For the most part, when we read textbooks or try to figure out the jargon associated with nutrition, it tends to confuse or even alienate us. It certainly did that to me in the beginning when I tried to make sense of it all. And what a shame that was, because to be able to understand how to maintain a healthy body and a healthy mind is so importantly basic to each and every one of us.
Living in this technological age we would probably use more logic and care in maintaining our cars than we do in caring for our bodies. It’s a given that if we don’t care for our cars and fuel them improperly, they will break down on us. Even though the mechanics of a car is simpler than the mechanics of our bodies, the principles nonetheless, are the same.
Our bodies are like cars in this sense that they are vehicles carrying a passenger for a while, requiring fuel or energy and proper care to keep them going. That which is meant to provide proper fuel and energy for the body is called eating.
Unfortunately, feeding our bodies a nutritious diet has become an “energy problem” similar to and connected with the energy problem that modern man has become so preoccupied with lately.
Our bodies are powered by solar energy, which we consume directly in the form of foods, which have collected and stored energy from the sun, or indirectly by eating the bodies or by-products of other living beings that ate foods, which had stored solar energy.
Our highly industrialized society has come to be powered by the same solar energy stored in the bodies of past generations of plants and mammals, which has been transformed into fossil fuels during the course of time.
Our dependence on fossil fuels as an energy source, how we get energy into our bodies, what it does there and what we do with it, are all linked together. Therefore, it’s hard to just talk about nutrition without taking a good, hard look at how we live our lives and the whole picture.
The system of moving food from farms and/or laboratories to our homes has become an insanely energy-intensive endeavor that manages to separate the links between agriculture, food, and nutrition.
The total chain of events from fertilizing, spraying, harvesting, transporting, processing, and storing, adds up to about 10 calories of fossil fuels being used for every 1 calorie of energy, in the form of food, consumed in the United States.
The question that must be asked is how has this inefficient use of energy come to be?
First of all, agriculture has become a very centralized “industry”, with approximately 3% of the population in the United States growing the food for the rest of the population.
What this means is that large amounts of energy are expended just to transport harvested foodstuffs to different parts of the country, while nutrients are lost along the way. And the large-scale, intensive agribusiness has totally changed the face of farming from a more appropriate – technology business, in touch with the laws of nature, to an industry dependent on fossil fuels that, as with the other such large industries, plays its part and destroying nature.
We have large machines replacing farm workers, we have the use of petro-chemicals as fertilizers and sprays, and now we have Monsanto. All these are slowly depleting and polluting the soil and adding harmful and unwanted pesticides to the foods that we eat.
If you think that the increase in fossil fuel consumption stops on the sprawling agribusiness so-called “farms”, guess again. What about the process, which transforms food into a multicolor product to be placed on the supermarket shelf?
Understand this, the more the food is processed, the more fossil fuels will have been burned to provide a food with less nutrients.
Would it not be more energy efficient to consume unrefined and unprocessed foods that are locally grown or organically grown or grown in our own backyards or our balconies or in our kitchens to provide our bodies with energy?
Most of us know that energy obtained from eating has to be burned off because an excess of energy consumed and stored in the body causes obesity and disease.
Our industrialized society utilizes energy from fossil fuels to do the work. We have created “leisure activities” (physical work which does not produce anything), like jogging, exercise spas, gyms, fitness clubs, etc., to burn unused energy. And, since we have to use the energy we consume, an alternative source we might seriously consider and not look down on, is people power, aided by appropriate and people-oriented technology.
Much of today’s problems come from the under-utilization and misdirection of people’s energy and over-dependence on stored energy from past generations of living entities.
Unemployment, pollution, inflation (overconsumption and underproduction), and bad health are a few obvious results of the system, which is not in harmony with the arrangements of God and nature.
To make a long story short, the story of food is the story of energy, whether we are looking at the process by which solar energy provides nutrients for the body, or how that energy, in the form of fossil fuels, is used to bring energy, in the form of food, to our tables.
So, what we’ll do here is to concern ourselves with the nutritional aspects, keeping in mind that our patterns of consumption will not only affect our health, but also have much deeper and far-reaching ramifications.