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Crap food leads to crap health: Why do we put up with it?

Written by Sebastian Pole

In a world that can feel out of control, the food we eat is one of the things we can, in theory, control. We know that good quality, nutritious food optimises health and prevents disease. We also know the opposite is true, with at least 30% of all cancers being diet related and that 70% of these cancers are connected with typical diets that are high in animal fat, low in fruit, vegetables and fibre (1). Why is our food causing these problems and how can we make the right choices?

Where did the problems start?

Crap food leads to crap health

Since the 1950s and the explosion of industrial agriculture relying on high-volumes of nitrogen inputs along with over 1000 different pesticides and herbicides. There has been a huge shift; there has been a global reduction in consumption of complex carbohydrates by 38% with an increase of 36% for meat and 46% for vegetable oils. In the same period in the UK there has been a fall in fresh vegetable consumption by 24% and in the EU and US there has been a 35% increase in sugar and refined starch consumption. Our shift in nutritional habits over the last 70 years has evidently had some negative impact on society’s health as the same time period has seen cancer rates double and also sharp increases in heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and other chronic degenerative diseases (2, 3, 5). Obesity and Type 2 diabetes have become regional epidemics. Obesity also has clear links with some forms of cancer as well as heart disease, diabetes, infertility and bone disorders (4).

Despite there being a surplus of food quantity, there has been a decline in food quality to the extent that Type-B malnutrition is now prevalent in the industrialised world with up to 60% of hospital admissions displaying nutritional deficiencies (6,7,8). Of course, in a world with an increasing population we have needed to increase volumes but this nutritional decline has largely been driven by intensive agriculture depleting soil-nutrient quality and a surge in consuming ultra-processed foods, now making up 50% of every shopping basket in the UK (9).

I am a registered member of the Ayurvedic Professionals Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and a Fellow of the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. I qualified as a herbalist with the aim of using the principles of Ayurveda (the ancient art of living wisely) and the Herbal tradition to help transform health. I have been in clinical practice since 1998.
Having co-founded Pukka Herbs in 2001 I have become experienced in organic herb growing, practitioner grade quality and sustainable value chains. I am a Trustee of the FairWild Foundation, a Director of The Betonica School of Herbal Medicine and an Advisor to The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and The Sustainable Herbs Project. Fluent in Hindi, a qualified Yoga therapist and passionate about projects with a higher purpose, I am on a mission to bring the incredible power of plants into people’s life. And that is why I started Herbal Reality and what it is all about.
I live in a forest garden farm in Somerset growing over 100 species of medicinal plants and trees. And a lot of weeds!
Author of Ayurvedic Medicine, The Principles of Traditional Practice (Elsevier 2006), A Pukka Life (Quadrille 2011), Celebrating 10 Pukka years (2012) and Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea (Frances Lincoln 2016).

Sebastian Pole

I am a registered member of the Ayurvedic Professionals Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and a Fellow of the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. I qualified as a herbalist with the aim of using the principles of Ayurveda (the ancient art of living wisely) and the Herbal tradition to help transform health. I have been in clinical practice since 1998.
Having co-founded Pukka Herbs in 2001 I have become experienced in organic herb growing, practitioner grade quality and sustainable value chains. I am a Trustee of the FairWild Foundation, a Director of The Betonica School of Herbal Medicine and an Advisor to The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and The Sustainable Herbs Project. Fluent in Hindi, a qualified Yoga therapist and passionate about projects with a higher purpose, I am on a mission to bring the incredible power of plants into people’s life. And that is why I started Herbal Reality and what it is all about.
I live in a forest garden farm in Somerset growing over 100 species of medicinal plants and trees. And a lot of weeds!
Author of Ayurvedic Medicine, The Principles of Traditional Practice (Elsevier 2006), A Pukka Life (Quadrille 2011), Celebrating 10 Pukka years (2012) and Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea (Frances Lincoln 2016).

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