My Four Food Groups

www.InspiredGardening.com

In my world, there are four food groups:

  1. Food that tastes bad and is bad for you.
  2. Food that tastes good and is bad for you.
  3. Food that tastes bad and is good for you.
  4. Food that tastes good and is good for you.

Food that tastes bad and is bad for you must be avoided. Often, it's the spoiled stuff that gives you the "stomach flu." It's fairly easy to avoid if you pay attention to the smell and taste. No one eats it knowingly.

 

Food that tastes good and is bad for you is the most dangerous food. It's addictive and fun to eat. Most food ads on TV feature this kind of fare. It keeps the hospitals filled and the pharmacies busy. Fast food is the perfect example; it you want to see the effects, watch the movie Super Size Me. It's very hard to stop eating this food once you start because it is engineered to use salt, sugar, and/or fat to stroke your pleasure centers in the brain.

Food that tastes bad and is good for you is what is available at many "hippie" health food stores. Fresh tofu, bean sprouts, and wheatgrass juice are examples. Most Americans are so accustomed to commercial food that tastes "good" that they can't eat it. Many of the people who eat from this food group are skinny. They are rarely seen and may become extinct.

www.InspiredGardening.com

Food that tastes good and is good for youis the holy grail for healthy eaters. Whole Foods and Trader Joes are making big profits selling this kind of fare. We have a garden, which is the best place to get food that is good for you because you know how it was grown (one of the great advantages of locally grown food). Some of it doesn't taste good to the people who eat only processed and packaged food. Fortunately for me, my wife Ann can take food that doesn't taste good and is good for you and convert it into food that tastes good in her kitchen.

Photos from Ann's garden at www.InspiredGardening.com 

The Food Lobby Provides Dietary Advice

BusinessWeek summarizes how food and drink companies responded to a federal advisory panel's recommendations on new dietary guidelines.

Perhaps we don't need to watch our diet with medical insurance for everyone guaranteed by the government. By the way, who pays those premiums?

Link: BusinessWeek Magazine

Salt Institute
A recommendation to limit sodium to 1,500 mg a day would make Americans eat more "to satisfy their sodium appetite and their hunger for taste satisfaction."

American Meat Institute
Advising consumers to eat "moderate" amounts of meat and poultry may result in nutritional deficiencies.

American Beverage Assn.
Telling Americans to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages "overstates the role" of these drinks "in the rising rates of obesity in America."

The Sugar Assn.
Says "no causal link can be established between the intake of sugars and lifestyle diseases, including obesity."

National Confectioners Assn.
Says federal agencies need "to pursue guidelines that are realistic and accommodate all foods, including occasional treats in moderation."

International Dairy Foods Assn.
Agrees low-fat dairy products are healthier but is pushing for "moderate amounts of added sugar" to "help increase the palatability" of dairy foods.

Practical Capitalism

Here's an excerpt from an essay by Eric Andrews that suggests how to adapt to a world characterized by overspending governments, boom and bust economies, deflation and inflation, greed, and shortages.

Link: oftwominds.com Readers Journal-Eric Andrews 12/29/08

Real, useful capitalism requires not a response to the belated price signal but visionary action. And since it is already too late to alter large, long-term issues at the Governmental level—say, mass transit, zero-energy homes, or building the transmission and generation capacity to support wind-fueled electric cars—the best any of us can do is to think ahead to make sure that we ourselves are insulated from unnecessary trouble. That is to say, if you want pickled herring on Friday, would you save in strawberry jam and hope to trade? So if you want a retirement that includes food, energy, and security, wouldn't it make more sense to invest directly in those things? The working of the price signal depends on somebody else thinking ahead and saving for you, anticipating what you may need and making it. But we already know those needs will not be met in the macro sense. So if you want them and want them reliably, shouldn't you buy them now while they're cheap? Things such as a low-energy/low money input house. Things such as ways to provide and produce your own food: a greenhouse, a mushroom log, a garden, a chicken coop. Perhaps become a marginal producer of energy with investment in wind, PV, or whatever other creative solution takes your fancy. As you will have far less to buy later, higher prices and shortages will have less effect on you while the yearly savings of non-buying accrue year after year. You thereby use your retirement savings far more wisely, with far more certainty and control.

Organic Farming Absorbs CO2

Giant agricultural conglomerates hate this kind of information — they have to hire more lobbyists and make more campaign contributions to get government to ignore the facts and continue to subsidize them.

Link: QuantumShift.tv – Soil: The Secret Solution to Global Warming – USA video

Research by the Rodale Institute reveals that sustainably-farmed soil holds up to 30% more carbon than conventional agriculture. Converting US farmland to organic on a wide scale would reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 10%. The extra carbon in the soil also increases food nutrients, which could greatly reduce health care costs. In this QuantumShift special report, farmer Percy Schmeiser urges the President and Congress to shift existing agricultural subsidies to support sustainable farming practices.

The World’s Healthiest Foods

The World’s Healthiest Foods, according to http://whfoods.org and The George Mateljan Foundation, a non-profit organization free of commercial influence.

The George Mateljan Foundation provides unbiased scientific information about how nutrient-rich World’s Healthiest Foods can promote vibrant health and energy.

More Farmers Needed?

Below are some excerpts from a lecture Richard Heinberg delivered to the E. F. Schumacher Society in Stockbridge, Massachusetts on October 28, 2006. Strangely enough, Cuba emerges as the model for low-energy farming.

Link: Fifty Million Farmers | EnergyBulletin.net | Peak Oil News Clearinghouse

…there are reasons to think that our current anomalous abundance of inexpensive food may be only temporary; if so, present and future generations may become acquainted with that old, formerly familiar but unwelcome houseguest—famine.

The following are four principal bases (there are others) for this gloomy forecast.

The first has to with looming fuel shortages…. Modern industrial agriculture has been described as a method of using soil to turn petroleum and gas into food.

An attempt to make up for fuel shortfalls by producing more biofuels—ethanol, butanol, and biodiesel—will put even more pressure on the food system, and will likely result in a competition between food and fuel uses of land and other resources needed for agricultural production.

The second factor potentially leading to famine is a shortage of farmers…. Who will be growing our food twenty years from now? With less oil and gas available, we will need far more knowledge and muscle power devoted to food production, and thus far more people on the farm, than we have currently.

The third worrisome trend is an increasing scarcity of fresh water. Sixty percent of water used nationally goes toward agriculture.

Fourth and finally, there is the problem of global climate change…. The much greater problem for farmers is destabilization of weather patterns. We face not just a warmer climate, but climate chaos: droughts, floods, and stronger storms in general (hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, hail storms)—in short, unpredictable weather of all kinds. Farmers depend on relatively consistent seasonal patterns of rain and sun, cold and heat; a climate shift can spell the end of farmers’ ability to grow a crop in a given region, and even a single freak storm can destroy an entire year’s production…. We have embarked on a century in which, increasingly, freakish weather is normal.

While we were achieving miracles of productivity, agriculture’s impact on the natural world was also growing; indeed it is now the single greatest source of human damage to the global environment. That damage takes a number of forms: erosion and salinization of soils; deforestation (a strategy for bringing more land into cultivation); fertilizer runoff (which ultimately creates enormous “dead zones” around the mouths of many rivers); loss of biodiversity; fresh water scarcity; and agrochemical pollution of water and soil.

In short, we created unprecedented abundance while ignoring the long-term consequences of our actions. This is more than a little reminiscent of how some previous agricultural societies—the Greeks, Babylonians, and Romans—destroyed soil and habitat in their mania to feed growing urban populations, and collapsed as a result.

I  believe we must and can de-industrialize agriculture. The general outline of what I mean by de-industrialization is simple enough: this would imply a radical reduction of fossil fuel inputs to agriculture, accompanied by an increase in labor inputs and a reduction of transport, with production being devoted primarily to local consumption.

Once again, fossil fuel depletion almost ensures that this will happen. But at the same time, it is fairly obvious that if we don’t plan for de-industrialization, the result could be catastrophic.

In short, it is possible in principle for industrial nations like the U.S. to make the transition to smaller-scale, non-petroleum food production, given certain conditions. There are both precedents and models.

However, all of them imply more farmers. Here’s the catch—and here’s where the ancillary benefits kick in.

The Key: More Farmers!

One way or another, re-ruralization will be the dominant social trend of the 21st century. Thirty or forty years from now—again, one way or another—we will see a more historically normal ratio of rural to urban population, with the majority once again living in small, farming communities. More food will be produced in cities than is the case today, but cities will be smaller. Millions more people than today will be in the countryside growing food.

They won’t be doing so the way farmers do it today, and perhaps not the way farmers did it in 1900.

What I am proposing is nothing less than a new alliance among environmental organizations, farmers, gardeners, organizations promoting economic justice, the anti-globalization movement, universities and colleges, local businesses, churches, and other social organizations. Moreover, the efforts of this alliance would have to be coordinated at the national, state, and local level. This is clearly a tall order. However, we are not talking about merely a good idea. This is a survival strategy.

It may seem that I am describing and advocating a reversion to the world of 1800, or even that of 8,000 BC. This is not really the case. We will of course need to relearn much of what our ancestors knew. But we have discovered a great deal about biology, geology, hydrology, and other relevant subjects in recent decades, and we should be applying that knowledge—as Holmgren, Mollison, Jeavons, and others have done—to the project of producing food for ourselves.