The health benefits of vegetables are not up for debate. Those of us who eat a balanced diet rich in veggies enjoy a reduced risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Vegetables are a source of a wide variety of essential nutrients including potassium, fibre, and folate, not to mention vitamins A, C, and E. Dietary trends suggest our eating habits are suffering as we eat fewer vegetables (and fruits) while consuming more sugar, starch, and other processed foods. So what gives?
There’s a strong argument for a corporate fix when it comes to our health – and while it may be unfair to blame big business, people today tend to overlook how commercial interests influence our food choices. In a nutshell, it’s beneficial for corporate entities to encourage a model of individual responsibility for health while taking no social responsibility for offering healthier choices. If a food company can make money, they’ll do so without considering the greater social impact because your health is your responsibility. But what does this mean?
The Corporate Foundations of Disordered Eating
If you look at the wealthiest countries in the world and reflect on our eating practices, you’ll see a depressing picture. At a time when we’re eating fewer vegetables than ever, and rates of diabetes and heart disease are skyrocketing, the corporate influence over our eating habits is stronger than ever. It should be simple to make the healthy choices, shouldn’t it? Almost anybody can tell you which foods are right for them and which foods are not, and yet we’re at epidemic levels of obesity in North America. However, only making the choice to eat healthy is not an option for all of us. Why? Let’s take a closer look.
First and foremost, we live in a time where corporate interests are setting our food culture. Indeed, big food companies have unprecedented influence over governments and endeavour to encourage us to eat huge servings of highly-processed foods dense in calories but low in nutrition. For example, consider Americans living in low-income areas. In many cases, access to good grocery stores or markets to purchase healthy fruits and vegetables is limited. Alternatively, the poorest among us readily rely on convenience stores (often subsidized by corporate entities to keep afloat) where chips, pop, and candy are more accessible than fresh produce. Moreover, perishable items such as veggies tend to be more expensive than processed foods that have an essentially indefinite shelf life.
In fact, this may be the crux of the issue – the least healthy foods tend to be the cheapest and corporate interest is likely to blame. Farm subsidies that keep the cost of corn low allow these crops to be processed into a variety of less-healthy food options. Corporate-owned chain restaurants make competition fierce for local, family-owned restaurants that typically serve healthier choices. Fast-food and mid-range chains alike can offer discounts to customers simply through buying power. Meal ingredients are purchased wholesale, so they can sell bigger portions for less. As you can see, in a culture where cost and availability determine food choices, corporate influence is incredibly dangerous.
Take Your Power Back
So what can you do, as a consumer? You need to understand your diet is the fuel for your health. In The Five Pillars of Optimal Health, you can learn about plant-based food choices and what you need to do to break the cycle of disordered eating that you inherited from a culture focused on profits at the expense of health.