The Science of Nutrition emerged nearly full-blown in the 1980’s to better deal with the problems of the Western diet. You might think that a national fixation on nutrition would have led to measurable improvements in public health after nearly thirty years. Using the deeply flawed approach of studying one nutrient at a time, this has seldom been the case.
Once fresh, whole food was all you could get, but today there are lots of other edible food-like substances in the marketplace, making what’s for dinner? a question we have been led to believe requires the expertise of science. This reductionist approach has largely been co-opted by the Scientific Method and is currently being used by the industry to sell more pseudo- food and — even more dire — to undermine the authority of traditional ways of eating.
Just what do we know about diet and health in the USA today?
Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, says we know that people who eat the way we do in America suffer with much higher rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Just moving to America will cause these "diseases of affluence" to be acquired, and he cites statistics to back it up. No one likes to admit that their best efforts have actually made the problem worse and that our pleasure in savoring a good meal has diminished while doing little or nothing to improve our health. Food has been turned from a valued relationship into a snack-and-go thing. A founding text of organic agriculture stated in 1945 that we would do well to regard the whole problem of health in soil, plant, animal and man as one great subject. Our personal health is inextricably bound up with the health of the entire food web — eaters and whole foods, not nutrients.
Even though we are offered what seems an astonishing variety of foods in the supermarket today, the actual number of species available in the modern diet is shrinking drastically. The economics of food processing requires that just a tiny group of plant species — corn and soybeans chief among them — make up the majority of Agri-biz offerings. That’s right: if you’re not careful, only four crops comprise two-thirds of the calories you eat.
This is all about monoculture farming:
A farming system given over exclusively to a single product. Its advantages are the increased efficiency of farming and a higher quality of output. Disadvantages include a greater susceptibility to price fluctuations, climatic hazards, and the spread of disease. [~Answers.com]
Historically humans ate some 80,000 edible items, of which 3,000 were in widespread use, so this drastic over-simplification of the "food web" is danger of the highest magnitude. The vast monocultures of little or no plant species diversity now feeding this nation require tremendous amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to keep from collapsing. It’s not hard to conclude that we cannot obtain all the nutrition we need based upon a diet comprised mostly of processed soybeans, corn, wheat and rice.
What’s the answer to this Science of Nutrition monoculture eating? It’s simple enough, and something that you can control — get more varieties of whole foods in your meals!
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