Meat is still on the menu! The feared dietary guidelines were released last week and “sustainability” was left out of the equation as to what foods are healthy for Americans to consume. The conflict goes a lot deeper than meat and potatoes, it goes to the question of whether we can pick our diet or government selects it for us. Both sides are determined and our expanding waistlines are caught in the crossfire.
If you choose to examine the text of the recommendations from the federal government, you will find that they haven’t changed much since first issued in 1980. The eighth iteration of the report is almost identical in these three areas:
Consume less than 10% of your calories from added sugars.
Consume less than 10% of your calories for saturated fat.
Consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium.
Those figures first came out in 1977 with a slightly lower sodium level. If I were to lay down my bias and use common sense, I’d agree that too much sugar and fat cause me to gain weight. This issue is almost a total juxtaposition of Global Climate Change. In this case, individuals can only change themselves whereas climate can only be impacted if every individual makes changes for the good of all.
The overlap between personal health and climate health was brought in by adding “sustainability” into the draft recommendations. The committee argued that meat animals are more harmful to the planet than they are beneficial to mankind. That was too much of an overreach for even this administration and was considered out of bounds. Don’t kid yourself, it will be back.
Nutrition is a young science. Medical schools teach aspiring doctors how to cut and cure but not much about defending the body through nutritional means. It is hard to measure the medicinal value of nutrition on the short term. We have always known that children who don’t get enough nutrient dense foods will not reach their full genetic potential, and God did too, so he built in milk producing glands in all mammals. For adults, we have an affinity to fat and every culture has a means of securing it from blubber or bovine. We seem to have a disconnect when it comes to edible green plants as they are undesirable filler in the diets of many. Offer a salad to most eighty-year-old men and they will reject it in favor of potatoes and gravy.
Our modern problem is exercise. “Damn Steve Jobs and his addictive machines,” wrote Marshall Matz, an authority on nutrition and law, in a recent Agri-Pulse editorial. He’s right, we eat a lot more calories than we burn. “A one hundred calorie snack requires a mile on the treadmill to get rid of it,” he says. My mother often commented that my father could eat more when he wasn’t working than when he baled hay all day.
A growing middle class population, worldwide, is facing the same problems we’ve encountered since our transition to a more sedentary lifestyle in the 1950’s. There were no fat people in China when I first went there in 1981. Now, their population is beginning to mirror us. Food production is mechanizing around the world as workers come off the land and into a business environment. They work less, earn more money and eat a higher quality diet.
The results of our behavior can be numerically obtained by stepping on a scale. I have gained about a pound a year above my weight when I was in my 30’s. Cholesterol levels are above 200 for most of us with only the hope that our genetics prevent health problems in our later years.
The worst impact of over-nutrition is in our youth. The school lunch program is ground zero in the fight against childhood obesity but watching students walk across the stage to get their diplomas shows we are losing.
The underlying fear of each set of dietary guidelines is that they will become mandates by either regulation or taxation. We want to make our own choices as to what we and our children eat but a society moving rapidly toward government paid healthcare would like to have a say in how people maintain good health. Nutrition is the easiest factor to single out in both school age children and adults.
I’m currently on a New Year’s resolved exercise plan. It’s going great, well into the second week of January! I am trying to eat in moderation and resist high fat foods. Balancing my life would be wonderful for me and I’m being encouraged to do so. However, I know that driving a mile in a town will reveal a dozen places to eat and the refrigerator is always an oasis. Without a crisis in our lives, there is little incentive to stay the course when we resolve to exercise more and eat less.