All the poor are now fat
The lack of freshly cooked food is an unseen problem because, among the plethora of issues that boil in and out of our mass media stockpot, food seems to be the last thing we cook. Commentaries of a bleak economic outlook are diced and simmered in a sauce of veiled depression memes, while video clips of the latest inventions serve as our side of vegetables. Meanwhile, the daily political infuriation is the hot, steamed rice, two cups’ worth. By the time we are ready to cook actual protein, fiber, fat and carbohydrates from natural sources, our mental tank is gassed out, and we retreat into our phones. Luckily, there’s a newly-opened convenience store that serves fried chicken, and at 11 p.m., a queue of people clad in shabby clothes have likewise yet to eat dinner.
Modern life has excused us from our nutritional responsibilities. As a result, the food industry has unleashed gastronomic hedonia upon the public’s consciousness. We are awash with instant meals, sugary drinks and food fried in repeatedly heated cooking oil. In their wake, traditionally cooked food languishes in the dishes of the local, indigent-run community canteen.
Why does food matter? It’s a ridiculous question. However, anybody just needs to take a look at the pained legs and shortened gaits of people supposedly far from advanced age. OB-GYN clinics in poor areas might also be able to attest to rising pregnancy losses versus successful births. Finally, an overview of children’s old-age symptoms will reveal that even youthfulness has its limits, making metformin a bonding moment for lolo, lola and apo.
Now, any pharmacological professional would say that there are medicines for these things, but these are just stopgap measures that act downstream. The prevailing junk food culture is the upstream troublemaker, and there lies the burden that needs to be cast away. Real, whole food has a central role to play in our lives.
Okra, kangkong, malunggay, sili, pork, fish, beef, chicken, goat, deer and especially groundwater are examples of natural foods adapted to our bodies that have shaped our nutritional needs for thousands of years. This is complemented by anthropologic cooking methods such as baking, roasting, boiling, fermenting as well as frying, the last one chiefly done by rendering animal or coconut fat. However, modern life has altered our gastronomy. For example, vinegar, our de facto probiotic, used to be fermented from coconut sap or sugarcane. Now, it is a name for plain acetic acid. Salt, soy and fish sauce, once composed of multiple beneficial minerals and ions, are now concentrated sodium providing premature satiety, when our ancestors would have craved for more electrolytes from seafood and plants.
Meat, once rich in omega-3 fatty acids from the natural diets of animals, is now rich in omega-6 from the refined grains fed to them in pens and cages. Rice, a defining feature of our ancient gastronomy, was once pounded and eaten with bits of husk. Now, it is mercilessly milled to be white and soft, making it nearly the equivalent of cake flour.
When we choose to eat fast food, processed meat or crackers just to ease our hunger, we miss out on vitamins, minerals and other compounds that fit our biology as humans. The pain of our grumbling stomachs tends to be inconsiderate of the hunger of other organs such as our brain, muscles, liver and arteries that need repair from all the stress. The soft cartilage between our joints constantly looks for other connective tissue you may encounter through beef or poultry, but keeps wondering what on earth is a chicken nugget. The gallbladder that has to excrete cholesterol gets jammed up when we keep removing the yolk from eggs, which is a source of choline, a nutrient that underlies many biochemical processes including the prevention of gallstones. Finally, the ubiquity of vegetable oils in households and packaged food products is blindsiding our plasma, because it would package and transport these refined fats like it would do so for natural fats, thus causing oxidative effects that damage our arteries.
At the checkout counter in supermarkets, I cannot help but feel deflated while seeing the packaged and boxed goods that fill the shopping carts. Sweetened coffee and juice mixes, multi-ingredient processed meats, butter substitutes, cakes, cookies and breads of various refinements, all of which are not without their respective advertisements, both toward adults and children alike. Now, people might say that they buy their produce from the wet markets, which is well and good. However, the problem is that we have to be compelled to stock our pantries with junk food anyway.
Junk food has always been with us in our lives, even mine, so I would understand that messages such as this can be upsetting or incredible. After all, we are still standing, alive and well. However, we have to look at our children, who have dived headfirst into this environment. We also have to look at our indigents, who are living less natively and more like the commercials for every possible consumer product. Hunger is now a thing of the past, and thinness is no longer the image of poverty—it’s obesity. It’s kidney failure. It’s acid reflux. It’s gout. It’s dementia, it’s cancer, and many more that are the result of junk food and our fear of being hungry.
But by reeducating ourselves and making an effort to concentrate more nutrients on our plates, we can greatly improve our health and bodily resilience, making mincemeat of real-world problems that would have otherwise ravaged our lives.
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Ryan Madrid, 28, is a graduate of BS Biology and the host of “Life As Podcast.” For more than a year now, he has remained abreast of various research on health, food and functional medicine. He looks forward to writing more about these topics for the benefit of fellow Filipinos, especially his family, friends and their families.
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