By: Melissa Colleary, Senior Sustainability Coordinator, LIU Post
“A hundred years ago, all food was organic, local, seasonal, and fresh or naturally preserved by ancient methods. All food was food. Now, less than 3 percent of agricultural land in the United States is used to grow fruits and vegetables, which should make up 80 percent of our diets.”
– James Colquhoun, Hungry for Change: Ditch the Diets, Conquer the Cravings, and Eat Your Way to Lifelong Health
Last Thursday night, the Sustainable Post Committee, in partnership with the LIU Post Nutrition Club, hosted a screening of the documentary Hungry for Change. The documentary focuses on the health and diet industry and how these companies intentionally manufacture food to create addictive qualities that will cause the consumer to come back for more. This combination of sugar, fat, and salt has in turn created more health problems than we ever thought imaginable, including everything from obesity to diabetes and heart disease.
The documentary strives to portray these issues in a way that will show the viewer just how manipulative the food industry truly is. It points out how our human instincts tell us to consume food whenever it is available to store up for the winter, but as Dr. Christiane Northrup says:
“Now there is a lot of food available, but it’s the wrong kind. So we’ve been programmed for millennia to store up for the winter, but the winter doesn’t come.”
Humans are perpetually consuming more and more food from calorically empty sources, which creates a condition of starvation while simultaneously being overfed.
Although a lot of these points are helpful and informative, others, in my opinion, are a bit extreme. For example, the documentary explicitly endorses juicing, the process of extracting juice from fresh fruits and vegetables, as a way to detoxify the body. However, the human body naturally detoxifies and juicing is not always helpful. The process of extracting juice from fruits and vegetables actually depletes a lot of the nutrients by stripping the produce of the fiber they contain.
The film does spend a significant amount of time discussing the importance of local foods and organics. Although introducing any produce is beneficial to one’s diet, using organic and local sources are good for your body in addition to the environment. Organics also do not use the harmful pesticides that are often present in conventionally grown produce, which can actually seep into the produce through the skin.
Locally grown food also helps to reduce your environmental impact because there is less transportation needed. When you buy an avocado that was grown in Mexico, the amount of travel that it takes to get that avocado to your grocery store is astronomical. Just because you’re buying an organic piece of produce, doesn’t mean that it is entirely environmentally friendly, especially if it had to travel thousands of miles to make it to your plate.
The Nutrition Club Prepping The Sustainable Meal
Whenever possible, visit local farmer’s markets. They’re often much cheaper than the grocery store and you can meet the people who actually grow your food, rather than the people who are stacking it in geometrical patterns under fluorescent lights in a grocery store.
The problem with the way we eat now, in regards to the environment, is that new farming practices and production methods cause more pollution than almost any other source. For example, according to DoSomething.org, factory farming accounts for 37% of methane (CH4) emissions. Methane has more than 20 times the global warming potential of CO2 and burning fossil fuels to produce fertilizers for feed crops may emit 41 million metric tons of CO2 per year. An additional 90 million metric tons of CO2 per year may be emitted by fossil fuels expended for intensive confinement operations. However, organic farming and local sources produce far less.
The other troubling issue is that less farmers are growing our food in favor of scientists creating it in a lab. As Kris Carr said in the film:
“If it takes a lab to create then it takes a lab to digest”.
The fact that people allow the food industry to get away with this is extremely troubling, especially when you consider the effects on your body and the environment.
Perhaps the most important thing the film says is to not worry so much about eliminating all of the bad things in your diet, but to focus on adding the good things in. I think that this is applicable to pretty much any aspect of your life. If you live on a diet of Poptarts and candy, adding vegetables and lean meats into your diet will improve your health and potentially even push the processed foods out. If you buy your food primarily frozen or in cans, start buying fresh. If you buy fresh food from a grocery store, try a farmer’s market.
Nutrition Club Members Serving The Meal
This doesn’t even need to pertain entirely to food, rather, it can impact all aspects of your life. So, whether you never exercise and you decide to start taking the stairs, or if you don’t recycle but you start using reusable bags, you’re making a positive change that will start a chain reaction in your life.
Don’t focus on the bad, focus on the good.