Farming and food production

The fresh produce on the supermarket shelves may look wholesome, and undoubtedly it is in comparison with the processed contents of the tins and the packets. Nevertheless modern farming methods must be carefully monitored by any health-conscious society. Farm animals are often injected with steroids and antibiotic drugs to make them grow faster and avoid disease, but this may not be very good for us, because traces of the drugs are left in the meat. One of the ways to reduce exposure to them is to visit the butcher less often.

Intensive agriculture often employs the crop sprays against various pests and diseases, and to stop produce deteriorating during transport. Therefore it is very important to wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly in clean water before cooking or eating. ‘Organically’ grown vegetables may or may not be healthier, although they do tend to be more expen-sive. Home-grown produce is not more expensive, and its extra freshness certainly makes it taste better. But do not grow vegetables near a busy road; tests have shown that atmospheric lead from petrol fumes is taken into the plants via the soil and can make them poisonous. There is already a lot of lead in the soil of our city centres, and pregnant women and young children should avoid too much innercity produce.

Storage, processing and preparation

Storing, processing and cooking each has an effect on natural goodness. Of course some foods, such as potatoes and wheat, must be cooked before they can be eaten. But if you boil cabbage for hours, or turn good fresh peas into old dried ones and then dye them artificially and boil them to a pulp, you are bound to lose out.

Freezing does less damage than boiling, and frozen food may be less damaged than food left on a hot supermarket shelf or out in the warm sun all day. Modern diets do score heavily over our ancestors’ ‘stone age’ food in one area. They had no greenhouses or international freight so their diet was probably a little dull, certainly at some times of the year. But in Western countries we really do have the most extraordinary variety of foods available. We can get cheap protein from any number of peas, beans and other pulses, nuts and shellfish, meat offal and fish. All these are full of nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals, so it is worth experimenting with them. Any one can be the ‘base’ of a meal. Remember, your mind may be in the twentieth century but your digestion is still in the stone age.

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