I beg you grant me a liberty for the duration: Allow me to assume you’re an average person. I’ll also be assuming you’re American. Maybe you’re a Canadian so you say “eh?” a lot more but who cares. The “Western Diet” you’re eating (remember, you’re an average person) originated in America. America’s the sign of things to come.
Why are you eating so much soy? What little tofu you eat is barely measurable but you’re eating more soy every day than someone following a traditional Chinese diet.
75% of the vegetable oils you eat come from soy (representing 20 percent of your daily calories). Over half the sweeteners you consume come from corn (around 10% of your daily calories). These two plants are among natures most efficient transformers of sunlight and chemical fertilizer into carbohydrate energy (corn), fats and proteins (soy). Doesn’t hurt that the government subsidizes those crops (in the U.s.; not sure about Canada).
The food you’re eating is getting emptier and I’m not referring to the twinkies. You have to eat three apples to get as much iron as a single apple would yield in 1940. Milk from modern Holstein cows (breeders have tripled output since the 1950s) has considerably less butterfat and other nutrients than older less “improved” breeds. The USDA has tracked forty-three crops since the 1950s: on average vitamin C is down 20%, Iron’s down 15%, riboflavin’s down 38% and calcium’s down 16%. Wheat, over the last 130 years of improvements (during which yields have tripled) has seen it’s iron content down 28%, zinc and selenium are both down 33%.
The people growing your food are selecting for high yield, not nutritional content. It’s been working. The average American farmer, since 1980, produces an average of 600 more calories per person per day. The price of food has fallen and you are consuming 300 more calories per day than someone would have in 1985. Overwhelmingly those are in the form of sugars, fats and mostly refined grain.
Your daily diet: 554 calories from soy, 257 from corn. If we include wheat (768) and rice (91) then two thirds of your calories come from only four crops. Most of the remaining calories are meats (primarily beef, chicken and bacon, perhaps?). More plentiful meat than we’ve ever had before as a species. Only 20% of children and 32% of adults eat their recommended veggies. But who’s got room after all that delicious soy and corn.
We’re feeding people cheaply alright. You spend the least amount of your income on food than any other person in history (9.9%). I said “history” but modern people eating non-western diets still spend more. The Italians (14.9%), for instance, or the French (14.9%), or Spanish (17.1%). You also spend the least amount of time gathering, preparing and enjoying your meals than any other person in history. Those numbers are falling still.
To me, the saddest part is that you didn’t even choose to do this, you were born into it. If you’re like me you didn’t realize you were eating soybeans in your bread, in your soda, in your crackers, your pasta sauce, and nearly any food that you eat. I mean, it all looks so different. But so we’re clear: food scientists don’t just add “soy” and “corn” anymore than you pump raw crude oil into your automobile. They are the building blocks to new levels of alchemy unknown and untested. You are a guinea pig.
You didn’t make the food less nutritious and you grew up in a culture where rapidly changing food science is the norm. This has been taking generations to happen. Processing food started when some clever ancestor started grinding wheat into flour; before then, really. The pace has quickened these last few years. What used to look like the miracle of technological advancement is, on closer inspection, well... you already read the stats.
Anyway, I don’t know how to end this. I’ve written and re-written various paragraphs. I really did want to work in the “90.1%” number.. the amount of money you and I, on average, are not spending on food. Or 23hrs 29min: The 1995 average of time not spent preparing and cleaning up after them. I think about those number a lot some days. Thanks for your indulgence as I realize you obviously not an average person. You’re an individual, just like everybody else. Thanks for letting me throw some statistics at you.