Much of my recent research and reading has been related to food and health. Food is a complex subject, because it is related to so many aspects of our lives: the physical health of our bodies, cultural and religious celebrations as well as secular festivities, love and comfort, even personal identity. Food makes us feel happy, satiated, cared for, safe. It fills an empty spot when we feel lonely, and rewards us when no one else seems to care or notice if we are alive. Food has become much more than a means of nutrition, survival, or even gastronomical pleasure – although it is still all of those things. The variety of foods that exist on this planet is amazing in its breadth and creativity. Human ingenuity has conjugated each type of food in thousands of declinations. Yet my research into human health seems to indicate, rather unfairly, that most of the delicious foods we enjoy are detrimental to our health when consumed. It would seem that the human organism has not caught up to the evolution of cuisine over the ages, and that we are best adapted to a whole foods regime of plant-based foods. As it turns out, all animal-based proteins cause the body to become acidic, in turn creating inflammation, which leads to heart diseases, diabetes, stroke, cancer, osteoporosis, and other lovely disintegrations of our amazing human organism.
While I love salads and vegetables, I am saddened to contemplate the loss of cheese and other dairy delights. The comfort of eggs, the fragrance of roasting meats…I would miss all of these and more if I choose to give them up in favor of lower cholesterol levels and improved arteries. I do believe the doctors who recommend this more spartan and fresh diet. A return to simplicity is indeed in many ways the order of the day. The consequences to our economy, if everyone were to adopt a plant-based whole foods diet are also interesting to contemplate. In the documentary film “Forks Over Knives”, director Lee Fulkerson mentions that at least 20% of the Amazon rain forest has been destroyed to raise cattle, and that the billions of farm animals world-wide consume more than enough grain to feed the entire world’s population. He also states that the effect on the environment of raising all of these animals is more detrimental to our planet’s health than the total consumption of fossil fuels and effects of transportation by individuals and systems around the world. Were we to eliminate all of the chicken farms, all beef and dairy production, all highly processed foods, sugar cane and beets, and corn made to produce high-fructose corn syrup, our world economy would change quite a bit. In addition to those changes, add in all of the fast-food restaurants – in fact, most restaurants would go out of business. What would all of the people who are currently employed in these industries do? If we decided as a society to reinvest in local, small farms and eliminate costly and polluting transport of foods from large farms domestic and overseas, this would also affect the transportation and fuels industries as well as farmers in other countries. Migrant farm workers would also be hard hit. The biggest industry to be affected by people deciding to adopt a healthier diet would be the medical and pharmaceutical industries. We would no longer need much medication, surgical procedures, nursing homes or wheel chairs. Much of the medical personnel would become redundant or be required to retrain in preventive medicine and holistic care. Basically, our communities would become smaller, and globalization would no longer be necessary for industrial purposes. People would, as in years past, need to refocus on their own neighborhoods and develop skills that can be used locally. People would most likely earn less money and also need less money to live. I don’t think we can turn the clock back and erase globalization, but we need to reinvent our values, our uses of technology, and our relationships to our fellow man in other countries. We need to think about our children and their descendants – their physical health and the world we are leaving for them to live in.
A return to balance requires a lot of change. While most of us have enjoyed the excesses of comfort foods, I think what we have really felt is a need to fill the emptiness that a materialistic society creates. Performing creative work that is fulfilling, I find, distracts me from the desire to stuff my face with rich and dreamy foods. Being energized by being given a recognized place in my community to make art, to write, to interact with others in a dynamic and creative manner would most likely all but eliminate my desire to sublimate my creative desires in eating unhealthy foods. Of course, cooking and eating are art forms in themselves, and these should never be eliminated. I would love to live in a place where my talents are recognized and valued. I don’t know if I would give up chocolate to be able to work and make my living as an artist. As I reflect on this question, as much as I love chocolate, I think I would make that sacrifice.