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File 4 - Article 9 Previous Index Next
Author: Maureen Powels - Holistic Practitioner
Title: Nutrition (contributed by Felix Heimer)

The subject of nutrition is as plentiful and varied as the foodstuffs that are available to us. What is it that constitutes nutrition - good or bad? Is it our 'five a day' of fruit and vegetables as recent government and health campaigns promote or the balanced diet covering the food groups, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins? Can our bodies survive without a 'healthy eating plan'? The fact that half the world survives on a staple diet of only one foodstuff i.e., rice or maize which are the main dietary components of third world countries, suggests that the human body is very adaptable to environmental extremes. In 1995 the world produced enough food to adequately provide for all peoples - if the food was equally distributed. The fact that food aid is necessary and that it lies rotting in dockside warehouses suggests that all things are not equal. In December 1992, in Rome, at the International Conference on Nutrition the Food and Agricultural Organisation put forward their recommendations to improve the nutritional status of all populations. If food wasn't measured in political weight the world's nutritional needs would be better balanced.

'It is estimated that four million people in the UK cannot afford a healthy diet, with one in seven people over the age of 65 at serious risk of malnourishment. Seventeen million tonnes of surplus food is dumped on landfills every year. Of 17 million tonnes of waste food, four million tonnes is edible. The cost of this waste is around £18 billion annually.'
Source: Fareshare

Before science could break down food into its many molecules, measure and identify the RDA (recommended daily allowance), measure its value in joules and assess its nutritional value per 100 grams people knew what was good for them and what was not. Now it seems we don't even know how to prepare and cook natural foods. Before science brought us calorie controlled, nutritionally balanced diets people knew more about the food that they were eating and what foods healed the body and what foods could harm. Nowadays instead of locally grown seasonal produce people buy into the media marketing fads and follow the policy makers around the supermarket shelves. Instead of vegetable plots or allotments we have nutritional objectives planted into developments policies nationally and globally.

As a child I would sigh silently that the detestable turnip or sprouts on my plate could be parcelled up and sent to the starving children of Biafra. Now I eat both with a hearty appetite and the starving Biafrans are probably dead. And the new starving nations have Oxfam, Red Cross and Live Aid to feed them.

How can it be that half the world is still starving when obesity and gluttony are rife in the other half? Why does the world need to genetically modify food to increase its yield when there are mountains of excess produce stored and dumped as waste? It seems that greed rather than need dictates our harvest today. Since the Austrian Monk Mendel (1850) first cross pollinated peas and recorded genetic traits the scales have been slowly tipped towards genetically modified food products. Do we really need to have aesthetically pleasing, same shaped foods and higher yields or do we just need to harvest and distribute with greater care and concern.

We can all herald Jamie Oliver's campaign to put healthy food back into school kitchens with joyous acclaim - but what took it out in the first place? If we look back at the reason behind school dinners, introduced in 1907, we see that government policies were dictating to the eating habits of the nation. School dinners were introduced to ensure that every child received a 'square meal' every day and although the policy was scrapped in favour of profit in 1981, government concerns over malnutrition and obesity have prompted the return of the nutritional rules.

Considering what nutrition is is not a matter to be left to the 'experts' but something that we should all be aware of with a global perception. Lord Haskins, advising on rural affairs, suggests that our society has become blasé about food; we eat too much and are too lazy or ignorant to deal with the leftovers. The food wasted annually in Britain alone could lift 150 million people from starvation. A yearly £20 billion of discarded food indicates which half of the world we exist in.

According to the Food Association Organisation there are three prerequisites of good nutrition: food security, good health and adequate care. (Human Nutrition in the Developing World) If we pay attention to feeding this message to the policy makers then all aspects of everyone's life would be wholly nutritious and well balanced.