Despite the rising obesity rate, the United States is starving to death.
The first part of this problem is information, as few seem to realize the true health implications of the typical western diet; but often when we talk about “educating” people, we make it too much about personal responsibility. Even organizations and individuals who make a good faith effort to understand correct nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices will probably not find the truth. Food is a big business in this country, and the truth has been deliberately hidden in lies and confusion.
Eggs are just one example. Are eggs a good source of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, or will they raise your cholesterol to dangerous levels? How many times have the answers to questions like this been changed and batted around as sensational headlines on morning television shows and internet news aggregates? Popular wisdom about nutrition instills fear and primes us to let advertising and packaging make the decisions for us. Afraid of eggs? You can buy a carton of “real egg product” with a big red heart on it. That has to be a healthy choice, right? It says so on the label.
Unless you’ve done some very persistent digging into how the food industry really works, you may not know that this delicious egg substitute is brought to you by the food giant ConAgra. And what exactly is the substance you’re pouring out of that carton? How could some amalgamation of protein and synthetic vitamins created in a lab be better for the human body than a whole food that comes directly from nature? ConAgra is hedging their bets to the tune of billions of dollars that no one will ask, and that those who do ask won’t be taken seriously enough to damage profits. You’re probably thinking what a nut job I am right now. Consider the power and money involved here, and think again. This is the 1% we’re talking about.
The second problem is income. The ever-growing numbers of poor and lower middle class eat few fresh fruits and vegetables because it costs more to eat this way than to simply load up on cheap carbohydrates (hence the higher obesity rates in poor and minority populations). There is no doubt that it costs more to buy natural food from local farmers than to go to the grocery store and buy products made from mass-produced grain commodities. Giant mono-cultures treated generously with pesticides and chemical fertilizers are designed to produce as many crops as possible, at the lowest cost possible, to ensure the highest profit possible. The resulting products cost less for consumers, but are nutritionally inferior and even toxic; many have no choice but to hand over their money and accept the health effects as part of life. They may feel a biological compulsion consume a greater quantity of food and thus more calories in order to get the nutrients their bodies need. This is another factor in the epidemic of obesity and health problems in this country, but what do the 1% care as long as they get their money? I guarantee you they’re not eating their own products.
Studies have shown that people are happier, more productive, and less prone to violence when they have ready access to plants and green open spaces. Being around a lot of green satisfies our evolutionary need to be reassured by indicators our ancient ancestors associated with abundance and safety. The type and quality of the foods we eat are vital to our health not just because of the nutrients they contain, but because the very act of eating something natural or unnatural sends a powerful message to our brains about food security and our relationship with nature.