Nutrition Month – ‘Hippocrates, a famous Greek physician, in the year 440 BC said, “Let food be thy medicine and let thy medicine be food”. He is considered the father of modern medicine, but he would likely be appalled at the way medicine is practiced today with so much emphasis on pharmaceuticals as the cure-all and the lack of nutrients available in our food. Hippocrates believed in natural healing with rest, good diet, fresh air, and cleanliness.
Many experts agree that Nutrition is becoming the most important weapon in the fight against diseases, ailments, and early death. But good nutrition is increasingly allusive in the United States due to several things.
- First, people are eating too much processed food
With most parents working, kids in many activities, teens and young adults stretched for time, efficient ways to eat are the norm. So, we are eating at restaurants or fast-food places or picking up ready-made items in the grocery store, all of which are highly processed foods, full of chemicals and deplete of nutrients.
Further, convenient delivery of food from restaurants, grocery stores and such make it possible to consume anything you like with little effort. Most of the food is high in sodium and other chemical preservatives with little nutritional value.
- Many believe that taking vitamins can fill the gap, but it is an unregulated industry with many problems. It is hard to know what you are getting in the vitamins, good or bad, and whether anything is being absorbed.
Powders that help replace meals have many preservatives, and if processed with high heat in the manufacturing, there won’t be any live enzymes or vitamins left and thus would have to be added (artificially).
- Second, people are eating “fresh food” that is deplete of nutrients needed by the body to function properly
Conventional farming depletes the soil of most nutrients. Studies show that organic farming methods produce more beneficial soil which means more nutrients in the items grown in the soil.
Fresh food is often not as fresh as we think. For instance, oranges can be picked, juiced and stored for long periods of time. Which means little if any vitamin C remains in the fruit or juice when you get it.
With changes in the trucking laws, it takes longer for food to make it to the distribution centers to then be distributed to the grocery stores. Time is the enemy of vitamins.
- Third, chemicals in our food and drink (packaging, etc.) are destroying our bodies ability to take care of itself (gut health, hormone disruptors, cancer causing chemicals).
Chemicals are showing up in our food due to herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, other hormone disruptors, and fertilizers at growing rates. Not only are the amounts used increasing for higher yields the number of different chemicals is increasing. No one knows the combined effect of these chemicals on living things. No research is being conducted in this area, despite concerns of endocrinologists. In 2016, there were more than 85,000 chemicals in the US that make up the products in our daily lives and few, have been assessed thoroughly for safety. In fact, the federal government has had relatively little oversight over most chemicals in commerce.
- Not only do the chemicals end up in our bodies, but the chemicals also kill everything around, whether good or bad. We’re becoming aware of the loss of what we can see: bees, butterflies, the diverse plant life of our ecosystems.
Big Ag is the dominant food production system in the United States with heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and preservative materials so it can be stored longer.
- Fourth, our government has not adequately funded the organizations intended to safeguard our food/water system.
FDA needs to reassess their safety measures. Congress needs to provide FDA with the tools so the agency can get the information it needs to set priorities and make decisions about the thousands of chemicals in our food.
This doesn’t even begin to address the chemicals in food packaging. Plastic linings in coffee take out cups, or sandwich takeout bags.
Further, the number of known harmful chemicals still being used in toiletries, cosmetics and fragrances is staggering.
The public thinks that if it is sold in the US, it must be safe, particularly if the retailer or manufacturer is well known. This is not the case. There are products made in the US that even China will not accept or import.
So, with all the “fresh food” options and information available to ensure we get the right nutrition and avoid chemicals, what is going on? Several things have changed over the last 50 years. There has been a tremendous increase in the use of chemicals (in all facets of our lives), less real fresh food available for consumption, too many additives and chemicals known to cause harm still in use in the US (even banned in most other countries, significant increases in average Portion size, resulting in more calories consumed with less if any nutritional value. Greater consumption of sugared drinks, super coffees and other drinks loaded with fat, sugar, and processed powders.
What can you do? Purchasing food that is grown closer to home (farmers markets, farm-shares, businesses that sell local produce (Farm Patch). Ask your grocer questions about the freshness of your food, where it comes from. Start a garden, eat freshly made food from whole foods, eat organic for anything on the EWGs dirty dozen, eat grass-fed animals, eat organic eggs/milk, go to the EWG website, and get informed. Advocate for removal of known harmful chemicals! Frequent the businesses who have fresh, clean, whole food options. Every little bit will make a difference.