“With our current agro-industrial system, for every one calorie of food we eat, ten calories of fossil fuels are expended in producing it.”
The meals that Lua prepared for us featured plant-based whole foods in colorful combinations and in modest portions. Eating whole, nutritious foods is important, Lua said, because their unique substances work synergistically to create an effect that can't be replicated by taking a supplement. High-fiber foods like vegetables, beans, grains, and fruits help protect against disease, decrease inflammation, and boost the immune system. Whole, nutritious foods boast vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, protein, and fat; all of which promote health and are key to optimal bodily function.
“A plant-based diet is generally best for most people. So much so that, in many cases, health care practitioners would be more effective by prescribing produce, not pills. And when cooking, it is a good idea to cook by color. Making sure that there is a broad range of colors on the plate is a simple way to ensure you’re eating a variety of naturally occurring substances that boost immunity and prevent a range of illnesses. ”
I cried out,
“What about garlic? Garlic rules! It has great health benefits. And more importantly, garlic is a winner, ‘cause from a distance, you look thinner.”
Lua and Julie mercifully chuckled.
I made my case. Garlic has been recognized as a wonderful health aid long before writer Bram Stoker introduced the modern legend of the ‘vampire’ — a beast repelled by garlic — to the public with his 1897 novel Dracula. In the book, Van Helsing uses garlic as a protective agent. It’s believed that Stoker lifted that idea from garlic’s many medicinal purposes, particularly as a repellent of blood-sucking mosquitos.
“All kidding aside, I have read recently about big changes in food shopping behavior. Big Food is getting bigtime nervous. Sales of processed and packaged ‘food products’ are plunging because shoppers are rapidly losing interest in what food manufacturers have to offer. Frozen dinners and sugary breakfast cereals are losing their appeal. Shoppers are slowly turning away from these kinds of processed foods as they are learning more about their questionable ingredients, high sodium content, and lack of nutritional value. It used to be that shoppers would delight in walking down every aisle of the grocery store to discover the latest manufactured edible indulgences. But today, much of their time is being spent around the perimeter of the store, where its vast collection of natural fresh products are found. If fact, the outlook for the center of the grocery store is so glum that industry insiders have begun referring to that space as ‘The Morgue.’ Perhaps the end is near for Big Food.”
Julie recounted what she had learned in the restaurant business about what goes on in food factories. She discovered what was being added to food products to make them look, taste, and keep the way they do; and what too much salt, fat, and sugar do to our bodies. Unhealthy diets high in sugary drinks, fast foods, and refined grains are a main contributor to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Of particular concern, sugared beverages — sodas, sports drinks, fruit punch, and lemonade — are the cheapest and emptiest calories that can be purchased and make up a full 10 percent of all the calories that Americans consume.
In contrast, nutritious meals like those found in the Mediterranean diet, are tied to better self-reported quality of life and lower rates of depression than typical Western diets — and may even boost longevity. Berries, cruciferous vegetables, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale, omega-2 fatty fish like salmon and sardines, and mushrooms offer powerful medicinal properties that protect against heart disease, reduce inflammation, and boost the immune system, heart health, and brain function. Nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, honey, seaweed, and fermented foods are also known for their special medicinal properties, Julie said.
“With our current energy-intensive agro-industrial system, for every one calorie of food we eat, ten calories of fossil fuels are expended in producing it. That's just crazy! It seems to me that the sooner we can get on with re-localizing our food system, teaching our children about good nutrition, recognizing the value and enjoyment of simple cooking skills, and nourishing our bodies with fresh, local, seasonal ingredients that profit local farmers and small businesses; the better. In fact, robust farm-to-fork initiatives could halve the use of pesticides and antibiotics, boost organic farming, promote plant-based proteins, and make every link of the current food system far more sustainable. Ya know, I would love to see grocery stores clear out all those center aisles and repurpose that dead-food ‘morgue space’ for family friendly activities, booths for local artists, stages for performers and live music, and other ‘place-making’ activities so that 'going to the market' becomes a favorite pastime and community building experience, as it once was.”
Regular celebrations featuring food, music, dance, and games had always been a common feature of community life prior to the current age of global markets and large-scale civilization. The loss of festive, vibrant local community gathering places feels like a cold blanket of frost on our collective joy. We are missing that periodic break from the tedium of the working day, that local and convenient opportunity for enrichment and enchantment, Julie argued.
“Fortunately, community farmers’ markets are on the rise to meet a growing demand for local organic foods, regional food security, and for ethical business practices. And they are accelerating the trend toward greater food justice and democratic control. These family friendly, place-making ‘DIY’ markets enable residents to purchase locally grown produce directly from farmers themselves and support environmentally sustainable family farms that care for the soil and for the environment in which our food grows. These markets return money directly to the local economy — while a large percentage of profits from corporate ‘chain’ stores flow out of the community. And fresh sustainable produce means more flavor, better health, lower obesity rates, and lower healthcare expenditures. These markets are clear across-the-board winners!”