Processed Food And Its Role In American Nutrition

Eating a healthy diet is far from simple, simply because humans are very complex beings. We may have it in the back of our minds that we are eating to fuel our bodies, but we actually make the majority of our food choices based on their enjoyment factor. In fact, eating is such an enjoyable experience that we often choose to eat foods that taste very good, but that doesn't make us feel very good afterward. We also enjoy these foods so much that we eat more than our bodies actually need, which in turn makes us fat, unhappy and depressed. Many people do not even know how great it feels to eat a healthy meal, because they have been making bad food choices for too long. Majority of the writers, participating in the conversation about eating agree on one point that something is terribly wrong with the way Americans eat. They may have different approaches to solve this national issue, but they all admit that something must be done. When it comes to the matter of food, some authors are convinced that we must eat whole, not processed food also, that we should be personally responsible for our food choices; on one hand I completely agree with avoiding processed food and on the other hand, I have mixed feelings about us being responsible for our food choices. First, some authors assert that we should eat whole foods and avoid processed foods. Michael Pollan who teaches at the University of Berkeley, warns Americans about the “western diet” and believes that we must escape from it. Pollan’s definition of the western diet is highly processed, fast and cheap food, which is mostly meat, sugar, added fat and refined grains. In his essay, he cites many different scientific theories known as nutritionism. Nutritionism is a paradigm that assumes that it is the scientifically identified nutrients in foods that determine the value of individual food stuffs in the diet. In other words, it's an ideology that assumes the only purpose of consuming food is for its nutritional value. Pollan advises us to escape food that has been processed to such an extent that it is more the product of the industry than a product of nature. After many scientific researches Pollan ended up discovering that Americans must escape the western diet because it causes chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

In his article, “Escape from the Western Diet” Pollan suggests that “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”. Basically, Pollan is proposing the alternative for fast-cheap and processed food, which is to eat vegetables, he also elaborates that to make the process of eating healthy food more simpler and pleasurable is to avoid eating by numbers and nutrients, which is completely reversed of what nutritionism promotes. I agree with Pollan that we should consume whole foods and avoid processed foods, but nowadays it's not very easy to find whole food in the supermarkets because processed food has taken over most of the aisle of the stores. Likewise, Michael Moss, a New York Times investigative reporter reveals that the big food companies are trying to make their products more unhealthy - by adding sugar, salt and fat. Moss questions that though the public and the food companies know that sugary, salty, and fatty food is dangerous to us in the amount we consume them, why are the diabetes and obesity rates are increasing. He also describes how food companies are profiting from us by providing tasty food, making it harder to resist their products. According to “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food”, Moss maintains that it was about that time for food-science experts to caution the CEO’s of their companies, that they’ve crossed the limits in producing and advertising products that causes serious health concerns. In other words, Moss verifies that the majority of the food companies do not care about the health of their customers as long as they profit from them, furthermore they spend millions in advertising those products. I agree with Moss, that food companies add more sugar, and salt to make their products more tasty as well as to make us addicted to them. Second, some authors insist that we should be personally accountable for our food choices. Radley Balko, a writer in the Washington Posts, declares that eating healthy food is an individual’s choice and not the government. He emphasizes that government intervention to curtail obesity (including limiting access to high-calorie foods, requiring menu labeling of nutritional value and fat and calorie content, and taxing high-calorie food), as well as treating obesity as a public health issue, is wrong-headed; instead, personal responsibility should be encouraged. In the article “What You Eat is Your Business” he disputes that “Instead of manipulating or intervening in the array of food options available to American consumers, our government ought to be working to foster a sense of responsibility in the ownership of our own health and well being”. Balko’s point is that the government should not alter and regulate the food that are available to consumers, but instead make consumers responsible for their choices. Although I agree that consumers should be aware of the effects of their food choices, and be responsible, I believe that the government can rescue consumers by regulating food that contains high risk factors to the health of individuals and by providing various food options.

Furthermore; Balko urges that the ideal approach to assuage obesity is to separate the term obesity from public health. In his view obesity wouldn’t be such a big issue in the public if we make it personal issue, which it is. This is something I disagree with because although the health of others does not directly affect me; I believe it is an important issue to address because such large numbers of people in our country as a whole are struggling with this issue. In Radley Balko’s view “It’s difficult to think of anything more private and of less public concern than what we choose to put in our bodies.” The essence of Balko’s argument is that it is no one’s business but our own what we eat. If we choose not to care about the health of our people, nobody will. Ultimately, Balko insists the way to tackle the obesity crisis is through less government intervention and more personal responsibility. In the article “Junking Junk Food” by Judith Warner, Warner asserts that to end obesity the government must make healthy food more appealing while making unhealthy high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie food less appealing. This is something I can agree with. The government should be involved in the health of its citizens. By making healthy food more available more people may be inclined to purchase healthier foods. Furthermore, by placing stricter standards on food will mean better products will be present for consumers. If the government were to limit the unhealthy foods that are in the market consumers will be much more likely to choose healthier alternatives. In Judith Warner’s view “Cultural change is what offers the best hope for transforming how and what Americans eat.” Judith Warner believes the only way to end obesity in America is to change the way Americans think and feel about food. The government must also make healthy food part of our American culture. Consumers need to see the affects unhealthy foods have on their bodies. Consumers should feel that nutritious food can also taste pleasant. Doing what is good for you should make you feel excellent. The government should make more of a effort to educate Americans on the foods they are putting into their bodies. Judith Warner writes, “Perhaps the most successful government effort to regulate what and how much Americans consume- the food rationing programs of World War II- recognized this political-cultural-emotional scheme.” During World War II, many Americans changed the way they consumed products and what they consumed to preserve certain goods for the war. The government made rationing a way for Americans to show patriotism and support for their country.

The government was prosperous in the effort to change the way people consumed because they tackled many different aspects like politics and culture. Warner emphasizes that the only way to be successful in changing the way people eat in today’s culture is by again tackling these distinct aspects. What Judith Warner is trying to say here is that many things need to be taken into consideration when making the effort to end obesity in America. I agree with Warner on this point. Obesity is such a large problem today that in order to cause a change the government must make an effort in a wide range of areas, including political, cultural and emotional. According to Judith Warner, “You can’t change specific eating behavior without addressing that way of life- without changing our culture of food.” Basically, Warner is saying in order to get people to eat healthier you have to get people to want to live a healthier lifestyle. People need to see the benefits of good food choices and the consequences of unhealthy food. Healthy choices shouldn’t be seen as a diet. Eating food that is good for your body isn’t a punishment it is a reward. Warner believes it is important that people not get caught up in the idea of comfort food. American’s associate certain foods with comfort but that comfort food could be harmful to your well being. People should see food as a means of nourishment not comfort. The government must make the effort to better the lives of its people. Judith Warner encourages the government to make an effort to change the culture of food in order to end obesity in America. Radley Balko and Judith Warner have very distinct ideas of what needs to be done to end obesity in America. I agree with Balko that people have to take responsibility for what they choose to consume and the consequences of those choices. Everyone chooses what he or she eats and as a result has to has to deal with the consequences. While I believe we need to be responsible for our own choices; I also believe our government should play a part in ensuring the well-being of our country’s people. In my opinion, school boards banning soda on campus and in vending machines and schools suggesting healthy alternatives to unhealthy food is a good thing. By making unhealthy foods less readily available, making healthier choices become easier. I also agree with Warner that changing the way people see food is very important to decreasing obesity. People should see eating healthy as a positive lifestyle not a diet that has been forced upon them. Whether you believe it should be a personal responsibility or a government effort, I think we can all agree that something needs to be done. Ultimately what is at stake here is the health of our country’s people, present and future.

01 February 2021
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