Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What's Wrong With Our Food?

We're living in an incredible age of discovery about health, diet and fitness. As a civilization, we know far more about which foods promote health, and which contribute to disease, than we did ten years ago, or even five. Thanks to the news media and the Internet, the facts resulting from these discoveries are boiled down into laymen's terms, and disseminated broadly at little cost.

Taken together, and broadly speaking, these discoveries tell us that some of our most recent food innovations -- trans fats, artificial colors, preservatives, canning, chemical additives, drugs and hormones for domesticated animals, pesticides and others -- collectively and over time make us fat, weak and sick. Science tells us clearly that foods untouched by these "advancements" -- raw, whole, fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes and the avoidance of domesticated animals -- make us healthy and strong.

Given all we know, or should know, why are so many people afflicted by "lifestyle" diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and some cancers? Even many people without diseases are afflicted by poor food quality, feeling constant fatigue, poor sleep, sexual dysfunction, asthma, depression, anxiety, muscle weakness, mental "fogginess," bad skin and a host of other unnecessary symptoms.

We obsess over weight, millions of Americans on any given day are currently "on a diet" and trying to lose weight. But weight is only the most obvious and visible symptom of our unhealthy diet.

About one third of all Americans between the ages of 20 and 74 are technically obese, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And another third are overweight but not obese. That means a solid majority -- two-thirds -- are overweight. Of the remaining third, many are underweight, have weakened muscles, stunted growth, cardiovascular disease or other problems directly relating to diet.

What is less understood is that most overweight people are in fact undernourished. Our industrialized modern diet provides far too many calories and far too few vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants than humans need for health.

The combination of toxic foods and non-foods, excess, low-quality fats, plus malnutrition, leads to at least two outcomes that further promote weight gain and weaken our muscles, organs and immune systems. First, our bodies are designed to seek out nutrition when they're not getting enough. So if you starve yourself of nutrients, your body triggers a hunger reflex. People who eat a standard diet can have intense, overwhelming feelings of hunger, which leads to overeating. Second, junk food affects metabolism, which also tends to promote weight gain.

Our diet is literally killing us, and before it does, it ruins or at least complicates and degrades our lives.