Abundance is a noun whose first definition is “an extremely plentiful or over-sufficient quantity or supply: an abundance of grain.” Abundance is a blessing, of course. Not being required to work very hard for sustenance is of course a blessing. Having your requirements met without even thinking about it must be a blessing, how could it not be? Except that in the definition there is that ‘over-sufficient’ adjective, and ‘extremely’, to give us pause.
True abundance tends to make items less expensive to purchase and makes them easier to obtain. A result of this being that foods that are abundant bring in less revenue per unit of delivery for the farmer, which forces them to produce even more in order to obtain their living wage for the year. A farmer who earns less per bushel for his crop must produce ever more bushels to maintain his income, which drives the price per bushel even lower. This is a downward spiral.
Owing to the law of supply and demand, when there is an ‘over-sufficient quantity’ of something like corn, the price to the buyer drops, making it a more attractive compared to other options. Because corn is so inexpensive, it’s use spreads to just about every processed food in the grocery store. Because corn is so inexpensive, it is the primary food supply for commercially produced chicken, pork and beef. So the vast majority of calories the average American consumes are linked to corn. This keeps our food prices very low, but also keeps the biodiversity of our diet very low. It ties our health and energy to the soil that the corn grows in, for better or for worse. You are what you eat, and what your food ate. It turns out that science can determine now how much corn you have been eating by the percentage of Carbon 13 present in you.
Karen Kaplan referred to a 2007 CNN story about UC Berkeley plant biologist Todd Dawson. Dawson can test a strand of hair to determine how much corn is in a person’s diet by looking for a form of carbon found in corn.
“We are what we eat with respect to carbon, for sure. So if we eat a particular kind of food, and it has a particular kind of carbon in it, that’s recorded in us, in our tissues, in our hair, in our fingernails, in the muscles,” Dawson was quoted.
Dawson tested a strand of CNN reporter Sanjay Gupta’s hair. Sixty-nine percent of the carbon came from corn, an amount typical for Americans.
Having an abundant food supply also gives us the freedom to not think about our food, even as we consume it. A moment at the drive through to make a snap decision, then eat it as we are focused on driving to work, home, the game… What we eat becomes nothing more than a habitual pathway in our brains. “Number 2 please.” What to drink? The only decision is how big the cup will be. “Super Size.”
The abundant calories from our careless decisions creates an crisis of over-abundance in our bodies. Over time our livers become fat, they become resistant to the insulin we create to deal with the constant onslaught of fructose, sucrose and dextrose that we drink, eat and create from carbohydrate. Insulin resistance leads to diabetes 2 and 3, and high blood pressure.
There is a growing consensus on what to do about our over-sufficient quantity of calorie choices. Government agencies that are involved are now beginning to recommend real animal fats (specifically fats that contain Omega 3 oils) for cooking to replace the ‘new and improved’ partially hydrogenated vegetable oils of last century. They are warning against fruit juices and fruit sweeteners added to foods for sweetness, as these don’t change the fact that you are eating added sugar in your diet. Cutting sweets, both added and natural is the new bullet point in fixing your weight gain.
The necessary work to stop allowing the abundant sweets in processed foods to hurt you is not conducted in the gym, but in the store. Stop buying foods in boxes and bags and you will have cut out the bulk of the added ingredients in your family’s meals. Stop buying drinks in cans and bottles and you will have cut out the added sugars and sweeteners in your family’s lives. It is much easier to decide to eat and drink right if the bad actors are not in your fridge or pantry.
Don’t continue to allow the abundance that blesses us to be a curse to your family. Two out of three people in the US are overweight or obese, and the vast majority of them are this way because of the way foods are produced, marketed and consumed. It is possible to tie the relative cheapness of our foods to subsidies for corn and soy. Our true food expenses are not really as low as the appear in the store. The true cost cannot be measured in just dollars. The true costs of these foods is all in our future.