Why should I be concerned?

Comic "Health Foods. Illness Foods. Death Foods." Inspired by Author Carol Simontacchi, who wondered what the rest of the grocery store is called if one section is called "Health Foods."

We all know that vitamins and minerals are important to our health. We also know that a balanced diet promotes good health. It thus makes sense that deficiencies in our food mean deficiencies in our diet, and therefore pose risks to our health.

The balance of nutrients is subject to subtle changes and a variety of interactions.

On the Issues & Facts page, we outlined the tomato's staggering decline. Why is it such an issue? Let's look at the nutritional values a little closer.

30.7 percent less Vitamin A
Vitamin A is needed to maintain good eyesight, normal sexual reproductive health, and body growth.

16.9 percent less Vitamin C
Vitamin C is "required to prevent a variety of diseases, from scurvy to the common cold, to control stress, to maintain normal arteries, and to help heal cuts and wounds" (Pawlick 6).

61.5 percent less calcium, 9 percent less potassium and 200 percent more sodium (salt)
1. "Sodium (as sodium chloride), has for years been considered the primary factor responsible for high blood pressure" (6). Pawlick then quotes the authors of a college nutrition textbook, Understanding Nutrition, who "note that a high sodium intake can be linked to the amount of calcium in the human body — a factor that may be crucial in the development of osteoporosis" (7). He writes that sodium "appears to have a negative influence on how much calcium is retained by the human body. 'Dietary advice to prevent osteoporosis might suggest eating more calcium-rich foods while eating fewer high-sodium foods,' warn [the authors]" (7).
2. The authors state, "Low potassium may be as significant as high sodium when it comes to blood pressure regulation ... Even when potassium isn't lost, the addition of sodium still lowers the potassium-to-sodium ratio" (7).

Tomatoes only make up part of my diet, so what's the problem?
The problem is tomatoes aren't the only fruit — or vegetable, for that matter — that has lost nutrients. According to Pawlick, everything (conventionally-grown) has lost nutrients — and that means your body isn't getting what it needs. If it's not getting what it needs, it is susceptible to disease.

I'll make up for it with nutritional supplements.
Pawlick says otherwise. The body is used to getting its array of nutrients directly through food, so the concentrated and even independent form of vitamins and minerals you may get in supplements isn't absorbed by the body the same way, therefore it is less effective. Not only that, but they cost money, and can be inconvenient.

Why should I take action?

Strength comes in numbers. Julie Cummins writes on Eat Local Challenge: "Here's an inspiring story told by Michael Pollan: The GMO potato was pulled from the market because of consumer pressure. Consumers told McDonalds (and Frito-Lay and other potato chip companies) that they didn't want GMO fries and chips. Since the genetically engineered potatoes weren't better or cheaper, the food giants switched back to conventional potatoes. Without a market, Monsanto stopped selling the GMO potato altogether." By taking action, even in small ways, you can make big changes, especially when other people are involved! And by making these changes, consumers make it clear they want to be informed and to have affordable choices. We also make it clear that we matter! What can you do?
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From Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America's Obesity Crisis & What We Can Do About It; Brownell and Horgen.

"The injustice felt when victims suffer is often a key to mobilizing support for change. ... If there is any possibility for major social action and policy change, scientists cannot force it and health leaders cannot mandate it. The public must demand it. Grassroots calls for change can then join with efforts from the health community, elected officials, and business leaders. For such a movement to occur, people must care.

"Caring occurs when something strikes an emotional nerve and we feel sad, bothered, outraged, or frustrated. Our heart is moved, and we are driven to act.

"Emotions come from human experience, not statistics or numbers.... They come from seeing people suffer. ... we recognize that poor diet and inactivity are major reasons, [and] we are touched as human beings. We want to see the suffering stop" (286).

Food companies respond to threats with spokespeople and lobbyists, and attack critics, "trying to forestall shifting public opinion, and attempting to block proposals for policy change" (289).

Green apples
© Erika Rathje 2006
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