Thousands of years ago, food simply served the purpose of sustenance. Early civilizations consumed any available source of energy with the goal of survival. Now, modern society considers food to be an accessory, simply an option that the consumers can design for their own convenience. Food corporations only encourage this mentality by mass-producing synthesized foods. Companies do not intend to distribute unhealthy foods, but rather follow the new wave of thinking in food science, nutritionism: the practice of engineering foods to boost their nutrient content. The main drawback of this idea is that the engineered food lacks many of the qualities that initially made it healthy; whereas, natural food effectively nourishes the consumer. Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food, uses this characteristic of natural food to argue that society should revert to previous ways of eating, where only natural substances are available. While his main point carries weight, he does not address the additional, non-health related impact of eating processed foods, specifically the financial benefits. Food corporations’ structure currently relies on unnatural foods, which eliminates any incentive for them to sell natural foods. Theis reason can be eliminated through the re-organization of the budget at the early stages.
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The average body mass index (BMI) of the United States has increased over the last few decades. While this has been attributed to multiple reasons, a significant source of blame belongs to the American diet, a cuisine of which 62% consists of processed foods. As more Americans become overweight, the incidences of numerous physical and mental diseases increase. This phenomenon, however, has many parallels to the rise and fall of tobacco products in the United States. Given the ubiquity of tobacco products before the 1990’s, the anti-tobacco campaigns in the United States were extremely successful in decreasing the use of tobacco products in adolescents aged less than 18 years. A reason the campaigns were so successful is due to the scare tactics used: graphic images that evoke very powerful, emotional responses in the viewers. An application of these scare tactics to influence healthier eating in the United States follows from the successes of the anti-tobacco campaign. Scare tactics that are similar to that of the anti-tobacco campaign would be used on children aged 12-18 years: graphic images of diseases resulting from obesity would be shown. However, children aged 2-12 years would be presented with more age-appropriate advertising: cartoon characters will instead depict the ramifications in a less-graphic manner. If the results of the anti-tobacco campaign follow through, the introduction of these advertisements will increase the consumption of healthy foods, and decrease the consumption of processed foods in the United States.
In a population with rising obesity rates, ubiquitous obesity related diseases and deaths, and inflating hospital bills (CDC), a solution to America’s present obesity problem is paramount. In 2007-2008, the National Health and Nutrition examination survey estimated that about 33% of Americans over the age of 20 are obese and 33% are overweight, while only the remaining third is in the optimal weight range according to governmental nutritional guidelines (NIH). Like many other disease or malady issues, the prevention of obesity is, “easier, less expensive, and more effective than treating obesity after it has fully developed (Warren 2003).” In order to find lasting solutions, Americans can adopt the proven youth nutrition efforts of foreign nations to bring down barriers to healthy eating in American youth. The two barriers I will focus on are lack of available nutritious choices and lack of concern. By studying the projects of other countries like China, England, Norway, Spain, and Chile, and the ways they influence the school and the home through availability of more wholesome foods and instruction on the reasons to pick those wholesome foods, the solutions of foreign nations can help Americans piece together a youth nutrition intervention.
Fat has two distinct meanings, and it is important to know the difference. One implies obesity, whereas the other refers to the macronutrient. Today, many people mistakenly associate these two descriptions, and assume that eating fat will make you fat. This is a lie. The general fear toward obesity has led to eating disorders, malnutrition and poor health decisions. The unsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids are wellness powerhouses, packed with neurological, developmental, muscular, visual and cardiovascular benefits. Indeed the omega-6s and saturated, and especially the trans fats, are frowned upon, but that does not mean that they should be avoided too strictly. Eating bad fat is better than eating no fat at all. First and foremost, the macronutrient provides energy to organic systems and to cells. Additionally, fat composes some of the most integral components of the human body; an inadequate supply will not allow you to function properly, let alone at your optimal level. Without fat in our diets, we would be at the mercy of carbohydrate-based insulin spikes and protein metabolic increases. While these consequences sound relatively harmless, a diet dominated by carbohydrates would lead to overeating and obesity, at a much quicker rate than a fat-based one. Even more fatal, a pure protein diet would result in the necessity to overeat, and ultimately poison the body until death. Fat is a misunderstood champion of macronutrients, regulating weight and hormones, as well as behavioral decisions. Read, learn, and do not let fat remain the villain of our modern food culture.
For the past three decades, the maladies of the American eating and lifestyle choices have engendered a phenomenal growth in obesity, stimulating an epidemic of diet-related diseases. These maladies are believed to be the results of a decline in American food culture, which plays a crucial role in shaping eating choices and consumers’ attitudes towards food. Before the explosion of industrialization, dinner consisted of homemade meals and culture was defined by our mothers. Around three decades ago, an alliance of forces, including mass marketing of food, inflation, and rapid changes in nutritional science, catalyzed the growth of profit-driven food industries. While Americans spent $6 billion on fast food in 1970, this number skyrocketed to $110 billion in the year 2000. If a food culture is a reflection of a nation’s values and traditions, American food culture has become the embodiment of convenience and cheapness. Barbara Kingsolver, author of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, urges consumers to turn to homegrown foods and seasonal eating. This solution does not provide a comprehensive approach to solving the crisis because it is too impractical for many people, namely those living in an environment with unsuitable farming climate and soil. Instead, society should focus restoring the traditional roots of the American food culture by minimizing industrialization and media marketing and taking on an individual approach; spend more time and money on food and eat according to one’s family traditions.
Soil erosion is a hidden epidemic in the United States. We have already lost more than 20% of our arable land since 1960 (Pimentel 1995), and are currently losing soil 10 times faster than it can be replaced naturally (Wilkinson 2004). It is estimated that every year this steady loss of cropland causes more than $45 billion dollars in direct productivity costs (Pimentel 2005). Through research scientists and farmers alike have discovered a distinctive relationship between soil degradation and the current standard of conventional farming methods. I assert that organic farming techniques such as planting a cover crop in between cycles of cash crops and using no harmful pesticides, combined with conservation tillage methods such as terracing, and leaving significant levels of crop residue after tilling will combat soil erosion effectively. Not only will these practices help prevent further soil erosion, but I prove there is an economic advantage as well because of significantly lower costs, premium’s on selling organically-certified food, and the government subsidies that come from using a cover crop in between growing seasons. Through my research, I have come to see the true benefit of organic farming, especially the effects of conservation tillage on preventing soil erosion.
Americans are widely regarded as one of the unhealthiest societies in the world. We have very high instances of chronic and degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease, we have high rates of obesity and diabetes (especially in children), and we have numerous other health problems that you don’t see in other cultures. The causes behind this are widely varied, but there are a couple of problems that are at the heart of the issue. The first is the fact that food science creates the illusion of healthy foods through processing, when in fact a lot of evidence suggests just the opposite. People think they are getting healthy foods, when in fact they are eating more unhealthily than ever. The second major cause of the nutrition crisis is targeted advertising. Snack food giants (and other processed foods companies) put out highly targeted adds that entice people into consuming more and more unhealthy foods. This is especially harmful to children, as it instills bad eating habits in them at an early age. In my paper, I aimed to find out more about the harmful effects of these 2 issues, and to explore several ways to help fix them.
Processed foods saturate our daily lives – the media, the supermarkets, the cereal in our kitchen cabinets. Processed foods are inherently less healthy than whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Advertisements heavily promote processed foods. Young children, ages 5-10, are targeted as a group by advertisers and are particularly susceptible to food advertisements. The processed food culture has created a health epidemic in America: approximately nine million children over 6 years of age are obese and carry an estimated 30-40% lifetime risk of diabetes. Research confirms media’s influence on children’s food choices; advertising prompts young children to request junk food and influences parents’ purchases.
Advertisement of highly sweetened, processed food to children has a far-reaching, negative impact on health; the same advertising methods that sell Cap’n Crunch, however, could be used to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables by children. Health advocates need to take a page from advertisers’ playbooks and promote non-processed foods to children. Media campaigns such as “Got Milk?,” “1% or less,” and “Healthy Habits for Life” strongly suggest that advertising can increase consumption of non-processed, generic foods. Successful campaigns employ celebrity endorsements, partner with multiple organizations, and saturate the market with the message that the product is desirable. Campaigns promoting fruits and vegetables must employ tried and true child-enticing approaches: memorable icons, child-pop stars, jingles, and action filled, colorful, playful age-appropriate messages. If advertisements can make breakfast cereal appealing; advertisements, they can be used to increase the “cool factor” and consumption of fruits and vegetables among children.
In the past 70 years, the world has gone through a food revolution. With the start of genetic engineering, we have been able to manipulate and reconfigure the same foods that humans have been eating for thousands of years. This engineering includes creating specific foods that are pathogen resistant, injecting additional micronutrients into food and increasing the fertility and yield of crops. This has led to an increased production in food and the reduced use of pesticides, which given the worlds constantly growing population, has been a positive outcome. Yet what negative effects has this had? Research into the risks of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) has been significantly lacking, leading to the broad release of potentially harmful organisms into the environment and into our bodies. Such risks include the breakdown of ecosystem specific biodiversity, the creation of additional pathogens and additional damage to local environments and organism health. Current policy deems GMOs as “substantially equivalent” to conventional foods, allowing these foods to skip the rigorous testing system that all other products are required to endure before mass production can occur. We must advocate significant policy change, reversing this ruling and requiring that all GMOs go through safety testing before being mass produced. This policy change is essential to our environmental and personal health.
Is it a feasible task to reform the ways of fast food establishments such as McDonalds? In creating a new menu with healthier options, there are changes that could be made to in fact, create healthier meals. In a country that is obsessed with efficiency and convenience, this task can in fact be a hard one to accomplish. Though both of these two specifics are extremely important, quality and taste should be held to the same standard. To do this, we need to look into the characteristics of food culture in the European countries. There, the food culture is quality-driven with the usage of things such as fresh vegetables and ingredients to make the meals. This does require more of a time commitment but, the quality of the food is thus, increased. If we can find a way to blend the culture of the Europeans with our food culture, I think we could offer a solution that could reform some of the current practices but, not in fact reform the entire idea of how McDonalds in the United States functions.