Thursday, November 29, 2012
hidden health costs of cheap food
The value of food is not solely determined by the money paid for it. The real measures are the food’s nutritional value and its impact on your health.
My whole life I always caught colds and the flu easily. Then about two years ago I switched to eating local naturally raised eggs, poultry, and meats. No more hormone-dripping antibiotic-oozing confined animal meat for me. I began to grow a great deal of my own vegetables which I now enjoy through the winter with canning and freezing. These vegetables grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides and often from heirloom stock contribute to my health. Since I got serious about carefully sourcing my diet and paying a premium for good food, I stopped catching every bug in the region. When my husband complained of how many sinus infections he was getting, I convinced him to stop eating at his workplace cafeteria, and he has not had a sinus infection since.
Our immune systems are now more robust because we are eating food with higher nutritional content. Science is beginning to quantify the paucity of nutrients in food from industrial agricultural systems. Data collected and analyzed by University of Texas chemist Dr. Donald R. Davis has revealed some startling declines in crop nutrients over the decades. For example protein in wheat and barley declined 30 to 50 percent between 1938 and 1990. Broccoli now has 66 percent less calcium, in a 2003 analysis, than in 1950.
Large scale agricultural monocultures and business models dependent on chemical fertilizers deplete soils. These fields are stripped of minerals which go unreplaced. Fertilizers generally add nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. These three elements produce growth and fruiting but do not provide a complete nutrient profile needed for good health. The soil has nothing to give to the plant. Even if a diversity of nutrients still remain in the soil, newer crop varieties bred or genetically engineered to produce higher yields more quickly do not have time to draw in as many nutrients as a slower growing heirloom variety. Often the crop is just growing big but lacking in substance. Time is money and nutritional value is sacrificed for speed.
The same problem occurs with egg and meat production. Hormones and antibiotics speed the production but at the cost of nutritional quality.
When I was always getting sick, I was suffering from low grade malnourishment that depleted by immune system. My body was lacking the minerals that had been sucked out of the fields long ago. In a grand sense I was feeling the same sickness that is in the Earth that is mismanaged by industrial food systems.
I agree with agribusiness that time is money. Therefore I double invest by spending more time and more money sourcing high quality nutrient dense food. This provides the double dividend of feeling better while avoiding expensive medical appointments and prescriptions. I also get the greater gift of time that is not wasted feeling bad or sitting in some dismal clinic waiting room.
Admittedly it is convenient to malnourish yourself. Fluffed up produce and processed foods made from “high yield” grains are abundant but have lower nutritional value. Our food system is devoted to filling the plate instead of nourishing the body. The cost of cheap food adds up with deleterious effects caused by weaker immune systems. It’s no secret that poor health follows a poor diet. Remember this truth next time you feel like you can’t afford the produce from the local organic or natural methods grower. You’re going to pay somewhere, so start with a nice dinner and see how it goes from there. I expect that you will eventually, as I did, feel better.
When Tracy Falbe is not studying seed catalogs, tending her fruit trees, or shopping the farmers’ markets, she writes novels. Building a business out of her creativity nurtures her spirit as she seeks to find value in her dreams. Discover her hard-hitting passionate epic fantasies at http://www.braveluck.com/.