Through my studies at the School of Natural Medicine I came across an old article published in The Atlantic titled How Junk Food Can End Obesity.
It was written by David H. Freedman in 2013 and it infuriated me, but I soon came to realise that this article was incredibly useful as it picks up many questions that the public may have relating organic produce, so-called "health food" versus processed food and why some people are adamant about buying seasonal produce when science has brought us strawberries in January.
I wrote a public response letter to this article which you will find below. In it I pick apart the claims made in the article relating to local produce, fructose and sugar consumption, fat consumption, calorie intake, food additives, food politics and more. My claims are all evidence-based and footnotes with active links can be found throughout my piece.
The Atlantic article can be found here and below is my response interspersed by photographs of our garden which for me is a symbol of mother earth, whom I love dearly and wish to always treat with respect.
Let us start where the article starts: with “a delicious blueberry-pomegranate smoothie that rang in at a relatively modest 220 calories” from McDonald’s that is both cheaper, quicker to make and, according to the author, tastier than a 300 calorie “apple-blueberry-kale-carrot smoothie-juice” from an independent café in Ohio.
The trouble with counting calories instead of nutrients is that you don’t get the big picture: the overall view of what this food will do for your health.
The blueberry-pomegranate smoothie from McDonald’s has a much higher sugar content than the two other drinks mentioned which is a big problem to start off with.
Fructose, or “fruit sugar” has no biological function within the body. It is poorly digested by the GI tract and can derange liver function as the liver has to work very hard to process it. Dietary fructose impacts LDL particle size, making the LDL cholesterol particles larger and more dangerous. Large LDL particles can lead to heart disease while small LDL particles have valuable functions in the body(1).
In a study conducted by Aeberli et al.(2), dietary factors, especially fructose, were examined in relation to body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio, plasma lipid profile, and LDL particle size in 74 Swiss schoolchildren who were 6–14 years old. In that study,
blood triglycerides (dangerous cholesterol) were higher, HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) concentrations were lower, and LDL particle size was smaller (this is not a good thing) in the overweight children than in the normal-weight children. Fatter children had smaller LDL particle size and, even after control for adiposity, dietary fructose intake was the only dietary factor related to LDL particle size. In this study it was the free fructose, not sucrose, that was related to the effect of LDL particle size.
Another recent report has proposed a hypothesis relating fructose intake to the long-known relation between uric acid and heart disease(3).
This is not me saying you should avoid fruit, fruit juices and smoothies with fruit, but rather me mindful of how much fructose there is in the diet.
When eating a whole fruit like a fresh, organic apple there are many other nutrients that justifies eating that apple and there is fibre to slow down the digestion of the apple in addition to being beneficial to the body in itself. With fruit juice and smoothies however it is easier to consume much bigger quantities of fructose. Additionally, when this fruit is commercially grown and shipped from far away (which the McDonald’s smoothie ingredients undoubtedly are) it is depleted of nutrient and gives little to the body but fructose.
As well as finding lots of natural fructose in the McDonald’s smoothie it is also loaded with sucrose.
Sucrose – in this case white, refined sugar, consists of 50/50 glucose and fructose. Glucose is stored in the body as energy and thus useful (in small amounts), but as already mentioned fructose is completely useless for the body and white, refined sugar is literal poison to the human body.
A McDonald’s smoothie contains approximately 60 grams of sugar, the equivalent of 14 1/2 teaspoons, from both the fruit juices and purees in addition to the added sugar in the smoothie base and in the yogurt(4).
Refined sugar – white sugar, the “everyday” kind – is highly processed and very harmful to the body: this is more or less common knowledge these days(5), but many are not aware of how much sugar in the shape of both refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is hiding in our food.
Sugar adds no nutritional value to food whatsoever and is an antinutrient as it depletes the body of minerals due to its highly acidic nature.
When processing a highly acidic food such as sugar (and other processed foods as well as animal products, for that matter) the body needs to regains its PH balance and will do so by drawing valuable alkaline minerals from the body. Calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium are all valuable alkaline minerals for bone and dental health, nervous system function, kidney health, metabolism, cardiovascular health, digestion and much, much more that are being depleted every time we eat overly acidic food.
Sugar has been shown to promote tumour growth in the human body and lead to many types of cancers(6, 7), it is mucus forming and highly addictive, even more so than cocaine(8), and can act in the brain just like drug abuse(9) – yet it is legal. It is inflammatory, promotes obesity(10) and heart disease(11). More sugar makes the body less able to cope with disease and recuperate from the damage caused by the sugar. It is a vicious cycle. Put simply, sugar is a pure carbohydrate with all fibre and nutrition stripped off, is metabolised by the liver in the same way as ethanol and is equally dangerous.
Lastly, the freshness of the fruit involved in the McDonald’s smoothie is questionable at best, which is why you are able to “get this concoction just about anywhere”.
I can guarantee you that it is not organic for starters and thus loaded with carcinogenic pesticides (more on that later), that it has been shipped from far away and lots a lot of valuable nutrient in the process as well as being subjected to ethylene gas in the transport process.
This way of bringing produce from the farmer to the consumer does not only bode bad for the nutritional content of the food, it also adversely affects the environment as the travel miles of the produce will contribute to the load of transport pollution we subject the atmosphere and out waters to every day. Your average produce travels 1500 miles from where it was grown to where it is consumed and by supporting smaller and local juiceries such as the Ohio based café mentioned in the article you are doing both yourself and the planet a huge favour.
Moving on to calories. In the article, Freedman muses that “many of the dishes glorified by the wholesome-food movement are as caloric as anything served at Burger King.”
There it is again, the calorie card! Right, let’s talk about what is wrong with obsessively counting calories as a way of assessing whether or not the food in question is good for you.
When a dish made from fresh produce such as beets and kale (used as an example in the article) is higher in calories than “anything served at Burger King”, which meal shall we go for?
The thing is, a calorie is not just a calorie. For example, obesity-promoting (12) HFCS (13) is not metabolised like other foodstuffs and doesn’t contain any calories so it does not raise the calorie count of a meal even though it is highly detrimental to health.
Refined sugar, however, is a calorie, but when choosing between a meal that contains 10% of calories in the form of sugar or 15% of calories in the form of saturated fat or carbohydrates from a whole grain or a plant protein you should definitely choose the latter regardless of this being the higher calorie option.
This is because in religiously avoiding calories we omit many health promoting foods. By for example avoiding a food that is high in good fats we end up getting hungrier sooner and falling off the diet-wagon as we grab the closest possible thing to eat. We also need fats in our diet to absorb the vital fat-soluble vitamins as A, D, E and K and for many other reasons (14) and obsessively counting calories will remove the health benefits of these foods. Low-fat foods often have sugar or calorie-free HFCS added to them to make them palatable: I will come back to fats and sugar later.
Most of the calories in a Big Mac, as we will see in just a little while, comes from corn starch and I bet you the Burger King menu items are not much different.
Genetically modified corn is found in most fast foods in the form of “fillers” in processed meat products, in bread products, in the coating of foods and a the sweetener high fructose corny syrup. The ingestion of genetically modified corn leads to toxicity, food allergies, infertility, birth defects, cancers and damaged DNA.
Many will argue that this has not been “scientifically proven” and indeed this is true: there has been no major study on humans when it comes to the effects of ingesting genetically modified foods.
However, what has become known as The French Study clearly showed that genetically modified foods promoted horrifying tumours in rats (15) and this gives us some inclination as to what it might be doing to us. Unfortunately there are many large corporations that do not wish testing to be done on a larger scale as there is a lot of money at stake. Scientists have been ruined and had their reputation during dismantled in pursuit of legitimate research into genetically modified food.
HFCS contains, as you might guess, incredible amounts of fructose which, as already mentioned, leads to fatty liver disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, dementia and cardiovascular disease. There are also many dangerous chemicals and heavy metals involved in the making of HFCS, mercury being one, that over time accumulate in the body (16) and causes irreparable damage.
In addition to the problem with sugar, HFCS and corn in terms of counting calories, the calorie card also does not makes sense when we bring meat into the equation.
Farm-raised meat has a completely different constitution to pasture-fed meat and this is not accounted for when Burger King count their calories: for them a burger is a burger.
But it is not so. Corn fed beef had much more inflammatory promoting omega-6 fatty acids than pasture fed beef (17) as corn feed changes the constitution of livestock tissue. Similarly, farm-raised salmon (and I can guarantee you that Burger King does not serve wild caught fish) is substantially different (18) from wild salmon and contains 46% more calories. Thus we again see how counting calories does not necessarily give one the right idea of the overall healthiness of the meal in question.
On a side note on calorie counting: labelling law legally allows for a 20% margin of error on nutritional facts. A quote from the FDA Guidance for Industry, Nutrition Labeling Manual states that:
“[T]he ratio between the amount obtained by laboratory analysis and the amount declared on the product label in the Nutrition Facts panel must be 120% or less, i.e., the label is considered to be out of compliance if the nutrient content of a composite of the product is greater than 20% above the value declared on the label.”
So when Burger King claims that a meal contains 500 calories, it could be nearly 600. Legally.
Choosing lower calorie fast food options over whole foods is dangerous as all food calories do not have the same impact on fat storage and energy expenditure regardless if they are a fat, protein or carbohydrate. Many highly processed calories like sugary foods take no energy to digest at all and only give frenetic blood sugar spikes (followed by blood sugar lows and the desire to eat more) by way of energy burst and the body stores the sugar that is not used as fat.
On the other hand the body uses more energy on digesting whole foods which in turn slowly release nutrients into the body and keep us fuller for longer and provides a more stable energy level.
“The difference between losing weight and not losing weight is a few hundred calories a day.” says Dr. Robert Kushner in the article.
There is, as we see, a big difference between calories and calories. Dr. Lustig rightly says that “When God made the poison, he packed it with the antidote”: fructose in nature is found only in high fibre foods and by taking away the fibre and adding a lot of fructose to the diet we are spurring on the obesity crisis. This crisis will not be resolved by counting and limiting calories, but by eating proper food.
Fresh whole foods provide important fibre, valuable nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, essential fats and protective antioxidants that help regulate metabolism and protect the body from disease.
In the same way that we have calories and calories we have fats and fats.
Fats have been demonised and made out to be the culprit of the obesity epidemic as well as the cause of cardiovascular disease: this is known as the so-called “lipid hypothesis”.
Interestingly, the article supports this hypothesis while choosing to completely disregard the fattening aspects of fructose: 30% of fructose ads up as fat in the body and in Dr. Lustig’s famous talk The Bitter Truth he shows how researchers ended up with the double amount of triglycerides in their blood after following a high-fructose diet for only six days. Six. Days.
Fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does.
A low fat product from McDonald’s isn’t going to make you any healthier because this product would be disgusting if it has not been tweaked with sugar in one way shape or form. HFCS is one of the most common ways to make low fat products edible, to lend them health claims by virtue of being low on fat and to limit the calorie count of the product.
I will guarantee you that the “low-fat salad dressing that was better than any I’ve ever had” mentioned in the article was loaded with HFCS, refined salt and worse…
But more on food additives and chemicals later. For now, lets us for the sake of argument look at fat and the two items compared in the article.
In the article the author has a go at a product called the Vegan Cheesy Salad Booster (VCSB for ease) and points out that “what the stuff does contain is more than three times the fat content per ounce of the beef patty in a Big Mac (meaning that more than two thirds of the calories come from fat) and four times the sodium.”
However, the article neglects to mention what kinds of fat we are talking about here.
The complete ingredients list of the VCSB is “Sprouted Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Sprouted Organic Sunflower Seeds, Organic Sesame Seeds, Organic High-Protein Chlorella, Organic Organic Red Bell Pepper, Organic Herbs and Spices (including garlic, onion and chilies), Himalayan Crystal Salt, Nutritional Yeast, Organic White Chia Seed, Organic Spirulina, Organic Dulse and Organic Kelp(19)”.
Just for fun I am now going to present the ingredient list of a Big Mac, all from the official Mc Donald’s PDF (20) (feel free to skip this part unless you are a total geek like me):
Bun: Enriched Flour (Bleached Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and/or Sugar, Yeast, Soybean Oil and/or Canola Oil, Contains 2% or Less: Salt, Wheat Gluten, Calcium Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Ammonium Sulfate, Ammonium Chloride, Dough Conditioners (May Contain One or More of: Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, DATEM, Ascorbic Acid, Azodicarbonamide, Mono and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Monoglycerides, Monocalcium Phosphate, Enzymes, Guar Gum, Calcium Peroxide), Sorbic Acid, Calcium Propionate and/or Sodium Propionate (Preservatives), Soy Lecithin, Sesame Seed.
Cheese: Milk, Cream, Water, Cheese Culture, Sodium Citrate, Contains 2% or Less of: Salt, Citric Acid, Sodium Phosphate, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Lactic Acid, Acetic Acid, Enzymes, Sodium Pyrophosphate, Natural Flavor (Dairy Source), Color Added, Soy Lecithin (Added for Slice Separation).
Sauce: Soybean Oil, Pickle Relish (Diced Pickles, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Vinegar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate [Preservative], Spice Extractives, Polysorbate 80), Distilled Vinegar, Water, Egg Yolks, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Onion Powder, Mustard Seed, Salt, Spices, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Mustard Bran, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Vegetable Protein (Hydrolyzed Corn, Soy and Wheat), Caramel Color, Extractives of Paprika, Soy Lecithin, Turmeric (Color), Calcium Disodium EDTA (Protect Flavor).
Pickle slices: Cucumbers, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Alum, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Natural Flavors (Plant Source), Polysorbate 80, Extractives of Turmeric (Color).
Beef: 100% Pure USDA Inspected Beef; No Fillers, No Extenders.
Prepared with Grill Seasoning (Salt, Black Pepper)
Lettuce and onions: … Are actually just lettuce and onions!
We see that the components of a Big Mac aren’t as simple as they might look.
The bun is full of genetically modified corn as well as HFCS, highly unstable and cancer promoting polyunsaturated oils such as canola and soybean oil (also often genetically modified) and some crazy sounding “dough conditioners” that I would want nowhere near my body. The cheese is not just cheese, but a chemistry experiment of food colouring and soy.
The sauce contains no less than FOUR different sugars: HFCS, from corn as already mentioned; sugar; corn syrup and xanthan gum – also derived from corn. It packs in even more corn as vegetable protein, just for fun.
Oh, side note: that thing called propylene glycol alginate is commonly found in anti-freeze, engine coolants and shampoo. It can be as low calorie and fat as it wants to, but I don’t want to eat it.
Lastly, there is the beef. As I have already covered in this article, commercially raised beef does not have the nutritional content of beef like we used to have beef.
Additionally the livestock that are being raised in factory farms are unhealthy and dying by the time they reach the slaughterhouse, they are pumped full of antibiotics and the meat itself is saturated by corn because of the corn heavy livestock feed. Again genetically modified corn finds its way into the burger.
Back to fats. Aside from all the other nasties in this burger, if we were to look at the fat content alone and compare it with the Vegan Cheesy Salad Booster and then make an informed decision on which one to eat, which one would it be?
The fats in the VCSB are coming from saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids from organic seeds while in the burger there is a mix of saturated fats from milk/cream and meat alongside polyunsaturated fats from canola and soybean oil.
The saturated and monounsaturated fats in the VCSB are coming in an untreated form and are stable, safe and health promoting. The seeds in the VCSB are high in essential and anti-inflammatory omega-3s and the fats in the VCSB are heart healthy, supports hormone production, metabolism, cell regeneration, fertility, lung health, correct nervous system function, support the immune system, promote bone calcium incorporation and protect the liver.
In the making of the Big Mac the unstable polyunsaturated fats of the vegetable oils are subjected to high heat and their bonds begin to break. When these unstable oils are ingested they attack the body in the form of free radicals (21) and eating these oils leads to cancer, obesity, inflammatory diseases, autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular disease.
As already mentioned the corn fed beef in a Big Mac is high in omega-6 which is an inflammatory promoting fat which we get far too much of in a western diet.
A Big Mac also contains 1.3 grams trans fat per item. Trans fats are created in the process of hydrogenation of vegetable oils in order to turn them from liquid in room temperature to solid (think margarine). The vegetable oil is artificially saturated with hydrogen, but since this is done by humans and not by nature the final product ends up with an unnatural chemical structure and our bodies have trouble breaking them down. For example, cell walls made out of trans fats are unable to open and close to let nutrients in and waste out. Trans fats also stop our cell receptors from functioning properly, which may be why trans fats contribute to diabetes type 2 (as this is a condition where the insulin receptors in the body are not responding). Trans fats, not cholesterol, seem to be the reason for artery clogging and heart attacks according to many studies (22) and are so dangerous they have actually been banned in many countries.
The presence of trans fats in a Big Mac is reason enough alone not to eat it, but looking at the big picture of the different fats involved in these food items should be enough to tell you which one to choose for your health.
Lastly, when comparing these two foods it is necessary to talk about the portion size. The fat ratio of a bag of VCSB is higher than in a single Big Mac yes, but one bag of VCSB contains over 6 servings of the stuff! While I can easily envision someone eating a Big Mac in one sitting I have a harder time seeing someone eating a bag of VCSB by the spoonful.
Keep this is mind when we talk about the sodium content of the two items, a concern of the author of the article in question. The sodium in the VCSB comes from Himalayan crystal salt, nutritional yeast and the sea vegetables dulse and kelp, all of which have a lot of nutritional chutzpah going for them with the Himalayan salt packing in over 80 trace minerals alone.
Comparatively the Big Mac sodium content comes from refined salt. This salt is harvested mechanically from salt mines as brine, a highly concentrated salt and water blend which is chemically treated to remove “impurities”: these “impurities” being a wide range of beneficial minerals. Then the salt is bleached with chlorine and sulphuric acid to make the salt sparkling white before it is dried at extremely high temperatures which alter the chemical structure of the salt. Finally the salt has anti-caking agents added to it such as aluminum silicate, sodium ferrocyanide and ammonium citrate – not good for you!
Salt is mentioned on the Big Mac ingredients list five times.
When you eat one Big Mac you ingest 1007 mg sodium, over 40% of your RDA. When you eat on serving (14 grams) of VCSB you ingest 272 mg sodium, or 11% of your RDA.
As for the Trader Joe’s snack food called Inner Peas, it doesn't sound too good and this may be the only time I ever agree with the article. However, the Inner Peas product is a processed snack food and not a whole food made from fresh farm vegetables and does not make any health claims. I suppose you can’t blame the author for picking just one health food battle he would be sure to win…
Moving on to preservatives, additives and genetically modified food, Freedman isn't too worried about these and neither about the nutrient intake of his fellow Americans. “The fact is, there is simply no clear, credible evidence that any aspect of food processing or storage makes a food uniquely unhealthy.” he states.
Let us begin with unnatural additives to food. Foods that have been listed as GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe) are exempted from mention on labelling.
This includes MSG, a flavour-enhancer recent studies have shown contributes to obesity and can cause adverse health effects such as muscle tightness, fatigue, numbness and headaches (23) and childhood exposure can lead to behavioural problems, learning difficulties and endocrine problems later in life (24). MSG is allowed simply to be listed as “flavour”.
Adding chemicals to food are often done so to expand the shelf life, improve flavour and change the look of the food.
The reason for this is because the produce that make up these foods are often in such bad shape that they would not be palatable without flavour enhancers – this is why these foods are so cheap. By buying produce that is already heavily sprayed with carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides that have been grown extremely cheaply the cost of production is kept down. As refined sugar and salt is cheap a cheap way of manipulating flavour in addition to being preservatives these are added so that the product is made palatable while still being cost effective and as we know, excess sugar and salt in the diet is poisonous (not to mention the detrimental health effects of HFCS).
Lastly something has to be done to tweak the look, texture and flavour of the product as well as ensure that it will have the crazy long shelf life we have become accustomed to today.
Many food colourings have been banned in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe because of their probable carcinogenic properties. It is widely recognised that for example ingestion of Allura Red can over time lead to allergies, food intolerance, cancer, multiple sclerosis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, brain damage, nausea, cardiac disease and asthma (25).
The food additives BHT, BHA and TBHQ are benzoate preservatives are added to fatty foods to prevent their rancidity, which would have been a good thing if it wasn’t for their leading to ADHD, according to a 2012 study.
Nitrates, a group of preservatives, have been found to promote thyroid cancer (26). Sodium benzoate, another preservative, can react with Vitamin C in the food and create the carcinogen benzine and in 2007 an article published in The Lancelet presented a correlation between this preservative and hyperactivity disorders (27).
Aspartame, a commonly used sweetener, has been found to promote leukaemia and other cancers(28).
Lastly, many processed foods contain already mentioned dangerous trans fats.
I could go on, but I would have to write another post.
In addition to the additives IN the food, a lot of dangerous chemicals are found in the packaging of food which then seeps into the product itself. Bisphenol-A and -S as well as phthalates are chemical compounds found in plastic and are known carcinogens as well as being obesity- and allergy-promoting(29 30 31).
The already mentioned “French Study” by Seralini at the University of Caen is the only animal study ever performed with genetically modified foods.
The rats were fed GM corn for just 30 days and all of them developed tumours, liver and kidney damage. 50% of male rats and 70% of female rats died prematurely. The rats were also given drinking water with Roundup fertiliser – a fertiliser commonly used in commercial agriculture – which promoted a 200-300% increase in tumour growth. This study was done on the allowable amounts of the fertiliser in drinking water, the legal limit. Think about that for a second.
All food not labelled organic have been grown using chemicals that have serious impacts on human health, from short-term impacts such as nausea and headaches to long term-implications such as asthma(32), allergies, birth defects(33), Parkinson’s disease(34), cancers(35) , ADD, ADHD(36) and autism(37 38).
A lot of genetically modified foods are genetically modified to withstand certain fertilisers, including Roundup. So when you eat a vegetable or fruit that is GM, its flesh is most likely loaded with this or a similar fertiliser.
Whatever the nutritional value of the Trader Joe’s “Inner Peas” product is, at least it is GMO-free as Trader Joe’s went GMO free in 2011. Unlike, for example, Burger King.
That there is “simply no clear, credible evidence that any aspect of food processing or storage makes a food uniquely unhealthy” is an outright lie.
That “the U.S. population does not suffer from a critical lack of any nutrient, because we eat so much processed food” is another.
Codex Alimentarius, the inter-governmental body responsible for setting global guidelines for food labelling, food additives and pesticide residues, also decides the thresholds for nutrient deficiencies and have reduced the dietary supplement guidelines for vitamins and minerals to low levels (the maximum level of vitamin C is 225 mg!) which makes it difficult for ordinary people to gauge how much they need in order to stay healthy. The truth is that we need much more nutrient that the guideline suggest and we only need to look around us to see that this is true.
The consumption of processed foods are clearly the main scapegoat of the western disease epidemic and nutrient deficiency is a big part of that.
Sufficient nutrients help regulate blood pressure, fat metabolism, blood sugar, heart rhythm, hormone production and so much more as well as being antioxidant, essential for bone health, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-viral and ward off respiratory diseases, allergies, cancers and neurological disease to mention a few.
Preventative measures for cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia, autoimmune disease, obesity, osteoporosis, kidney diseases and digestive disorders can all be found at the tip of a fork.
“These roundly demonised companies could do far more for the public’s health in five years than the wholesome-food movement is likely to accomplish in the next 50.”
I could agree with this excerpt from the article if I was allowed to change just one word: “These roundly demonised companies could do far more TO the public’s health in five years than the wholesome-food movement is likely to accomplish in the next 50.”
I am very afraid of what might happen to the public’s health over the next five years because the detrimental development is so rapid and the “wholesome-food movement” is so slow to catch on.
This is because of misleading propaganda such as this article, because of extremely wealthy global companies that buy research to suit their own needs, because of soda manufacturers that are taking over schools and work places and because of the addictive nature, price competitiveness and convenience of processed foods.
We don’t need more processed foods from WholeFoods, this missing the point completely. Fresh, local and unprocessed whole foods (whole foods, not WholeFoods) that we can cook into meals ourselves are the most nutritious foods around and they are cheaper, too.
Local farmer’s markets are relatively easy to get to (hence the term ‘local’) and if one cares enough to plan ahead for market days they are convenient, much more so than seeking out the nearest fast food restaurant.
A sandwich that “was delicious and took less than a minute to prepare” is argued to be more “genuinely healthy” than access to 50,000 farmer’s markets and their fresh produce. How? This salmon is probably trawler caught or farmed: this meat will be stuffed full of omega-6, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals due to the nature of the commercial agriculture farming, which is the only way of farm that can supply fish this cheaply. And, as we are about to find out, the salmon really isn’t cheap at all…
It needs to be acknowledged that cooking your meals yourself from fresh produce does take more time than going to a drive through to pick up a burger.
On the other hand, disease is also time consuming AND expensive: constant trips to the doctor due to a weak disposition that is prone to infections and disease with the associated medical bills, picking up and paying for pharmaceutical medication, not being well enough to work and either losing pay of losing money in taxes that are being paid towards an overrun health care system that struggles to cope with the costs of treating obesity and lifestyle related diseases, time and joy lost in illness that could have been better spent working towards one’s goals.
The market price for ‘cheap’ foods aren’t so cheap when we count the money tax payers are paying towards subsidies. Because 62% of the US government food subsidies go to animal food alone the real price of a burger is $50 (approx. £40) (39). Less than 1% goes to fruit and vegetable production.
Raj Patel, author of The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy, has said that the real cost of a hamburger should be about $200 when we add the environmental costs only(40). This does not include subsidies, medical bills and real wages for workers in the commercial animal agriculture industry, which are also part of the real cost(41).
This is the most expensive (non)food in history, paid for by tax money, health insurance and pharmaceutical drugs while the industries that feed off the planting, harvesting and processing of cheap produce and a diseased population prosper.
If the focus already was on supplying the demand for whole foods, we would not need to be “creating farms” as the article suggests: the reason we have mostly large factory farms is the subsidies system as governments value monocrops in favour of polyculture. Farmers today specialise in growing just one thing over and over again and this depletes the soil of nutrient, making the farmers reliant on pesticides and produces nutrient deficient food. Ironically, modern farmers today grown industrial quantities of food without being able to feed themselves.
This food subsidy system is a huge problem that has grown increasingly complex over the years and needs to be solved by our governments.
“Even if America somehow becomes absolutely saturated with highly affordable outlets for wholesome, locally sourced dishes, what percentage of the junk-food-eating obese will be ready to drop their Big Macs, fries, and Cokes for grilled salmon on chard?” asks Freedman.
I agree that “We’re not going to solve this problem by telling people to eat unprocessed food”, but the problem is just so much more complex.
The access to healthy food is limited: as the article correctly states, processed food is cheap (“cheap”) and accessible.
In the documentary Kind Corn a hispanic family were struggling to find a single vegetable in a grocery store that was cheaper than a Big Mac.
We have arrived at this mind boggling scenario because of the millions of dollars/pounds/euros/you name it being paid as taxes to support the dysfunctional subsides system of animal food production and monocrop farming, a system which produces nutrient deficient food laden with pesticides, herbicides and hormones that need to have carcinogenic and hazardous chemicals, salt and sugar added to them in order to be made palatable. Do you think people want to be obese or want their children to die before them after a life fraught with illness and obesity?
We – all members of the modern and not just the western world – are being fed misinformation from the very body that should be protecting us: the government. We have been forced into the role of accomplices to keep this machine going and it seems difficult to see how we can get out.
When the public knew that it was a splurge, a little naughty, to go to a fast food joint for lunch once in a while they restricted themselves to that occasional visit. When health claims are being made by McDonald’s people think they are doing the right thing by choosing what is marketed as healthier products, not understanding why they are getting sicker and sicker.
“Executives of giant food companies are not stupid.”
I absolutely agree with that. They are very clever and they manage to trick people into thinking that their foods are healthier because they are low in calories and fats, when in fact they are doing even more damage than before.
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