Running to Catch Up: Health in Our Times

Anne Dunev, PhD CN
At a holiday party a friend of mine told me that he is now working three times harder for half the pay. Welcome to 2009.

Just as greed in the corporate financial world devastated so many people when the bottom fell out of the markets, greed in the pharmaceutical, food and agricultural businesses has devastated the health of Americans. The statistics on chronic disease, obesity and mental health diagnoses tell the sad tale of health bankruptcy. People need affordable health insurance. But even more desperately they need good health.

In 1908, Dr. Harvey Wiley was head of the Bureau of Food Chemistry. His stated mission was to prevent any adulterated food substances into the American food supply because he felt that the future of the nation was dependent on the health of its citizens—and health was directly related to the purity of American foodstuffs.

Saccharin was invented in 1879 when a chemist named Constantin Fahlberg spilled a substance on his hands while doing research at Johns Hopkins University. It tasted sweet and the first artificial sweetener was born. A coal tar derivative, saccharin is 300 times sweeter than sugar. President Teddy Roosevelt grew up eating saccharin and was convinced it had helped him become the President of the United States, instead of being the sickly child he once was. Saccharin gained popularity during the sugar shortages of World War I. Teddy Roosevelt may have led the charge up San Juan Hill, but the nutrient value and integrity of the American food supply has been going downhill ever since.

Soil contains living organisms, as well as minerals. Plants use the minerals for food. If the minerals are not replaced, the plants won’t grow—right? Not unless you pump artificial fertilizers into them, as we do. And genetically modify the DNA of the plant so that it looks oh-so-pretty in the supermarket, but is still devoid of the vitamins and minerals needed to sustain human and animal life. Yes, people die when denied real nutrition. They do it slowly—when they consume enough calories—and they do it painfully, as their physical and mental condition deteriorates.

Compound this with the fact that most of what is sold in grocery stores would have been illegal in 1908, when the health of Americans was a top priority for a visionary like Harvey Wiley, and you have the appalling state of health and obesity we face in 2009.

Given the low standards we have for organic foods in the U.S., compared to Europe and the United Kingdom, even eating organic isn’t enough. It is more than a start. Eschewing junk and processed food is the first step. But, to rebuild health, to stave off aging and avoid Alzheimer’s, dementia and generally drooling in a wheelchair when you reach your dotage, you have to be very, very smart about how you feed your body.

Does that mean that you have to eat vegetables, or gag down slimy green drinks? Give up the pleasures of crème brulee or chocolate fudge brownies? No, but it does mean that, if your tongue alone is in charge of your diet, you are going to need more than a government bail out to handle the bankruptcy of your health.

In other cultures that practice herbal medicine, children are given bitter foods from infancy to accustom them to taking their medicine straight. In the U.S. children are given ice cream and candy from an early age to accustom them to a lifetime of good-tasting foods that lead to learning problems and adult diseases in childhood. This often develops a dependency on “kids’ foods” that are even more anemic and devoid of nutrition than the typical dinner table fare. We call this “marketing.”

In the war over consumer dollars, all is fair. But the long-term cost of the cheap and abundant food we consume in health-dollars may be higher than we can calculate. And the cost in human suffering is enormous. No one ever seems to get addicted to broccoli. But ask someone to give up their diet soda or donuts or chips.

Just as my friend has to work three times harder, our food has to be three times healthier. The only answer is super foods—super concentrated foods that offer a surplus of nutrients and a minimum of preparation time. After all, if we were all cooking complete organic meals three times a day, there would be no need for this post.

When you ingest super foods, the body will give up toxins, repair cells and “turn off” genes that cause disease. Like a garden, where plentiful nutrients and healthy soil make disease and pest resistant plants, the human body blooms with energy, beauty and strength when fed properly.