We’re an independent focused society, which means that most often, when we make decisions, we’re mostly interested in how the outcomes affect us personally. We chose to ignore how our actions affect those around us, our community at large and the environment. But it’s 2014. Living in this insular way is only going to put us on a very short and destructive path. There are many things that need to change, but one of the easiest things to change that we have control over, and that has a lot of impact, is what we eat.
Changing what and how we eat isn’t solely about losing weight and looking good, although the diet books would like to have you believe that. Navigating a healthy relationship with food involves thinking about what makes your body feel good, but also what benefits your friends, family and neighbors, and even people on the other side of the world. It involves thinking about the health of farmers and the health of the environment.
How to eat healthy doesn’t mean buying fat-free yogurt instead of regular (in fact, don’t get me started on the fat-free thing). Eating well requires completely rethinking our relationship to food. It requires change.
Need a reason to inspire that change? Here are 11 reasons.
1. What you’re told is food and what food actually is are entirely different things.
Boxes of cereal that boast things like “High in calcium and vitamin D!” are not food. They are food products. Products made by large corporations that have no problem putting profit before health. Don’t buy them. Buy real food. The stuff that doesn’t need an ingredient label.
2. What you think of as “cheap food” isn’t cheap, it’s actually quite expensive.
Thanks to industrial agriculture, you’re not paying the true costs of most food at the checkout. If you’re in an economic situation to do so, then put your money where your mouth is and pay for the things that have all the costs accounted for.
3. Sugar is killing you.
No really, it is. In Western countries we’re consuming up to 150 pounds of refined sugar a year, and all that sugar is linked to obesity, cancer and beyond. Cut the added sugars out.
4. Average products are less nutritious than it used to be.
Things like wheat and vegetables are no longer what they used to be. We have literally bred the nutrients out. Solution? Not buying mass produced fruits and vegetables and getting back to the basics. Grow your own when you can. Buy locally produced and small-scale if possible.
5. We’re more concerned about expensive bacon than a health epidemic in pigs.
An epidemic aggravated by an industrial food system, I might add.
6. A superfood is not a wonder drug.
Foods that are packed with nutrients are a good thing. But let’s not get religious about it. You need to be eating a balanced diet all the time, and that doesn’t necessarily mean packing your breakfast with some exotic seed from the Southern hemisphere.
7. Fresh does not mean local.
“Fresh” salad doesn’t mean a damn thing when it sat in the back of a truck for three days in order to get to you. Look at how many fast food chains have embraced the word “fresh.” Don’t succumb to food marketing.
8. Also, artisan is not always artisan.
Not if it’s a chain pizza restaurant claiming its amazing artisan capabilities.
9. We cook less and less and eat faster and faster.
We Americans love speed and efficiency, but when it comes to food, that has proved to be a lethal combination. Maybe if we put more time into appreciating what we’re eating and more time preparing, we would have a better connection to it.
10. We have to petition not to have shoe rubber chemicals in our sandwich bread.
Yup, that happened. And if you think a chemical that’s also used to make shoe rubber is the only weird ingredient in processed food, you’re dreaming. The proof that our food system is broken is that we have to petition not to have this stuff in our food. Bake and cook at home. Because I am sure that you don’t keep azodicarbonamide on hand in your spice rack.
11. The only industry more profitable than agribusiness in the United States is pharmaceuticals.
Our food makes us sick and so we turn to pills to make us better. It’s a vicious cycle full of profitable possibility.
Image: Joel Olives