Europe is facing a nutritional crisis, which highlights the urgent need for an integrated approach to ensure the balance tips in the right direction. The health and food system is messed up and it’s going to take a lot to fix it.
In today’s article, we want to talk about the issues of today’s food and health system and our possible solutions for them. At Funky Fat Foods we stand for a healthy lifestyle as we believe food can truly be medicine. We want to help everyone to reach their healthy lifestyle, free from diseases and filled with whole foods, wellness, and fitness.
What’s the main problem with our food system?
We’re living an obesity epidemy these days and the main problem of our health system today is the (ultra) processed food industry (*cough cough* sugar *cough cough*). Each year child obesity and adult obesity rates increase more and more. Also, each year the number of deaths attributable to unhealthy diets mainly due to cardiovascular diseases and cancers keep increasing as well.
The worldwide spread of a globalized diet, characterized by an abundance of ultra-processed foods, has, in quite a lot of countries, come at the expense of the cultivation, manufacture, retail, and consumption of fresh and minimally processed foods that comprise traditional diets.
As you’ve probably noticed, supermarket shelves are often filled with highly advertised ultra-processed products that are all made from ingredients derived from a handful of high-yielding crops. These products already account for more than half of the energy intake in many countries. Average intakes of sugars, salts, and fats continue to exceed recommendations in the daily diet of most Europeans. However, consumption of vegetables, fats, and protein is not at the levels that they should be. These last groups of foods are essential for gut health and the overall proper functioning of the body. Healthy diets not only reduce the risk of life-threatening diseases but also can have a positive impact on our food system.
Industrial agriculture produces mainly commodity crops, which are then used in various inexpensive, calorie-dense, and widely available foods. Consequently, 60% of all dietary energy in Europe is derived from just three cereal crops: rice, maize, and wheat. Despite lowering the proportion of people suffering from hunger, this calorie-based approach fails to meet nutritional recommendations, such as those for the consumption of healthy fats, protein, and vegetables. The popularity of processed, packaged, and prepared foods has increased in almost all communities. Worldwide, obesity is also on the rise, as we’ve mentioned earlier, and many suffer from preventable diseases often related to diet, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers like colon cancer.
What’s the main problem with our medical system?
One of the struggles many of our customers have shared with us and our own founder has gone through herself, is the lack of interest in people’s eating habits when diagnosed certain diseases. Many patients go to their doctors and tell them they’re suffering from IBS, PCOS, fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and other cardiovascular diseases. They’re not even asked what they’re diet looks like, they’re simply given medication that will reduce the symptoms of their health issues without attacking the cause and primary reason: their diet.
As we’ve mentioned in this article, the main consequence of this system is that we get poor health. Diseases like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers like colon cancer, hypertension, high LDL cholesterol levels, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and breathing problems, low-quality life, mental illness (depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders), body pain and difficulty with physical functioning, and even death are the aftermath of a rotten food system that prioritizes money or mass production over of quality and nutrition.
However, the most worrying statistics for health professionals are those relating to children. In the past years, highly processed and unhealthy foods have become increasingly accessible and affordable, leading to an increase in overweight and obesity. That has led to a rise in overweight and obese children. If it’s already dangerous at an adult age, the health risks of obesity increase when it’s a child.
This phenomenon not only affects our bodies but also affects the environment. The very rapid rise of ultra-processed foods in human diets will continue to place pressure on the diversity of plant species available for human consumption.
How can we change it?
Looking at food systems in a holistic manner is the way to go. It’s fundamental to create an enabling environment that helps us mainstream healthy and sustainable food choices in all choices so that these choices are really the easy ones for all consumers.
It’s also important that you, as an individual, take your health and diet seriously and make the right choices. Remember, health is wealth so when you go grocery shopping, always try to go for the organic option and stick to healthy foods and snacks instead of ultra-processed junk.
When we talk about healthy foods we refer to fresh whole vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts, pasteurized milk, chicken, fish, cheese, legumes, and eggs. These type of foods are considered unprocessed or minimally processed. This means that they have gone through zero or minimal processing before you buy them. Minimally processed and unprocessed foods are much more nutrient-dense than ultra-processed foods. They’re also called Whole Foods. Trying to cook at home and eating home-cooked meals will also help you control the ingredients of your meals, which will help you stay healthy, as long as you don’t start adding ultra-processed foods to your healthy home-cooked meal.
In most schools, they’ve been changing the menu and adding more fruits and vegetables for the kids. However, the work also needs to be done at home. If you’re a parent and you have a baby, breastfeeding is the best option. If your kids are older, don’t give them ultra-processed foods, instead, try to educate them on which foods are healthy and good for the body and which ones are not. Make them participate when you’re cooking or when you go grocery shopping so they get familiar with fresh fruits and vegetables and non-processed meat and fish. If they have a good example at home of your relationship with food, it is less likely that they choose an unhealthy lifestyle later in life.
Aside from having a healthy diet, it is essential to have an active lifestyle and to move your body daily. Exercising several times per week will help fight against obesity, and improve your mood and metabolism.