Full Nourishment Foods
We are what we eat. This statement is also true for animals and plants, including the ones we consume. Crops that are grown in depleted soils or livestock that are fed diets that focus only on weight gain may not have the density or full range of nutrients that our bodies require.
In addition to the major problem above, more and more people buy processed food products. Most intensive processing of food, whether it be freezing, baking, canning, drying and pasteurising products do reduce the nutritive value.
Although processed food do save costs and lead to an increased shelf-life, they also creates a blend of tastes that make us crave more of the product, in fact some studies have suggested that they are addictive. The result in eating too much processed food is that we may become malnourished over time because they often contain empty calories. If food is high in calories but low in nutritional value it can lead to malnourished obese people. In today’s world, even when following a healthy eating plan such as the Mediterranean or Dash diets we can not count on our foods to keep us healthy and vital. In the Western world we cannot count on the foods and other regimens to maintain a healthy weight and shed body fat either.
Moreover, a lack of access to foods that are adequate to address our nutritional needs is becoming a global problem. Many low-income communities in developing countries have to make do with very restricted diets, often through subsidized food distribution. Much of Asia lives on processed rice which is high in calories and low in nutrients. Even in the United States, the food supply contains only about one-third of the fruits and vegetables needed to provide the population with the United State’s Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recommended minimum daily requirements. This is market failure on a massive scale.
Food supplements used to be only really available at health food stores but recent years has seen a huge increase in the use of vitamin and mineral supplements and they can now be found in abundance in most supermarkets.
A lot of these dietary supplements make fraudulent claims; most use minerals or other micro nutrients in the cheapest form which our bodies can not readily process or use. The consumer has no source of reliable information to guide choices (there are no labels that spell out the ‘bio-availability‘ of the constituents) a clear example of regulatory failure.
Yet, ‘market and regulatory failures‘ also spell opportunity, and already it is clear that some food and beverage companies are rethinking their products and beginning to explore what we might call the full nourishment niche. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has just published a ranking of major companies based on their efforts to address nutritional needs. When consumers demand change, markets will respond.
How to accelerate change toward a Nutrient Economy…
The answer to this would be careful clinical trials that linked effective full nourishment (or it’s absence) to wellness and vitality outcomes, something that Nutrition for All and it’s partners plan to undertake.
Families can do this for themselves…
All they need is a little know how, for instance, practising ‘nutrient-rich cooking methods‘. An Ashoka Fellow, for example, teaches people to use methods that preserve nutrients during the cooking process, increasing the nutrient content of the food that families eat. And another Fellow is recruiting restaurants, food stores, and consumer groups to her Intelligent Nutrition strategy. Still others are pioneering advanced and highly bio-available nutritional supplements, sometimes with dramatic impact.
Measuring Full Nourishment
A business Guru once said, “what gets measured, gets managed” and this statements holds true for nutrients. What is needed is the ability to efficiently and cheaply be able to measure the nutrient content in the environment, soils and indeed people. Once we have the ability to measure new innovations and markets for nutrient optimization will emerge.
There is extensive evidence that a wide variety of micro-nutrients are essential for healthy natural ecosystems, soils, animals, and people. However, at present there is no routine monitoring of the nutritional status of people who have not already developed health problems.
If everybody had a known base-line level of their nutrient levels, than correction of any deficiencies could happen before they became serious enough to interfere with good health. Livestock are more carefully monitored for micro-nutrient deficiencies than people are, which says a lot about the value we place on human wellness and vitality compared with that of (money producing) cattle.
Comparative data does not exist
Comparative data of the nutrient richness of the soil in particular farms, and thus the nutrient density of the fruits and vegetables that are grown there, simply does not exist. Nor can we readily assess whether a particular food product or nutritional supplement is keeping our zinc, magnesium and vitamin E at appropriate levels. Labels do not report the bio availability of the micro-nutrients in food, which can vary 10-fold or even more, depending on the physical form in which they present.
We need tools that can cheaply assess nutrient contents in a variety of settings. This is essential to helping us understand what nutrients we are missing and how we can incorporate them into people and the planet.
Bringing them together…
Nutrients for All is bringing together collaborators and experts who can develop the tools and have the technical expertise to measure nutrient content, nutrient form, nutrient absorption and retention and use of the nutrients by the body. This is known as the measurement capability and is essential in creating a Nutrient Economy.
Innovators are already beginning work on research and development of such tools. For example, low-cost, non-invasive, point-of-care devices already exist for measuring some micro-nutrient levels in people. Others are developing mechanisms for assessing soil nutrition. Still, these tools are in the early stages of development and we are only just beginning to understand the scope of nutrients to be measured and what this could mean for our health.