Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Our Two-Tiered Food System: Nutrition and Health or Not

In yesterday's New York Times, Frank Bruni wrote a column ("... And Love Handles for All") asking if our society's growing obesity is our destiny, as determined by how we evolved and the ease in which food is now obtainable:
"Densely caloric and all too convenient food now envelops us, and many of us do what we’re chromosomally hard-wired to, thanks to millenniums of feast-and-famine cycles. We devour it, creating plump savings accounts of excess energy, sometimes known as love handles, for an imagined future shortage that, in America today, doesn’t come."
I understand Bruni's argument, but I disagree with it. I believe that we have a two-tiered food system in this country and the divide has nothing to do with elitism. Instead, the secret to better eating and health is having a knowledge about our food supply (simply put: understanding that not all chicken, butter, strawberries and chocolate cake are the same) and being able to incorporate this knowledge into one's daily routine.

I firmly believe that one person can eat the same diet—but in two different versions—and have two completely different reactions. Is it that much of a stretch to think that our bodies respond to a strawberry sprayed with pesticides differently than to one without? Is it a crazy idea to think that if we eat butter made from milk from grass-fed cows we are getting significant nutrients that provide untold benefits that are not available in butter made from milk from corn- and soy-fed cows full of hormones and antibiotics?

Some of the comments to Bruni's column (especially the ones labeled "NYT PICKS") are excellent and touch on issues discussed here regularly. Here's one that makes complete (common) sense:
"I visited an excellent naturopath recently. He explained 'when we are well nourished we don't gain excess weight.' By well nourished he meant taking in the levels we need of minerals and vitamins. Unfortunately, our soil is so de-natured and the meat, eggs and vegetables we eat so devoid of mineral and vitamin content that most of us are seriously under-nourished. Cravings are the result, because we're starving for the nutrition we need, even as we take in more than enough calories. He recommended eating a diet consisting entirely of vegetables, organic and home grown when possible, and grass fed/free range meat and eggs. No hormones, no antibiotics, no cages. Watch the energy return and the cravings subside. Of course, we have to get our digestive tract back on track for digestion to take place. Years of antibiotics and bad food destroy the gut. We stop digesting our food, literally, when we don't have the right bacteria in our bodies. We stop taking in the vitamins and minerals we need, and we stop making them ourselves. There's a great deal more to losing weight and good nutrition than calories and carbs."

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