(CC photo: cooee)
Industrialized nations have more food to eat today than ever before, but an abundance of food is not necessarily equivalent to an abundance of nutritive value. It may be that our mega-farm mentality has produced more food at a lower price, but the value we get from that food is severely diminshed—that carrots, for instance, don’t all contain as many nutrients as they did, say 20 years ago.
What does that mean to you?
You may be eating plenty, but starving for nutrients
A United Kingdom-based researcher, Dr. David Thomas, conducted one of the most quoted studies on the historical nutritive value of foods. He used McCance & Widdowson’s legendary work, The Composition of Foods, to compare laboratory results over time. And the results were shocking.
Thomas’ initial observations, hotly contested by the food industry, were updated and published in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Nutrition and Health in 2007 (Vol. 19, pp. 21–55). Whether you are a fan of mega-farms or a loyalist to family farmers who gets as much food as you can at the local farmer’s market, Thomas’ findings are revealing. More is not always better.
A very brief synopsis follows.
Some sad statistics
In his paper, The Mineral Depletion of Foods Available to Us As a Nation (1940–2002), Thomas pointed out what appear to be dramatic declines in vital micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in our food supply.
For instance, comparing the foods sampled in 1940 with the foods sampled in 2002:
- The whole milk samples contained 63% less iron in 2002
- Parmesan cheese had 70% less calcium in 2002
- Roast turkey delivered 79% less iron in 2002
- Levels of copper in beef roast declined by 84% in the 2002 samples
- Vegetables (1991) contained 46% less calcium
Thomas goes on to lambast the agricultural, medical, and nutritional establishments, saying they are “ignoring the obvious relationship between food and health.”
Factors he identified as contributing to the decline include:
- Crops bred to look good, rather than to provide maximum nutrition
- The widespread use of synthetic, trace-element-free, fertilizers
- Soil depletion
- Increased transportation distances
What can we do?
The solution proposed by Thomas says the cure rests in the hands of the governmental and corporate bodies that created the problem. He calls upon them to “encourage the growing, rearing, presentation and eating of good quality food.”
But do we, the consumers, have any say-so or responsibility in the situation? Are we really so dumb that we will choose a tomato based on appearance rather than on nutritional value? Consider this: every time you purchase food, you are voting for the manner in which it is produced, processed and transported.
What if we were to begin buying wisely? What if we decided to support the remaining family farmers—especially our local and organic farms? What if we began using our nutritional dollars to purchase foods according to the highest nutritional value, rather than the lowest cost or the best advertisement?
Drastic times call for drastic measures
Stand up for your family and yourself. Stop spending your hard-earned cash on inferior foods and low quality supplements. Demand foods that provide adequate nourishment. Demand them with your shopping dollars. I will, if you will.
And, if enough of us choose health over convenience, things will change.