Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Additional Thoughts

First, back to the subject of micronutrients. In thinking more about Kristof's piece in the Times, I realize that the foods he lists which contain micronutrients ("salt, sugar, flour or cooking oil") are all processed.

But surely micronutrients occur naturally, otherwise the human race would never had made it to modernity. I'm sure that infusing flour with folic acid is the shortest and most immediate step to upping the micronutrient intake for nutrionally deprived populations, but then what?

Here in the U.S. we're suffering the long term effects of what is now referred to (negatively) as the Western Diet: diabetes from sugar, hypertension from salt, and every bad thing you can imagine being linked to white flour. I know that any food is better than no food and that processed foods are the quickest fix to famine, but the last thing we want to do is to forever hook other populations on the stuff that is now doing us in.

My guess is that micronutrients naturally occur in the foods that everyone ate prior to industrialization, and in a perfect world we would enable populations to get back to eating their traditional diets, which nearly always consist of more real food such as fruits and veggies, rather than mixing vitamins in with their sugar.

Now to return to yesterday's post and my vision for a more sustainable winter food supply for New England. I left off a key component of eating locally grown produce in winter: extending the season. Greenhouses, hoophouses, cold frames and so forth. There are farms that harvest spinach in the winter in Maine. The technology is cheap, the environmental impact is far lesser, and the source is more reliable. What are we wating for?

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Jo said...

Michael Pollan talks a lot about this in his book "In Defense of Food". (I don't like being a Michael Pollan groupie, but at the same time, I always find myself agreeing with the things he writes.) His premise is that science doesn't understand micronutrients well enough to put them in our food correctly, but if we eat foods that naturally have lots of nutrients, we don't need to worry about what they ARE - we'll get what we need.

I think that whole grains have a lot of micronutrients (ironic that enriched flour is made by removing the nutrients and then artificially putting them back). Fruits and veggies, of course, are full of good stuff.

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