Every late summer my brothers and I dreaded the chore of picking raspberries. We had about 500 sq. feet of bushes and for two weeks mom would send us out to fill up never-ending buckets.
I realized we were the only kids who had this particular chore in our neighborhood. Growing up in a neighborhood we could not afford any longer (after a divorce), we'd envy our neighbor's cupboards, which were stocked up with fun Costco packaged snacks we'd never even heard of.
Lucky! Or were we...?
In modern U.S. agriculture we see the rise of processed and packaged foods about the same time as liberated housewives after the 1950's. Women begin to adopt a new style of cooking and food marketing took advantage of this. Technology upgrades, such as the microwaves, encouraged "fast cooking" and quick preparation. Slowly, housewives were encouraged to get out of the kitchen and into the workforce.
A 2016 study showed that nearly 60% of calories consumed in the U.S. came from processed foods. Convenience remains the emphasis on most our food choices in America.
The tradeoff? Low nutrient-dense foods and higher rates of sickness and disease.
We must get essential nutrients from food. If we don't receive the daily recommended amount of nutrients, that is called a deficiency. When we are deficient in micro (vitamins and minerals) or macro (carbs, fats, proteins, and water) nutrients we start to develop symptoms which can lead to illness.
Nutrient components of real whole food, which can be grown in the ground, are stripped from processed foods, leaving us with little nutrient density. Nutrient density is how much nutrients a particular food has in relation to its calories. For example, for iron broccoli is more nutrient dense than dark chocolate. Though both have iron, broccoli is lower in calories and higher in nutrients per gram.
Pandemics first begin as epidemics. There have been a number of epidemics in our grandparent's lifetime, but only few pandemics. Before COVID-19, my grandparents had not experienced a shutdown of the nation due to a pandemic. Just the other day my grandma and I were talking about this and she realized the only other time she can compare this to in her lifetime was when Mount St. Helen's erupted in 1980. But the effects were not nation-wide.
In the early 1970s, US agriculture secretary Earl Butz pushed the idea of large-scale farming with the mantra “get big or get out”.
Scientists and doctors are still unsure of the source of corona virus, but they do know the source was in an animal market in China. With the rise of processed foods, in the 1980's also came more industrialized agriculture. Family farms are shut down and large conglomerate farms take over our nation's food supply.
According to the WHO, each year 1.8 million people, mostly children, die from diseases, mostly transmitted through food and water. In the 1980s changes in agricultural and food systems led to the growth of new food safety problems in both rich and developing economies, such as the rise of Campylobacter. Contamination of foods with pesticide residues is another unintended consequence of changes in agricultural practices. (source)
Our agriculture has changed drastically since the 1970's, and sadly, not for the better when is comes to the nutrition quality.
Technical advances in agriculture have also led to changes in the sources of nutrients, which have some downsides for health. Improved dairy efficiency can mean raised output of undesirable fats. More calories are now derived from fat, too much of which consists of saturated fats or trans-fatty acids. There are declines in intakes of fiber and whole grain cereals and increases in added sugars, notably from soft drinks. Disease patterns alter as a result, with more obesity and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, some types of cancers (bowel, breast), and diabetes. (source)
And so, we see a strong correlation between processed foods/poor agriculture practices and the rise of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other diseases. More sickness and disease increase our chances for contracting a virus, because our immune system is shot.
And so one theory is that because we have an overall sicker population now, we will be hit harder by any epidemic, turning it into a pandemic as we are seeing today with COVID-19. It goes without needing to see research, but by simple experience, that we don't really feel our best when all we're eating are processed freezer meals, packaged and sugar snacks, or drinking soda pop.
Essential nutrients are called "essential" because we must get them in our diets. Essential nutrients are most easily absorbed in our bodies through whole foods. The closer our food is to its natural state, the more readily available the nutrients will be to us.
So, though our grandparents ALMOST slipped away with a life absent of a pandemic shutting down the entire country - they did not.
This is a good wake up call to remind us the importance of getting proper nutrients from the original source - healthy, whole foods. Convenience is important. We're in a go-go-go type world.
But convenience should never trump health.
Pantry Fuel's meals are convenient. But when my Tutu (grandmother in Hawaii) was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, which she passed away after a few short months, I realized our community needed a healthier choice for convenient meals. That is why our meals are chock-full of whole food nutrients each week, fueling you (and us) with nutrients our bodies can use as a defense system against disease. Many dietitians continue to refer their patients to us.
Just like anything, it's not only important to eat healthy, whole foods - we must move daily! Get our heart rate up -- and sweat.
We must also get our heart rates down. Meditation, yoga, reading a good book, a walk in nature. All these things I've found to be helpful for that.
Whatever your passion, fuel up with healthy, whole food meals whenever possible. It may not only keep you from being sick -- but it can keep others around you from getting sick as well.