Thursday, March 29, 2012

One Last Argument For Food Control

As a part of this series on food, and my arguments for taking control of it back, I'd like to give you something else to think about, something to "chew on" as my Grandfather would have said. The food guides of both the U.S and Canada recommend certain serving sizes of fruits and vegetables, meats, grains and so on for optimum heath, right? Not many of us really try very hard to achieve those culinary goals, but some do. It takes some creativity to eat anywhere close to those food guides, and if you have a picky eater in the family, then you REALLY have your work cut out for you! But some of you may be surprised to find those fruits and vegetables we've been told to eat are NOT as healthy as we've been allowed to believe. Now before you splutter in protest, hear me out. In 1963, the USDA, or United States Department of Agriculture released a collection of nutrients found in all sorts of foods tested. In 2001 they updated their information as certain foods had been tested again. This is pretty much an ongoing process.
(If you're feeling especially brave, you can try and slog through all the government-speak and data yourself Nutritive Value of Foods) But to share just a small part of a near-overwhelming amount of information, our veggies ain't what they used to be.

From 1963 to 2000 the common field tomato has changed.  It is no longer a bastion of vitamin C. In fact, the tomatoes level of vitamin C have fallen by an alarming 41.66%, it's vitamin A has dropped by 29.75%, the calcium so important for our bones has dropped 33.3%, the potassium has fallen 3.5% and magnesium has plummeted 22.91%. Due to information laws, the U.S government isn't trying to hide this information, but I went looking and let me tell you, it's not easy to find either!

I find it a little disturbing that the National Academy of Sciences has issued a statement saying it now takes twice as many vegetables to get our daily requirement of vitamin A as it did before. But how many people know that? Did you see it in the news? I didn't. Neither your government nor mine want us to know about this, because then a good many of us would get upset and start demanding answers. They don't really want to be put on the hot-seat, so they don't make the information easy to find. They don't want you to know that vitamin A and calcium have plummeted by almost 50% in that serving of broccoli they say you should eat. Cauliflower isn't much better. It has nearly 50% less vitamin C, thiamin and riboflavin. That's why our breads are all enriched. The food manufacturers are trying to make us think they're looking out for us, but really, they're only putting back what our other foods are lacking!
This isn't news, I've written about this before.  Who Killed My Tomato? This is an issue that has some far reaching consequences. If your daily intake of vegetables is less than you should be eating, and the vegetables themselves are lacking vitamins, then how many nutrients are you really getting? Less than you think. You aren't going to start eating twice what the recommended value is if you weren't eating enough veggies in the first place. So you just go on with your life, wonder about it occasionally and carry on as best you can. There's no shame in this, most of us do this. But I'm calling on you today to do something different. Start asking questions. Go to the library or the internet, or both, and start reading all you can find on nutrients in your food. Find out how the food is grown, harvested, processed and shipped. Ask more questions. No question is too stupid. As hard as it may be, watch the Food Inc. video, or borrow the book. Read it. Try not to throw it against a wall when you become educated and enraged. And you will. As one good friend says, let me set your expectations early. You will not like what you learn. You will be appalled at how your food is raised, grown, prepared and shipped. You will be disgusted when you find out how your roasted chicken lived and died. You may swear, cry and throw up. I know one person who did.

But we all need to take this uncomfortable and painful journey. Going vegetarian is not the answer unless you need to be for health reasons. But if that is your reality, you'll need to know this information all the more. We all need to know what we're eating and how it becomes our food. We need to know the good with the bad. We need to know about the people that make it our food. There are some horrible labor practices that accompany that bag of apples you bought from the grocery store. We need to know about that too, because every time we remain silent, we allow those practices to continue. Practices such as

  • Working 12 to 15 hours without overtime or holiday pay
  • Denial of necessary breaks
  • Use of dangerous chemicals/pesticides with no safety equipment, protection or training
  • Unfair paycheque deductions for EI and other services in cases where workers get little or nothing in return

That's just the tip of the iceberg. That's not some foreign, visually oppressed country, either. That happens in Canada and the U.S too.

So, over the past few days, I've offered a lot of reasons why we should take back control over our food. The next step is to DO IT. Do it politically with our votes, letter writing, making sure the food producers understand we want change. send the message with our money, with our voices and with every resource legally at our disposal. Do it with our actions by putting our money where our mouths are. A part of this includes learning how to access food that is raised humanely, sensibly and with care. Part of the solution is more education, at least in WHO to fight and why. Another part of the solution is to learn how to take back control by learning how to grow, raise and process our own food.

It's all going to be a long, bumpy ride, but I promise you, it's worth it. You'll feel empowered, educated, more satisfied and less worried about what we're feeding our families and each other. Are you ready?


Jacquelineand.... said...

If the calories are all still there but the nutrition isn't what happens?

Can we say obesity crisis?

Practical Parsimony said...

This is just great, just great. So, homegrown in the answer.

LindaM said...

Carolyn, very good points. I didn't realize that Food Inc is also a book. I did see the film- no easy answers...even if we grow our own, soil amendments are necessary for optimal nutrition for most of you have any of Steve Salomons books? They are a good place to start.

Jenn said...

Excellent post. I've really become aware recently of the idea that we support all kinds of things just with the ways we live our lives and how we spend our money, and I'm trying to be more conscious of that fact and change the way I live even more to reflect what I believe and value. I can't wait for the Farmers' Market to start again this year - it doesn't solve all the problems, but it does make it easier to support people and practices that I believe in, and to get some healthier (and hopefully more nutrient dense) food at the same time.