Many of the modern health issues are being blamed on Type B Malnutrition – which is basically a depletion of essential nutrients, despite the fact that more than enough calories are going in.
So how does this situation come about? In a world of plenty, how come so many of us are suffering – and dying – from diseases which trace their roots back to lack of the right nutrition? You’re not starving any more than I am. Look around you and the number of overweight and obese people is plain to see. How come so many of us are malnourished in the midst of all this plenty?
I think most of us can agree that if you live off a junk food diet, ie hamburgers, pizzas, fizzy drink, cakes and biscuits etc it isn’t too surprising if you generally feel lousy – and don’t look too good either!. But if you’re eating ‘sensibly’ where is the problem?
The production of our food now is industrialized – just as our farming is, and the techniques used have resulted in a general degradation of what ends up on our plate.
Lets start at the beginning of the process with the soil that grows our crops and feeds our animals. A teeming mass of microbes and bugs ensure the structure and fertility of the soil. Intensive farming, spraying with pesticides, insecticides and fungicides, not to mention constant use of NPK fertilizers all drain the vitality of the soil with the result that the myriad nutrients – both macro and micro – and now severely depleted in much of our soil. Add to this the fact that some soils have long term structural imbalances in trace elements anyway – for example, much of UK soil is deficient in an important micronutrient, selenium – and you can start to understand why foods grown in these soils don’t offer the nutrient boost we need. One study shows that European soils are a massive 70% depleted on what they used to be!!
So, point number 1 – if it’s not in the soil, it can’t be in the food – whether that food has been grown in the soil, or fed on it as an animal has.
The next point to consider is what happens once the food leaves the farm. Often fruit and vegetables are stored for long periods of time, or irradiated to prolong their shelf life. Vitamin levels in particular start to decay the longer a food is stored. Or fruit and vegetables are often picked under-ripe. This has the effect of ensuring that it has not had a chance to build up its full compliment of vitamins and minerals – an easy way to measure this is the taste test! The more bland and flavourless a food is the lower its nutrient content is almost certain to be. Vitamins and minerals = flavour!!
Next step on is to consider what food processing does to the nutrient content – and I’m not just talking ready meals here. Flour is a processed food, as it milk these days,. In fact, most of what you buy from a supermarket has been treated, or altered in some way before it reaches the shelf, and this all affects it’s nutrient status. It is estimated that as much as two thirds of the average calorie intake is from ‘empty calories’ ie calories which have no nutrient content. This comes from refined flours, sugars and fats. Wheat, for example, has 25 nutrients removed in the refining process – yes, sure some are replaced – four to be precise – but is that a good deal? It is a similar picture with rice and sugar, refined cereals and anything made from these (in the case of flour and sugar, that’s an awful lot of things – they appear in a huge number of foods). Pasteurising milk destroys the enzymes it contains and makes it more difficult for us to digest and assimilate it’s nutrients – including that all important calcium. The hydrogenation of oils and fats to make margarines and countless pies and pastries causes our body systems problems in coping with these man-made fats. I could go on and on. Industrialising our food production and agriculture has had disastrous effects on the goodness we obtain from those foods, and therefore on our health.
Then we get to the kitchen. Most of our diet consists of cooked foods – but heat destroys many essential nutrients including essential fatty acids, and vitamins. It also destroys enzymes which help us to digest and assimilate food properly. The less raw food we eat, the more issues we are likely to have around digestion.
Whew! Quite dismal isn’t it. And on top of all this is another interesting fact that food scientists are now telling us – we don’t eat enough! We were designed to be active and use between 3,000 – 4,000 calories a day. Modern lifestyles are so much more sedentary than that of our ancestors that we have reduced our calorie intake (average 1800 – 2000 a day). Less calories also equals less nutrients. Our bodies were designed to work on the nutrient loading of higher calorie levels, so inevitably there is a shortfall here as well.
So where does all this lead us. Almost inevitably I’m afraid to the vitamin and mineral supplement. How else are we to make up all these shortfalls and give our body the optimal amounts it requires for true good health?
There are a number of things you need to assure yourself of through when buying a multivit in order to ensure the quality of what you are taking – and that you are not wasting your money. Potency is one thing – how much of each nutrient does it contain (remember the RDA is just the amount you require to crawl over the border of ill health, not reach good health). Quality of ingredients is another – this comes down to the integrity of the company. Some high street brands don’t do too well here I’m afraid. The form the nutrient is presented in is another – is it synthetic, chelated, food state etc.
So, lots to think about when you sit down to eat your meal tonight. Food for thought you might say!