Imagine a contemporary world, having a food system that manufactures wholesome food products in a method that is mindful of our environment. In fact, this initiative would ensure that we understand the origin of the food we consume. In addition, this would also reveal the manner in which the food was produced until the last stage when the food finds its way to our tables, and hence the exact cost of production. However, this can only be described as a utopian thought characterized by a situation where the foods we consume connect us to our health and wellness and ultimately to nature’s wonders. Although we cannot go back to the old times when the food we consumed was derived from hunting and gathering, we can ensure eating a healthy diet by changing how food is produced from when it is planted to when it is set at our dinner table.
In the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael attempts to tackle some of the questions that seem simple, but their impacts on our health and wellness and our natural environments are devastating. According to Pollan, America, just as other parts of the world, including the third world countries, has become a fast food eating nation (115). In his attempt to find out where the foods that the American society consumes comes from, he finds that some of it, such as corn, has been made available through agricultural activities, thanks to the subsidies provided by the American government.
Indeed, the corn is the main product that the American society consumes. Various products such as mayonnaise, preserved fruits, and the baked cake mix that is encouraged for starters raise various questions to any person who is concerned about the nutritional value of the food placed on his or her table. Another question that begs to be answered is how on earth the chicken McNuggets of the renowned McDonalds contain 38 ingredients, with a third of them being derived corn (Pollan 111).
Pollan also believes that animals fed from corn, including the aquatic animals like fish, do not contain the kind of nutrition derived from animals and fish fed from legumes and grass. In fact, the nutritional value of fish fed from artificial diets and those of sea fish is totally different. The levels of Omega 3 are different as compared to those trapped from rivers and lakes. He believes that animals, including fish and human beings, are what they eat.
Various studies have indicated that the nutritional value and the levels of omega 3 in farmed fish are different from that of fish from the wild (Cladis et al. 1006). Indeed, this is because fish from the wild consume organic matter that is rich in EPA and DHA, which are beneficial components across the lifespan of individuals. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the omega 3s that are produced by sea products and fish. They are required all through an individual’s life for various purposes. From the time a child is born up to the age of five years, children need DHA for the support and development of the brain, which is why pregnant women should increase their intake of fish until the time they stop breastfeeding.
After the age of five, the need for DHA goes down and is replaced by the need for increased levels of EPA. In fact, from the ages of five years onwards, most of our body’s requirements and needs are met by maintaining the levels of EPA in our diets (Corliss). As Pollan asserts, the wide range of health problems that the United States is witnessing is attributable to our diet. Maintaining a constant level of EPA intake has been shown to prevent the onset of diseases such as various psychological disorders, cardiovascular illnesses, orthopedic conditions, and dyspraxia, to name but a few.
A study conducted by Cladis et al. (1017) aimed at determining the levels of fatty acids in fish from farms and sea indicated a wide variation in omega 3 in salmon fish from the sea as compared to those that are farmed in ponds. In fact, to give credence to Pollan’s view on the idea that we are what we eat (Pollan 119), this particular study indicated that the fact that farm raised fish consumes foods that are rich in protein pellets makes them to have reduced levels of omega 3 as compared to wild fish.
Although the changes of environments and location can have an impact on the diet of wild fish, the impact cannot compare to that of farmed fish, which depends on the choice of pellets that a farmer chooses to feed the fish. The main sources of pellets that farmers offer to fish are animals and plants, which are, at times, enriched with fish oil. Therefore, feeding on farmed fish does not necessarily equate to eating healthy foods.
Pollan also asserts that feeding our animals with corn and later processing the animal product is not only wastage of resources but is also of energy. In the American situation, rather than directly feeding on farmed corn, which can result in a wide range of health benefits, people eat fast foods and other processed foods derived from corn (Pollan 118). Indeed, this processing causes the nutritional value of corn products to reduce by nearly 90 percent.
On the same note, an excellent example of this ecological connection is in the production of McNugget, which are known to be produced from chicken, but tastes less like chicken. Although fast foods are cheaper as compared to healthy foods, they are of less nutritional value and often lead to adverse implications to our health and wellness. In fact, studies have shown that the more a person consumes fast foods, the more the chances of developing lifestyle diseases, including diabetes type 2, that has increased rapidly in America and other parts of the world (Currie et al. 45).
Although we cannot go back to the old times when the food we consumed was derived from hunting and gathering, we can ensure eating a healthy diet by changing how food is produced from when it is planted to when it is set at our dinner table. We should also ensure that we feed our animals with healthy diets if we want to obtain healthy products from them. Farm reared fish also contain less fatty acids as compared to the wild fish. In order to end the malnourishment that has been caused by the consumption of unhealthy, processed cheap diets with low nutritional value, the government of the United States should work towards lowering the rates of consuming processed foods based on the premise that we are what we eat.
Cladis, D.P, Kleiner, A.C, Freiser, H.H, Santerre, C.R. Fatty Acid Profiles of Commercially available Finfish in the United States. Lipids. 2014, vol. 49, no 10, pp. 1005-1018.
Corliss. J. Finding Omega-3 Fats in Fish: Farmed versus Wild. The Harvard Health Publications. 2015. Print.
Currie, J.Vigna, S.D, Moretti, E., and Pathania V. The Effects of Fast Foods on Obesity and Weight Gain. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 2010, vol. 2, pp. 32-63.
Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Search for a Perfect Meal in a Fast-Food World. London: Bloomsbury, 2006. Print.