Monday, February 25, 2008

A new pyramid?

While one may not want to confess, our nation is at an epidemic. Three out of five Americans are overweight. One out of five Americans are obese. As united states, clever marketing strategies and entrenched lifestyle modules have masked the high-induced-fructose corn syrup, enriched wheat flour, and large-words-that-I-have-no-idea-how-to-pronounce-on-the-ingredients-label.

Globally, the distributions rates are uneven. One billion overnourished people have surpassed the 800 million who are malnourished.

I visited Emily Bell, a nutritionist for UC Irvine's Health Education. Receiving her Bachelor's in Zoology and Master's in Nutrition, Emily facilitates educational workshops on nutrition and healthy eating, provides one-on-one counseling, executes programs and community outreach, and advices a body-image student group. One of the challenges she sees is getting college students like myself to make smart, rational decisions with their food.

This has greater influence than one may seem initially. At UC Irvine, students living in the dormitories must purchase mandatory meal plans, eating in one of three dining halls - Brandywine, Pippin, or Mesa. Therefore, it's imperative that a first-year college student makes rational, smart, and healthy decisions when putting food in their bodies. Our university system has such great authority, yet is highly susceptible, to the college food system. Students' minds and bodies can become vulnerable to what is being served each and every day.

A new food pyramid has been catered, requesting that people eat more nutrient-filled foods like dairy, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. In addition, physical activity has been added, suggesting at least thirty minutes for "most days of the week". One has to wonder that if there is greater demand for healthier, nutrient-filled foods, in so much as to create a new food pyramid, there are drastic changes that need to be made to the source of it - agriculture. As cliche as this may sound economically, greater demand means greater supply.

According to the Environmental Working Group, "eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 14 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to less than 2 pesticides per day." Avoiding the most contaminated produce can lower pesticide exposure by 90%.

Similarly, there have been studies suggesting that there aren't many drastic health differences between organic and non-organic foods. There is evidence showing that more organic and sustainably-grown foods have greater concentrations of vitamin C, protein, and nitrates like iron and magnesium. Beyond the more eminent factors, more organic and sustainable foods are grown in farming methods less detrimental to the environment. Oftentimes overlooked, the methods at which industrial and conventional foods are causing more destruction that we may know. It is important for individuals to look beyond not just their personal health, but the health of their surrounding environment, as it may not around to continue the cycle of food production for future generations to come.

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