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A Critical Evaluation of Foods for Emergency Preparedness

By Denis Korn                                                                                                                                                                    

This month marks 39 years that I have been involved in various aspects of the emergency food industry.  I have researched, sold, developed and manufactured foods for outdoor recreation and emergency preparedness.  With emerging national and global concerns and a list of potential catastrophic scenarios unlike I have witnessed all these years, disaster and emergency preparedness has become a necessity for a large and growing portion of our population.  The popularity and availability of information and products via the internet has been both a blessing and curse to those seeking knowledge and provisions for their preparedness planning.

This post focuses on food, and as I have indicated in other articles, a dilemma arises – Who can you trust?  How accurate and truthful is information and advice regarding foods for emergency preparedness?

The purpose of this post is to encourage you to ask and answer relevant questions, use common sense and to question the reliability and advice of what you hear and read about foods for preparedness.  Besides new material, I will reference and present information from a variety of previous posts.

What stimulated me to revisit this subject was a blog I recently read that gave a recommended list of foods they thought was needed to be prepared for a long term emergency – it was for a one year period.  This information was a rehash of outdated recommendations and had little relevancy to the realities of food preparation, dietary needs and food preferences in 2014.  This is not the 1800’s.  Do you need 400 pounds of wheat – 150 pounds of beans – many pounds of milk powder, sugar, flour, etc. – per person?  Are you going to spend much of your one year baking and boiling?  Do you have the resources to prepare these core ingredients – water, fuel and time?  Bulk commodities can be valuable in certain food reserve planning, however over reliance on these foods can be detrimental.

I have always been an advocate of a diversity of foods for emergencies because of the numerous set of circumstances that can arise.  Below are listed the pros and cons of a variety of options.  We just don’t know with certainty what the scenario will be, or the duration and resources available during an emergency.  Finances play an important part in our planning and the cheapest is often not the best nor the appropriate choice.  Determining the foods to store requires serious evaluation and critical and informed thinking – do not be misled by slick advertising, instant experts, endorsements by celebrities and talk show hosts, exaggerated shelf life and taste claims, inadequate serving sizes and foods that once you have read the ingredient declaration you would normally never eat.

While there are many legitimate and quality emergency food companies and true experts, many others are content to profit from foods that – to put it frankly – are truly “survival foods” – foods that might prevent starvation, but are mediocre, have an inadequate caloric value, filed with questionable ingredients, unfamiliar, rely on sugar and other fillers, and might actually cause nutritional problems if consumed for long periods of time.

At the end of this post I have inserted an article that is very critical of wheat consumption – a substantial portion of many food reserves.  Is is meant to acquaint you with a perspective that can have a significant impact on your health and well-being.  This is a hot topic currently in the Natural Foods industry, and one which is very controversial.  I encourage you to read the entire article and do serious research on your own to determine your outlook and course of action.

Here are some important questions to answer when considering what foods to store for emergencies or serious disasters:

  • Do you know how to prepare the foods you are considering?
  • Where and under what conditions will you store them?
  • If you are going to pack your own bulk foods, do you know the proper methods and have the proper packaging?
  • Are you properly informed as to shelf life issues?
  • Do your foods contain a proper balance of nutrition?
  • Can you properly digest the foods you are considering if they differ from you normal diet?
  • If you store grains, beans and seeds do you know how to sprout them for additional essential nutrition?
  • Do you have the proper equipment to utilize and prepare your stored foods?
  • Have you stored the required foods to handle the scenarios you have considered will potentially occur?
  • Do you have a adequate quantity to feed yourself, family, friends and anyone else who be relying on you?
  • Do you or others have medical issues or a food intolerance to consider?
  • Will you be storing supplements?
  • Will you have access to the water you will need to prepare your stored foods?
  • Can you grow foods if necessary?
  • If you have to be mobile, are the foods you are considering easily transportable?
  • How trustworthy is the manufacturer or source of the the foods you are considering?
  • Do you plan to incorporate your food reserves into your normal diet?
  • Will you be like many who say, “I hope I never have to eat these foods for any extended length of time.”?

You are highly encouraged to read the entire text of these important posts:

A Comprehensive Primer on Long Term Food Storage

WARNING: Extreme Caution is Required Before Buying Emergency Foods

 

The following excerpts are from The Comprehensive Primer and other posts.

FOOD OPTIONS:

Freeze-dried

This is a specific technology that refers to foods which have been frozen and dried at low temperatures in a vacuum chamber.  Moisture is removed by a process known as sublimation.  The term “freeze-dried” is often used to designate a dried food product that requires no cooking.  Some meal blends will contain a variety of no cook freeze-dried, dehydrated and other drying technologies.

Unfortunately, there are currently unethical preparedness food “marketing” companies that claim to provide “freeze-dried” foods, however their foods either need to be cooked and/or contain little or no freeze dried foods at all.  Buyer Beware – read ingredient declarations and preparation instructions.

  • Advantages:
    • Foods retain the highest nutritional value, taste, texture and appearance.
    • Foods do not “shrivel up”, therefore retaining their original shape.
    • Foods reconstitute easily in hot or cold water- can be eaten dry if necessary- no cooking required in preparation.
    • The only method used to dry meat products for long term shelf life.
    • The chosen method of drying by the military, pharmaceutical companies, supplement manufacturers, and those concerned with nutrition and flavor.
    • The lowest moisture content obtainable- resulting in long shelf stability.
    • Excellent for fruits, vegetables, and meats – no waste.
    • Very lightweight.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Energy intensive- requires special equipment.
    • Higher cost.
    • Limited number of processors.
  • Note: There are many newer technologies which can dry specialized foods such as grains, beans, pastas and some vegetables and still retain taste, nutrition and “no cooking required” reconstitution- at a low cost.

Dehydrated

This is a general designation for all foods that have had water removed. It includes a number of different products and dehydrating techniques. Methods of drying include:

    • Air drying
    • Spray drying
    • Drum drying
    • Belt drying
  • Most commonly “dehydrated” refers to: vegetables, fruits, spices, and beans.
  • Spray dried items include- milk powder, dairy and cheese powders, fruit powders, vegetable powders, egg powders, and oil powders.
  • Most “dehydrated” vegetables and fruits are dried at high temperatures for short periods of time.
  • Advantages:
    • Reduced weight
    • Long shelf life
    • Lower cost
    • No waste- compact
    • Easy to use- large variety
    • Many suppliers
  • Disadvantages:
    • Many products like corn, peas, and green beans have to be cooked to reconstitute, resulting in increased time and loss of nutritional value.
    • High temperature drying of some items reduces nutritional value and taste.
    • Texture of some products is altered from original.

MRE/Retort/Self-Heating

The items in this category are wet packed in foil or plastic “flexible” packaging. MRE is a military term that stands for “Meals Ready to Eat” and was designed as combat rations for the military. Retort (available in many grocery stores and catalog companies) refers to the heating process, which give these products a longer shelf life. Self-heating meals are packaged entrees that contain everything necessary to have a hot meal anywhere. The individual flameless heaters were developed for the military.

    • MRE’s are complete meals- entrees, side dish, dessert, drink, and condiments- all in one large pouch.
    • All items in this category require no refrigeration and have a shelf life of 18 months to 2 years. MRE’s can last 3- 6 years if stored in cooler temperatures.
    • MRE’s were designed by the military to be eaten for no longer than one month at a time. Extended reliance on MRE’s exclusively could cause digestion issues.
    • Items are excellent for immediate use and easy preparation of familiar foods.
    • MRE’s can contain artificial additives
    • Pouch is susceptible to puncturing.

Commodities

This category includes dozens of varieties of grains, beans, legumes and seeds, and can be utilized in numerous forms such as; whole, cracked, flaked, instant, flour, pasta and sprouted.

  • Advantages:
    • Very economical- little cost for significant nutritional value.
    • Easily obtainable.
    • Stores well for long periods of time.
    • Versatility of preparation options and diversity of uses – many can be sprouted.
    • Historically relied upon during emergencies.
    • Reproducible – grow new crops.
    • If prepared and utilized properly, can fulfill total nutritional needs for some time.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Can require large quantities of fuel and water to prepare.
    • Requires significant preparation time to utilize all the diverse benefits.
    • Susceptible to infestation if not properly stored.
    • Requires preparation knowledge. Most people do not know how to prepare basic commodities.
    • If not prepared properly or suddenly introduced into the diet in quantity, grains and beans can cause significant digestive problems.
    • Heavy- Not easily transported if you need to be mobile.
    • Many people have allergic reactions to foods in this category.
    • If you rely on only grains and beans for nourishment for an extended length of time, you may have problems digesting these foods; especially if you don’t normally incorporate them into your diet. Preparation diversity is critical.
  • It is essential that those who choose to rely on commodities know how to properly prepare and use them. It is important to obtain good cookbooks and product information before you buy. Do not count on only a few grains and beans- diversity is very important.
  • Tips:
    • Smaller grains (such as millet, amaranth, quinoa, and teff) and smaller beans and legumes (such as aduki, lentils, split peas, mung, and small whites) will require less time, fuel and water to prepare.
    • Combine like sized grains and beans when cooking for a complete protein meal.
    • Pressure cookers and pre-soaking of most beans will significantly reduce the cooking time of grains and beans.
    • Newly “rediscovered” ancient grain varieties such as amaranth, quinoa, kamut, teff and spelt, are highly recommended because of their superior nutritional value, unique taste and preparation convenience – available at natural food stores.
    • To reduce cooking times for whole grains, try adding a handful to a thermos, or similar insulated container, add boiling water and let sit all day or overnight. (Use at a ratio of one part grain to one +/- part water by volume). Add dried fruit, nuts, sweetener etc. and enjoy a no cook hot cereal.
  • Uses for wheat:
    • Whole grain, cracked, flaked- cook for a hot cereal or side dish.
    • Flour- baking, pancakes, sauces.
    • Sprouting- eat raw or add to bread.
    • Soaked wheat- soak cleaned wheat in pure water 1-2 days. Drink water and eat wheat.
    • Gluten for protein source- rinse flour many times to produce gluten product. Cook in recipe.
    • Wheat grass juice- grow wheat in shallow trays with soil, cut at 6″-10″, juice wheat grass, mix small amount with fruit or vegetable juice.
    • Diastatic malt- ground and powdered dried wheat sprouts, a natural sweetener.

Grocery shelf

This is the category people are most familiar with and the one most will start with when beginning a storage program.

    • Store products you are familiar with.
    • Shelf life varies. If possible contact manufacturer. Generally canned items will last 1-3 years, glass jars 6 months- 2 years, boxes and packages 6 months- 1 year.
    • Buy extra each time you shop.
    • Buy case quantities.
    • Rotate supplies.
    • This category contains items that will complement and supplement other food reserve programs.

Comfort foods

During emergencies it is important to have foods available which are special treats and personally satisfying. These include:

    • Fruit drinks- sodas (all natural of course)
    • Candy- crackers- chips- cookies (also all natural)
    • Chocolate- drinks and bars
    • Popcorn
    • Puddings- cake and muffin mixes
    • Dried fruit and nut mixes
    • Teas- herb teas- coffee
    • Meat Jerky’s

Sprouting

It is not only a good idea to eat fresh sprouts normally; it is an essential during any prolonged emergency where fresh vegetables are not available. Sprouts are live, highly nutritious foods that contain essential elements for healthy living. They contain enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and much more. In an emergency it can be your only source for important nutrients. They are easy to grow and cost very little for so much value. You can sprout grains, beans, seeds and nuts.

    • Get a good book on sprouting.
    • If possible, use only non-sprayed, pesticide free seeds – preferably organically grown.
    • Sprouting equipment is easily assembled with household items such as glass jars, screening, cheesecloth, or you can buy a number of different sprouting kits.
    • Sprouts are usually eaten raw, and some sprouts can be lightly cooked like beans or used in baking like wheat and rye.

Supplements

Very important in emergency situations when a nutritional diet may not be available.

Many products have 2 to 3 year shelf life.

    • See your natural food store for details.
    • Many products can prevent health problems and illness naturally.
    • Whole food green concentrates are highly recommended. Also, multi-vitamins, green products, B-complex, vitamin C, seaweeds and immune system strengtheners.

Other types and Sources of Foods Available in Emergency Planning

1) FORAGING/WILD EDIBLE PLANTS

  • There is an abundance of free, fresh and nutritious foods available in all areas and in all seasons.
    • Obtain books about wild foods in you area.
    • Go to nature classes and herb walks that identify edibles in your area.
    • Contact the local agricultural department in you area.
    • Take classes given at local colleges

2) FISHING/HUNTING/CLAMMING

  • Identify good local fishing spots both inland and ocean.
  • Have quality-fishing equipment available and know how to use it.
  • Many insects are edible; know those in your area.
  • If you approve of hunting, have equipment and supplies handy for a diversity of trapping methods for small and large game.

3) GARDENING

  • It is always a good idea to know basic gardening techniques. If you have a long term planning strategy, gardening is a must for a continuing supply of fresh and nutritional foods.
    • Identify the best foods for your local growing zone.
    • Consider building a green house.
    • Learn how to compost.
    • Use non-hybrid- open pollinated seeds. You can then harvest seeds for the next season.
    • Learn how to save seeds properly. Store seeds in as cool and dry a location as possible.
    • In an emergency situation emphasize “whole plant varieties”. These are plant varieties that can be eaten whole at any point in the growing process. Examples include:

– Carrots – Cauliflower
– Beets – Chard
– Lettuce – Dandelion
– Cabbage – Kale
– Broccoli – Celery
– Radishes – Herbs
– Spinach
– Save seeds of wild edibles.

    • Using shallow trays with a thin layer of rich soil, learn how to grow wheat and barley grass for juice (highly nutritious!), and unhulled sunflower and buckwheat for fresh salad greens.

4) SMALL ANIMAL LIVESTOCK

  • Focus on low cost and low maintenance animals; such as chickens, rabbits and goats.

5) HOME CANNING/DRYING

  • With an abundance of fresh foods always available, canning and drying your own is very cost effective.
    • Obtain books and literature on canning and drying.
    • Take classes and talk to experienced individuals.
    • Get the proper equipment or learn how to build you own.
    • Know how to properly store canned and dried foods.
    • Canning supplies can be scarce in an emergency. Stock up on jars and lids.

 

WHEAT ARTICLE FOLLOWS:

The government and the media tell you to eat MORE wheat… they call it phrases like “wholesome and healthy”.  But more and more scientists, nutritionists, and researchers are finding very troubling health issues related to wheat components that most people are eating in almost every meal.

I saw this article below the other day at TheAlternativeDaily, a leading online alternative health publisher, and wanted to share it with you:

Is Modern Wheat Making You Fat and Sick?
by TheAlternativeDaily.com

Our hunter gatherer ancestors collected all they could from the ground for food including insects, berries, nuts, etc. In their gathering, they found that the animals were eating grass, and they became curious. They broke it down and somehow incorporated wild wheat into their diet. This grass was called Einkorn and had only 14 chromosomes.

Plants can mate with each other and combine chromosomes. At some point in time, the wild grass Einkorn mated with another type of wild grass and the offspring Emmer ended up with 28 chromosomes – this is the wheat that is mentioned in the Bible. However, this is not the wheat of today, that is for sure.

In the Middle Ages bread was a staple and very common food. Emmer mated with another grass which contributed more chromosomes to result in Spelt, Triticum landraces with 42 chromosomes.

In 1960, when the threat of world population explosion was imminent, there was an investment made in agricultural research where lots of money and time were devoted to new ways to increase wheat yield. At this time, different strains of wheat were crossed over and over again to select certain characteristics and to introduce unique genes.

The resulting wheat yielded up to 10 times more per acre. When this wheat was introduced to many third world countries, famine was greatly reduced within one year. Dr. Norman Borlaug received the Nobel Peace prize for his work creating this high yield strain of wheat.

Because this wheat is so prolific, it has taken over almost all of the world’s wheat supply. There are also about a million acres of what is known as Clearfield Wheat being grown in the Pacific Northwest. It is a semi dwarf strain of wheat that has had its seed and embryos exposed to a chemical, sodium azide, which is an industrial toxin.

The makers of Clearfield wheat claim that their wheat is a result of “enhanced, traditional plant breeding techniques,” making a distinction between genetically modified wheat. However, although no gene splicing techniques were used, many other methods were, such as the purposeful induction of mutations using chemicals, high dose x-ray and radiation techniques to induce mutations coupled with cross breeding. These methods might be far worse than genetic modification, according to Dr. William Davis, author of the book, Wheat Belly.

The government says eat more wheat – what is up with that?

The government tells us that we need to eat more grain, which generally means more wheat.  In the food pyramid, we are advised to eat 60% of calories from grains like wheat. The new food plate design also tells us to get at least 1/4 of our calories from wheat. Here is why we need to stop listening to what our government is telling us about the food pyramid:

Modern Wheat is a Serious Appetite Stimulant

It is estimated that up to 10% of the population has a sensitivity to the protein in wheat known as gluten (some estimate it may be higher, closer to 30%). However, the other 90% of people who consume wheat really should not be eating it either. Here are a few reasons why:

Gluten is a two part protein that is comprised of gliadin plus glutenin. Glutenin has a unique elasticity that gives us the ability to stretch our pizza or bread dough or even spin it over our heads, if we are inclined to do so. Gliadin, the other part of the gluten protein, was heavily studied in the 1970′s by psychiatrists who found that if they took all of the wheat out of the diet of their patients with schizophrenia, they improved markedly.

When they put the wheat back, they found that the condition worsened. So the question asked was what was in bread that led schizophrenics to hallucinate? It was traced back to the gliadin protein which, when ingested, enters the brain and binds to opiate receptors where it stimulates appetite.

In addition, gliadin, acting like an opiate in the brain, has other disastrous effects. For example, people with ADHD become hypersensitive and have behavioral outbursts, people with schizophrenia have major hallucinations, people who are bipolar become increasingly manic and those with eating disorders, such as binge eating, will develop food obsessions.

By 1985, everything at the supermarket with wheat in it came from the prolific semi-dwarf strain or a spinoff. Interestingly enough, if you compare what happened to America’s weight prior to and after 1985 it is evident that there was an obesity explosion that is still happening today shortly after the “new” wheat was introduced.

A huge increase in the number of diabetics also followed. Although cause and effect cannot be proven scientifically – it seems evident that we have all been fed an appetite stimulant.

Modern Wheat Destroys Blood Sugar

Two slices of whole wheat bread raise blood sugar higher than 6 teaspoons of table sugar. How does this happen when whole wheat is considered a complex carbohydrate that we are encouraged to eat more of? The complex carbohydrate of wheat is called Amylopectin A, which is highly sensitive to amylase, which we have in our stomach and mouth. This makes it very easy to digest and raises blood sugar rapidly — even more rapidly and to a higher extent than pure table sugar. Wheat for breakfast, wheat for lunch and wheat for snacks results in visceral fat that encircles the intestines, heart, liver and kidneys. Repetitive high blood sugar over and over results in what Dr. Davis calls a “wheat belly.”

Modern Wheat Causes Inflammation

When bacteria or a virus enters the body our immune system responds in many ways. Plants do not have the same type of immune system, but they have lectins which are proteins that are toxic to mold, fungi and insects. Some lectins are benign to humans like the lectin found in spinach while some are very toxic. The lectin in wheat (Wheat Germ Agglutinin) is a four part complex molecule.

When this lectin is isolated and given to rats in very small amounts, it destroys the small intestine. Average Americans consume about 10-20 mg of the wheat lectin in a day, that’s enough to do significant damage.

When we consume wheat the gliadin protein unlocks the normal intestinal barrier and allows foreign substances entry into the bloodstream – substances such as wheat lectin. This is why people who eat wheat have autoimmune and inflammatory distress such as joint inflammation, bowel inflammation, acid reflux, inflammation of the brain, inflammation of the airways etc. In fact, there is not one system that escapes the inflammatory assault of wheat.

What Happens When We Remove Wheat From Our Diet?

First of all, taking wheat out of the diet is not as easy as might think – it is in a lot of foods – even ones we would not associate with having wheat. For example, wheat is in Twizzlers, Campbells Tomato Soup, taco seasoning, frozen dinners, cereals, salad dressings, granola bars and a lot more. Why is there wheat in so many products?

In 1960, we could find wheat only in things where we would expect to find wheat – breads, pastas, pancake mix, etc. Today is an entirely different story – wheat is in all kinds of foods where we would not expect to find it.

Is it possible that food manufacturers know a little something about wheat as an appetite stimulant (on top of the fact that is it heavily subsidized by our government and therefore artificially inexpensive)?

Impact of a Wheat-Free Diet

Dr. Davis tells us that taking wheat out of the diet will result in the following:

  •     Improved weight loss
  •     Reduced appetite
  •     Lowered blood sugar
  •     Reduced joint pain
  •     Reduced inflammation
  •     Improvement in cognitive function
  •     Reduced anxiety
  •     Reduced food obsessions
  •     Reduced blood pressure
  •     Reduced triglycerides
  •     Increased energy
  •     Improved sleep

What About Gluten-Free?

Although going gluten free is a good thing because you avoid problems with gluten and gliadin, wheat germ agglutinin and amylopectin A, gluten-free foods contain other potentially harmful ingredients, mainly potato starch, rice starch, tapioca starch and corn starch. These are the only foods that raise blood sugar almost just as high as the amylopectin A found in wheat.

Warning: If you choose to be gluten free, avoid the commercial gluten free products, at least until you educate yourself on the differences between the various gluten free products on the market.

What Can I Eat?

Eat real, single ingredient non-grain foods as much as possible. You can focus most of your diet on nuts, healthy fats, organic fruits/vegetables, grass-fed beef, organic chicken and turkey, wild caught salmon, cheese, organic eggs, coconuts, avocados, seeds, olive and hemp oils as well as a variety of other foods that are in their natural state. The more processed and refined a food is, the more likely it contains wheat and other byproducts of the refinement process that are just too dangerous to your health.

-The Alternative Daily

 

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