Human beings need food to live. Although this should be an obvious, “self-evident,” and almost silly truth, modern society appears to have simply overlooked it entirely. In our haste to shovel food in our mouths or in our shopping carts (so that we can catch this evening’s episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians) we have lost our reverence for how it is produced, grown, and what food is actually good or bad for our health. Today, 47% of meals (measured in dollars spent for food) are had outside of the home and the average time spent in the kitchen is a meager 15 minutes.
Not only are we increasingly eating outside of the home but we are not eating inside the home either. Our food comes in boxes and requires little more than unwrapping and microwaving. Although it may contain a multitude of calories, such a “meal” lacks the essentials necessary to satisfy even the most basic definition of “food.”
In this frenzy we call “dinnertime,” which is eaten separately or in front of computer/TV screens, we have lost touch with what makes us human: family, community, and health. Without any one of those elements, humanity seems to becomes less human; less alive.
Without family, the foundation of humanity wobbles; without community, the social-relational and socioeconomic interconnectedness of humanity dwindles; and without health, there can be no humanity.
Additionally, it is this very element of basic communication that serves as the main differentiator between man and animal. In Book 1, Chapter 2 of his Politics, Aristotle writes that “man alone among the animals has speech (logos). …Speech serves to reveal the advantageous and the harmful, and hence also the just and the unjust. It is peculiar to man as compared to the other animals that he alone has a perception of good and bad and just and unjust.”
Dinnertime is not just a place to eat good food, but a place to talk – about our days, including the menial, the beautiful, the good, and the ugly. It’s a place to be human.
In his work, How Not To Die, physician, author, and professional speaker Michael Greger, M.D. wrote, “Most deaths in the United States are preventable, and they are related to what we eat. Out diet is the number-one cause of premature death and the number-one cause of disability.” He continues, “A twenty-year-old in 1998 could expect to live about fifty-eight more years, while a twenty-year-old in 2006 could look forward to fifty-nine more years.
However, the twenty-year-old from the 1990s might live ten of those years with chronic disease, whereas now it’s more like thirteen years with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or a stroke.” Simply, the food we consume is directly proportional to the level of our overall health and directly reduces what researchers call “functional years.” Although we may be living longer, our living of functional lives are decreasing.
Enough of the problems; let’s discuss solutions. Unfortunately, just like Permaculturally-based agriculture instructs us, disturbance is always a prerequisite change/improvement. For example, in order to reap the benefits of fertile soil, organic matter needs to die, decompose and be digested by earthworms, microbial life and time. Recall the words of Ray Bradbury in his work, Fahrenheit 451, “We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”
A Life of Thought AND Action
Instead of attempting to prevent someone with high cholesterol from an immanent heart attack, let’s help prevent them from having high cholesterol to begin with. This method of prevention, of achieving true health, however, requires a life of thought and action. Thought, because eating right takes preparation, sometimes days or weeks in advance; and action, because eating right takes will-power and is most often an arduous task. Take courage, however, and remember the sublime and stoic words of Robert Frost:
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Healthy eating requires thought, as the poet must first see that there really are “two roads” and that they truly “diverge;” and it requires action, as the “road that made all the difference” required a pioneer to satisfy it’s “wanted wear.”
Truly healthy food does not come in a box or a bag; it is not cooked in your microwave; it takes longer than 15 minutes to prepare; and, especially, it is not quick. It comes raw, uncooked and ready for an investment.
Instead of going to sit-down restaurants 2-3 evenings a week, consisting of 1-2 hours of ordering, eating, and paying, eat at home and use your own kitchen. It will save you time and money, while fostering a healthier home filled with healthier people.
What You Can Do About It
Read, Read, Read
What is the biggest obstacle to disturbing your life and increasing your health by eating right? For us, it was knowledge. What should we eat? How should we prepare it? How much of it do we need to eat? To quote Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 once more: “If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.” Growing in wisdom and knowledge requires understanding your ignorance and being hit. There is a plethora of incredible books, published with the intention of providing knowledge and resources for people who desire healthy food, but it is up to the “desirer” to fulfill such “intentions” and read them. Moreover, apply them in their daily lives. The below list is not all-encompassing or without its cynics. This is good, however, for it forces you to make this journey your own and complete your own research. It is also not devoid of our own personal critiques. But it should get you started and on the path “that makes all the difference.”
- Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and Diet Dictocrats – Sally Fallon
- Primal Nutrition: Paleolithic and Ancestral Diets for Optimal Health – Ron Schmid, N.D.
- The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook: Healthy Cooking & Good Living with Pasture Raised Foods – Shannon Hayes
- Nutrition and Physical Degeneration – Westin A. Price
- Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World – Joel Salatin
- How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease – Michael Greger, M.D.
Buy Local, Buy Raw, Buy Whole
There is a major difference between thinking biologically and mechanically. For instance, if you apologize to your flat tire for driving over a nail and do nothing about it, the tire will forever remain flat. However, if you apologize to your Zucchini Squash for not watering it or providing the fertile soil that it needs and do nothing about it, it will attempt to heal itself. Simple: biology heals, mechanics do not.
Large-scale, mechanical farming produces food that is too large and too mechanical, meaning not biologically natural. It produces Chickens with breasts so big they cannot walk; cows so hungry that they eat their dead neighbors, and plants so molecularly engineered and chemically infused that they can unnaturally resists drought, pests, and death.
When you go to your local farmers’ market (click here to find one close to you), or even your local farmer’s home farm stand, you are buying from biology that cares about biology, not mechanics. You are purchasing vegetables that were picked that morning at the peak of their ripeness, not two weeks prior and shipped over 3,000 miles.
According to a recent paper prepared by the Organic Trade Association (OTA), eating local, organic produce does not just improve the health of the consumer, but of the economy as a whole. Their research identified 225 counties in the United States as what they termed to be “organic hotspots.” They then studied the impacts of these “hotspots.” According to their findings, organic agriculture had greater positive economic effects than the traditional/general agricultural processes, using chemicals and conventional techniques. Here are some of their detailed results:
- All counties labeled as an “organic hotspot” had decreasing poverty rates around 1.3%.
- Such counties also saw their median household income increase $2,094.
- Such counties saw a reduction of their unemployment rate by 0.84%, while counties apart of traditional agriculture had unemployment rates increase by 0.06%.
- The OTA’s research shows that organic agriculture and food is sustainable, felicitous for human health, and environmentally / economically friendly.
Most importantly, however, such an organic purchase of organically raised produce is the healing your body needs. To quote Micael Greger, M.D., “I don’t advocate for a vegetarian diet or a vegan diet. I advocate for an evidence-based diet, and the best available balance of science suggests that the more whole plant foods we eat, the better–both to reap their nutritional benefits and to displace less healthful option.”
They key is buying, preparing, and eating whole foods, eating some raw, some cooked and some fermented. Greger continues, writing, “If there’s anyone reading this over the age of ten, the question isn’t whether or not you want to eat healthier to prevent heart disease but whether or not you want to reverse the heart disease you very likely already have.” Get to know your local farmer today!
The time is now; the choice is clear. What path will you take?