This course at Keene State College is taught by Robin Matathias with a focus on how our food choices affect our health and the world we live in. Through academic lectures, projects, and readings on topics such as High Fiber, Whole Grain, Low Fat Diets, the benefits of fiber, the truth about factory farming, and the pollution that the food industry has caused students have the opportunity to see how their choices today can lead to a better tomorrow.
It is recommended that we eat 9-11 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and one cup is equal to one serving size so its really easy to . A plant based diet is suffient in all nutrients and minerals that our bodies require. Meats and fish should be only 1/4 of the meal and treated more like a delicacy.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
Fat is a necessary nutrient, it makes up our cell membranes. There are two types of fats, Healthy (unsaturated) and Unhealthy (saturated). The unhealthy fats clog arteries and lead to heart disease, which is the #1 killer in America. Monounsaturated fats are the healthiest and can be eaten daily. They are found in foods such as avocados, almonds, olives/olive oil, peanuts, seeds, and other nuts. Walnuts also contain healthy fats and are a great source of Omega 3. Polyunsaturated fats are decent but should be eaten only a few times a week. These include fish such as salmon, sardines, and trout, as well as wild meats and other vegetable oils.
Unhealthy fats are fats that are saturated and should only be consumed sparingly, if at all. They are found in foods such as coconut oil, butter, fish/shellfish that are high in cholesterol, whole milk, beef, farmed meats such as chicken and pork, cheese, eggs, palm oil/palm kernal oil. Palm oil is especially bad becuase it is the #1 cause of deforestation in Indonesia, it is a highly saturated fat, highly processed, and it is found in food, packaging, and cosmetics. Trans-fats are another fat that should be avoided. It is the most unhealthy kind of fat, it is a highly processed product, completely man-made and the body is unable to recognize it. This is seen in hydrogenated oils, margerine, and shortening.
Cholesterol is a compound that is found in animal products and it is very similar to fats in that clogs arteries. This type of cholesterol is called LDL and it is a low-density glycoprotein in the animals products that we consume. The cholesterol that our bodies make is called HDL, high-density glycoprotein, and it is good for our arteries. To increase the bodies HDL production, people can eat more omega 3 (walnuts), legumes, and mono-unsaturated fats.
Chronic Preventable Diseases
Diseases that arise due to diet and lifestyle. There is hope though, they are reversible.
Unhealthy fats and the consumption of LDL cholesterol causes plaque build up in the arteries which leads high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. HDL produced by the body actually removes this build up and this prevents chronic preventable diseases. The scary truth is that advanced heart disease patients are all slowly dying.
Dr. Dean Ornish recommends that exercise, diet, stress reduction, and love/sociality will improve quality of life and ease pain. He also recommends that these patients eat a whole grain, high fiber, very low fat diet. The plant based diet that he taught his patients was rich in vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans. He also included meditation in his program. The results were very impressive, with many of the patients reversing their heart disease without the need for drugs or surgery.
Fiber is very important part of a healthy diet. It is comprised of plant matter that cannot be digested, however, it is a probiotic for our microbiomes. Consuming fiber makes digestion and excretion easier and it supplies nutrients for the bacteria in our gut. Without fiber, the good bacteria are unable to thrive and digestion becomes more difficult.
Fiber comes from a variety of food sources. Whole foods such as oats, whole wheat, rye, brown rice, and millet are rich is fiber and many other valuable nutrients. Fruits are rich in fiber and phytochemicals. Vegatables are also another good source of fiber and are rich in antioxidants, which repair cell damage. Nuts, seeds, and beans are also great sources of fiber and protein. Some people would say that beans will feed the world becuase they are rich in fiber and protein, are low in bad fats (saturated, hydrogenated), and add nitrogen back to the soil to maintain its productivity. Eating these whole food, high fiber, low fat items are good for your health and better for the environment as well.
A whole grainis a food that is sold the way it had been grown in nature without processing. It consists of thebran, which is the outer covering that protects the seed, it is high in fiber, protein, and vitamin B. The next part of a whole grain is the germ which is the actual seed which contains proteins, minerals, vitamin B, and healthy oils like Vitamin E. The last part of a whole grain is the endosperm which contains the starch, more protein, some minerals and very little fiber. The majority of the fiber comes from the bran and the germ, however, processed white flower is made from only the endosperm. This processed white flower became produced on a large scale due to the industrial revolution, the germ was removed to make the product more shelf stable.
Refined and processed foods have the nutrients stipped away, sythetic materials are added back into the products, often they are bleached, and basically made into something that no longer resembles anything from nature. It is important to note that enriched wheat flower is not a whole grain, it is white flower that had minerals and vitamins put back into it to make it appear to be healthier.
Some important things to mention about choosing food. You should eat fruits that are in season to reduce your carbon footprint and to reduce the amount of residues of pesticides and chemicals that are on your food. Leafy, dark green vegetables are the most nutrient dense food stuffs. Nuts and seeds have a high caloric density and they have healthy fats, walnuts have omega-3 in them as well.
One of the main differences between carnivores and herbivores is the way in which they eat and digest food. The carnivore has claws and sharp teeth for tearing flesh where as the herbivore lacks claws and have flat molars for grinding grains, nuts, and seeds. The carnivore has a very high stomach acidity for breaking down animal proteins and they have a short and straight colon which allows for easy passage of animal products. The herbivore on the other hand has a much weaker stomach acidity, acid relfux is due to increased stomach acid production to digest excess animal produts. An herbivores colon, including humans, is long, twisted, and full of ridges to increase the surface area for the absorbtion of nutrients. Those on a high meat diet often have fecal matter lodged into these ridges which can cause gastrointestinal problems. Our digestive system was not designed for such a high volume consumption of animal products.
You are walking through the grocery store and pick up some pasta for dinner, you put it into your cart without looking at the ingredients. You do not realize that the grains used are not whole, they are simply enriched and not nearly as nutrient rich as what grew in nature. Next you grab some granola bars, you like the chocolate chip and peanut butter so you grab two boxes, it is on sale and you are all about the deals. Little did you know that the palm oil in your snack is costing the lives of orangutans and tigers.
In a world full of advertising and carefully constructed fairy tales, many people ignorantly shop without consideration for the real life impacts that their food choices have on the rest of the world we live in. Not only are highly processed foods full of chemcials, as listed clearly in their ingedients, but the animals products that are consumed regularly come from sick, scared animals butchered carelessly after a life of pain and misery.
Such cruelty and greed to maximize profits while simultaneously destroying the environment and causing major health problems across the globe, should not be such a normal part of daily life. The food industry has become a profit based corporation that sees animals as machines and disregards the harm they have caused us all.
There is an environmental impact for everything you choose to consume and for the production of food. Social and political aspects of agriculture, animal rights, conservation, prevention of pollution, and many more have been the main issues when it comes to the growing food industry however, the greed of corporations often has been able to shrug off our concerns and move forward without consideration for the disasterous impacts that greed will have on future generations and the environment.
Ecosystem: interacting system that encompasses a community and its nonliving physical environment. The abiotic factors that influence the biotic factores within an ecosystem include light, heat, water, minerals, and pH. Variations in these elements dictate the types and amounts of species (the biotic factors) that can survive in any given habitat.
Community: a group of different species living in the same area and utilizing the same abiotic resources. This includes animals and plants as well as microbial organisms and fungi. Green plants are the only organisms that are able to produce their own food from sunlight in a process known as “Photosynthesis“. These green plants are at the bottom of the food chain and provide the nutrients to the herbivores. These nutrients move through the food web as carnivores and decomposes consume the herbivores.
Sustainability: the ability to meet current human need for natural resources without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their needs. With an ever increasing human population on earth, this is more important now than ever before if we wish to survive as a species.
Sustainable Agriculture: the use of agricultural methods that maintain soil productivity and a healthy ecological balance of soil minerals and nutrients. The method ideally will have minimal long term impacts on the environment.
Monoculture: the cultivation of only one type of plant over a large area. This process depletes the soil of its nutrients and requires the use of chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, and other harmful practices. It the complete opposite of an ecosystem and it destroys the top soil which creates desserts after many years of abuse on the land.
Biodiversity: the number, variety, and variability of organisms within an ecosystem. This includes the genetic variability between and within species, species richness, and overall ecosystem diverity (abiotic and biotic).
Species Richness: the number of different species that are known to live within an ecosystem. A larger species richness indicates greater diversity within the ecosystem, the greater the biodiveristy within the system the healthier it becomes.
Ecosystem Diversity: variation in the types of ecosystems found within a larger geographical region. More ecosystems means that there will be a larger variation in species types for both plants and animals for that region.
Grassroots Activism: locals from within a community who fight against corporate greed and pollution due to the direct negative impact the industry has had on their livelihood, family, and health.
The human body as an ecosystem:
Is an organism made up of cells, tissues, muscles, organs, organ systems….but the human body is also an ecosystem. A home to microorganisms.
Biotic Factors: microbiome (in the gut), yeasts, fungi, viruses, bacteria (everywhere!!)
Abiotic Factors: oxygen, water, carbon dioxide, minerals/vitamins, a neutral blood pH, and acidic stomach pH. (Acidic blood will lead to the proliferation of cancer cells).
Interactions: food choices influence the types of bacteria that make up the microbiome, the microbiome is what digests the food stuffs that we are not able to. Antiobiotics will harm the microbiome and should be taken with a priobiotic to maintain the good bacteria in your gut.
High Fiber, Low Fat, Whole Food Diet was recomended in the 1970’s to combat these health problems. Fiber is found only in plants, we are unable to digest it but the good bacteria in the microbiome is able to use it as fuel and help us in our digestion process. We have about 3lbs and 400+ different species of bacteria in our gut that require fiber in order to help us.
In extreme environments and ones that have little species richness, the elimination of one aspect can lead to the collapse of the entire ecosystem.
Pollution, climate change, deforestation are all causing ecosystems to collapse and communites to die off.
The #1 cause of deforestation in South America is cattle farming and in Indonesia it is due to the cultivation of palm oil. We are losing our rainforests and the biodiversity there for hamburgers and palm oil. It is disgusting. If we do not make changes now, we will not have a planet to call home tomorrow.