredients that are in our food," Mira said. "Not only do they know these foods are bad, but these same food manufacturers are making these products healthier in other countries and nobody is saying anything. America invented these ingredients, so they aren't going to be banned but if you can't pronounce it; don't buy a food with it. We want our readers to realize that these foods have been scrutinized and we've come to the conclusion that they are dangerous. We don't just want them taken out of the foods – we want them banned.
"Remember what happened with Gatorade? A teenager, Sarah Kavanagh, started a petition to have the company take out brominated vegetable oil, BVO, from their drinks. More than 200,000 people signed it and Gatorade took out the ingredient, but the problem is the same company makes Amp and Mountain Dew and they didn't take it out of that. They basically admitted guilt but they aren't taking it out of the other products. We need to vote with our dollars and if we all start not buying these foods and make them take out the bad ingredients, it's safer and healthier in America."
Q: Did you have an 'a-ha moment' when writing the book?
"When we set out to do this, we focused on the micronutrients, but then we felt a need to look at food quality," Jayson said. "The realization is that there are 150 of these ingredients in foods that people are not aware of. In the Hormel Canadian bacon, their natural line, it's one of the worst deli meats we found. It contained 30 ingredients, including caramel color, which is a carcinogen. I often think how far we have gone through the rabbit hole and how hard it's going to be to turn it around five or 10 years from now."
Q: What if we can't find a "rich food" in our grocery store?
"We took the UPC codes for every single rich food and put it on a Rich food request list," Mira said. "If it's not in your grocery store yet, print it and circle items you want in your grocery store. It's the only way the food buyers will know what we want. Nothing speaks louder than our money."
"The buyers use a computer program," Jayson said. "If nobody's buying Fritos, that's not what they are going to buy. We ultimately control it. When are they going to protect us? You're the one putting the food in your cart. You need to make hard and strong decisions to buy foods that benefit the health of your family."