I was driving out to the suburbs to teach a cooking class the other night, listening to my favorite national public radio show, ‘All Things Considered.’ They were featuring a story about food prices being affected by inflation and how we have seen beef prices soar because of fuel costs, but now even chicken and pork prices are expected to increase, maybe even double. And while the beef price increase was no surprise, the chicken and pork increases were being seen as the harbinger of doom. At the end of her piece, the reporter stated, with some dismay, ‘American consumers will be forced to eat further down on the food chain.’
I smiled to myself thinking that inflation may be the worst thing for our fiscal health, but perhaps the best thing for our physical health.
It’s funny to me that ‘eating lower on the food chain’ is synonymous with being poor and unfortunate. As a society, we have come to associate affluence and abundance with all of the foods that are robbing us of health. I just finished, ‘The Blue Zone’ by National Geographic reporter, Dan Buettner and while the book is fascinating on many levels, here is the piece of information that really made my jaw drop. Since the time of ancient Rome, the human life span has increased. Sanitation, health care, better living conditions, enough food have all contributed to extending our lives. Until now. For the first time since ancient times, we are beginning to see the human life span decrease once again. And for the first time in human history, that shortened life span is linked to having too much food, as opposed to too little. Yikes!
For the last twenty-five years, I have lived a vegan/macrobiotic lifestyle and for the last twenty years, have worked as a macrobiotic cooking teacher. For the last ten years, I have hosted a vegan/macrobiotic cooking show on public television. In that time, I have seen an incredible a lot, most notably an increase in disease and degeneration, much linked to what we choose to eat. In the philosophy of macrobiotics, we take the little axiom: ‘You are what you eat’ pretty literally and hold the belief that you can create or destroy your health largely by the food choices you make.
The great irony in modern society is that the very food that can restore the health of humanity: whole grains, beans, seasonal, organic (and local if possible) vegetables and fruits are the foods considered to be ‘lower on the food chain.’ These foods, filled with life-sustaining nutrients and energy have taken a back seat to the processed ‘food-like substances’ (as Michael Pollan, author of ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ refers to modern convenience foods) which are destroying humanity.
If that sounds dramatic to you, consider this. Since the Industrial Age, modern man has moved away from nature and away from natural foods. In that same time period, humanity has seen an increase in degenerative disease that is unprecedented. We now have entire hospitals devoted to cancer in children; wings of clinics just for the treatment of diabetes; television commercials for pharmaceuticals to treat diseases we could never imagine. Obesity has become a national epidemic.
And if the statistics are correct…and I suspect that they are; then nearly two-thirds of the chronic diseases that plague our modern world can be prevented and even reversed by changing the food we choose.
A diet with its foundation based on whole grains, beans, bean products, lots and lots of fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds and excellent quality oils will not only sustain us deliciously, but can change the course of the natural health disaster that we face as a nation. And only we, each and every human, have the power to make that change and enjoy robust health and vitality.
We walk for the cure, for lung and prostate health, for diabetes. Maybe we should all just eat a little ‘lower on the food chain’ and exercise for the fun of it.