When we think of the five essential elements of wellness – Purpose, Social, Financial, Physical and Community, we may not immediately think of social consciousness as a necessary ingredient in our pursuit of total wellbeing.

However, aligned with goals for understanding our purpose, along with our social and community engagement, is the critical importance of connecting our food consumption with its environmental and geographical impact. History has proven over and over again, that corporate greed, along with irresponsible and unsustainable pressures on food chains, is directly responsible for the near extinction of wildlife and destruction of once rich soil.

Southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii); South Australia, Australia
Southern Bluefin Tuna. Photograph by WorldWildlife.org

One doesn’t need to search hard for grim statistics on the staggering decline of the once plentiful Bluefin Tuna. Fewer than 3% of this fish remain today in the Pacific Ocean. The Bluefin population has nearly been decimated in the past 40 years. Recently it was noted that a Japanese restaurateur paid $118k for a single Bluefin Tuna – and we should be asking ourselves if our oceans are paying too high a price for a small plate of sushi.

What we eat has changed more in the last 40 years than it has in the previous 40,000. And there was wide agreement that all the trend-chasing, “I-saw-it-on-Instagram” eating needs to stop. We need to be restored to sane, nutritious, clean, local, personally intuitive foods” –  Samantha Gowing, Nutrition Expert

So how did we get to the point where our food consumption and dietary structures have become driven by pop culture fads and snake oil salesmen? It has been occurring for over 126 years – although not at the extreme level we are experiencing today.

According to an article by Hopes&Fears published June 11, 2015, The Rise and Fall of Superfoods, Coca-Cola began miracle food marketing in the late 19th Century by hyping their drink as an “intellectual beverage” and in the early 20th century, C.W. Post stated that their Grape Nuts cereal “fed the brain and nerve centers”. Beginning in 1909 through the 1950’s, Ovaltine hawked their product as a “nerve strengthener, a sleep aid, and an energizer”.

A more modern example and one had a critical effect on the popularity of hysteria trend eating is the book Superfoods RX, published in 2003, by creating the term “functional foods.” Jonathan Thomas, Principal Market Analysts at Leatherhead Food Research recently shared with the site, HopesandFears.com, that this term has come to mean any food item determined to have a health-boosting ingredient.The functional food market, as of 2013, was worth an estimated $43.27 billion. It is not a challenge to connect the dots between marketing power and the over hype of any product as a superfood. The reality is that there is no one superfood. There is, however, a great deal of superpower to be found in the produce aisle of your local farmer’s markets.

A notable shift in wellness trends for 2016 is the conscious effort to evolve food consumption from “Super Food” or “Diet Trend Hysteria”, to a more socially aware and conservative minded approach to food selection.This shift is driving an increase in social awareness around the impact of buying our produce and meats from organic, humanely operated, local farms and producers. Beyond organic and local, we as a community must also educated ourselves of the impact of our food consumption when “buying” into the latest “super food” and the global impact of allowing ourselves to become part of this month’s “diet trend hysteria”.

BOLIVIA-QUINOA
A Bolivian Quinoa plantation. Getty Images.

Take for instance Quinoa. Once a peasant staple of the Bolivian people, over the past decade the international demand on this crop has made it financially difficult for the farmers to afford the very crop they grow. While the global demand has increased the incomes of Bolivian farmers, their inability to afford to buy their crops has led to a 93% increase in processed food imports within only the last five years. While there are reports that the export value of Quinoa has surpassed that of cocaine in Bolivia, environmental sustainability and the anthropological cost to the Bolivian people is yet to be determined.

On our journey to achieving total wellbeing, it is important to connect ourselves with where and how our food is grown, how the environment and wildlife populations are affected by market-driven over consumption, and becoming connected, engaged consumers – not passive trend eaters. Diet trend hysteria does not serve our bodies or our local and global communities any purpose. It actually has the opposite effect. There is no magic “diet” – no one “superfood” that is going to singularly produce wellness.

It is not that the trending “superfoods” such as Acai, Quinoa, Kale, Coconut Oil, Turmeric, Sprouted Grains and even Euglena Algae do not have nutritional benefits. It is that we can’t continue to buy into the “magical bean” promise of their benefit. Adding “ancient grains” to commercial table cereal, for instance, doesn’t mean that the health benefits of these ancient grains are greater than any of the chemicals and added ingredients that may be in the processed cereal itself. This is true of many of the “health” drinks that claim to possess powerful properties associated with the pomegranate, coconut or acai berry.

“The future is eating what you’re with – turning to our own backyards for fresh, naturally produced foods – because all clean foods have power and it’s the only regimen we need. Nils Behrens of Lanserhof argued that it’s “less important what you eat than how and when, and it’s the dose that makes it toxic.” The future means more proof of authenticity, nutritional claims and sustainability about what we eat and drink – and a welcome relaxing of our food histrionics.”  – Excerpt from Shifts in Global Wellness

farmers market pictureOur ancestors nourished themselves through balancing human consumption with the preservation of the land they farmed, and the wildlife they hunted and raised.

We all stand to exponentially increase our individual wellness, as well as that of the global farming community and our endangered wildlife, by keeping in mind three simple principles when spending our food dollars: Buy local, spend ethically and shop seasonally.  This is where the true “superfood” super power lies. 

Next week, we will take a look into the shift from workplace wellness “programs” to a culture of workplace wellness. Until then, be well, eat sanely and do something nice for yourself!

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