Understanding the Shifts in Human Nutrition – From Difficult to Super Easy (Part 3)

Farmers MarketLast week’s article focused on the fact that improvements in production methods and transport links mean that our food is sourced from all over the world.  This might seem like a good thing, on the one hand, because economies of scale mean that we are paying much less for globally produced foods.  It is perhaps not such good news when we look at the health implications of the globalisation of food. I pointed out that provenance is one of the most important concepts when we think about how healthy, or otherwise, our food is.

Simply put, provenance is about where something is from.  This is important because production standards and methods differ from place to place and country to country. It is common, for example, to see chemicals that have long been banned in North America due to adverse health effects still being used in other parts of the world.  This is a serious issue for people dealing with the effects of ADD/ADHD.  Many of the symptoms of the condition can be traced back to signals in the brain not being transmitted properly.  This is often due to chemical imbalances.  Anything that can contribute to such imbalances should therefore be avoided at all costs.

So how can you get serious about provenance as an ordinary consumer?  I think one of the keys is to stop seeing food shopping as a health-neutral activity, but to rather view it as a valuable investment in the health and well-being of your family. Some suggestions on how you can ensure that every bite that your family put into their mouths is safe include the following:

Grow your own: Most people would recoil at the very idea of growing their own food, but what can be more natural?  If you have a bit of land it would be quite easy to utilise it to grow some basic foodstuffs.  The fact that you are cultivating the food yourself means that you can control to the finest detail what chemicals and pesticides (if any) are used on it.  Growing your own food will also serve as a wonderful lesson to your family about the value of sustainable food production.

Buy locally: Do your best to source as much as possible of your food from your local area.  Buying locally produced food will not only support the local economy, it will also mean that you will eat food that did not have to travel halfway around the world to get to your table.  This means that no chemicals or refrigeration technology were needed to help it along on each part of a long journey.  Getting hold of locally produced food is perhaps not as difficult as you might imagine.  Most large towns and cities play host to farmers markets these days.  This is where local producers get the opportunity to market their products directly to the public. Visitors to the markets are often pleasantly surprised: Both by the pleasant atmosphere and by the reasonable prices.

Go organic: Foods marketed as organic was produced under strict guidelines governing the use of pesticides, chemicals and harmful production methods.  Buying organic produce is therefore an excellent way to reassure yourself about provenance. Increasing demand for organic products means that going organic is certainly not as expensive as it used to be. If price is a significant consideration you should at the very least consider going organic with certain high-risk foods.  A list of foods where the risk of ingesting pesticide residues are the greatest can be found here.

Update your skills: The farm where something was produced is not the only issue when it comes to provenance.  It is sometimes the case that perfectly healthy food is turned into something altogether more sinister in a factory somewhere.  Mass-produced foods often contain very high levels of oil, salt and harmful chemicals.  Weaning yourself from commercially produced foods by learning to prepare your favourites at home will not only benefit your waistline but also quite possibly your brain!

Always read the label: The importation of food from countries with lower environmental standards is a significant health risk.  It is therefore important that you educate yourself about where your favourite foods come from and about the standards that prevail in that location.  One way of doing so is to spend some time on the website of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. One of the areas that this arm of the United Nations deals with is pesticide management. Their website contains massive amounts of information about environmental standards and pesticide use in different parts of the world.  Familiarising yourself with some of this information will put you in a much better position the next time that you pick up a piece of foreign fresh produce at your local supermarket.

The steps highlighted above do not represent some kind of silver bullet that will instantly deliver perfect health.  Taken together, however, they should at least place you in a much better position to enjoy food in a way that will not exacerbate the symptoms of ADD /ADHD.