The Food We Take for Granted
How much do you know about your food? If you’re like most people, you might not even be aware of the price at the grocery store, much less where it came from and how it was created. I do much of the shopping in our family, so I know what food costs. I try to be aware of where it comes from, and make intelligent choices accordingly. For example, I can’t being myself to eat summer fruits produced in South America, because they are air-shipped to the U.S. (unlike bananas, which come by boat). It’s the only way they can get the fruit here fresh enough. And it seems wrong to me to buy a peach, for example, that’s taken a plane ride most people in the world will never be able to afford.
Still, I am often surprised. For example, today while researching selenium deficiency, I read that “the amount of selenium in common sources has decreased in recent decades.” Selenium, an important trace mineral, is present in grains and leafy vegetables based on the selenium content of the soil it’s grown in. As modern agricultural practices have tended to ignore soil health, many crops now contain fewer micronutrients than they used to. According to one study, the decreases
occurred in different countries that share very similar historical farming management strategies, based mainly on the adoption of modern genetic varieties of crops and agronomic practices related to the acceleration of the growth rates of plants.
It’s worth noting that much of the Western United States has soils naturally low in selenium. This includes Arizona, southern Utah, New Mexico, Oregon, and large portions of California including the Imperial Valley. Thus, our reliance of California vegetables may make us more susceptible to selenium deficiency, as may our reliance on mega-farms for much of our food.
We wouldn’t know that, because the USDA in its infinite wisdom tells us, for example, that beef steak contains 33 mcg of selenium per serving. Actual analysis suggests ranges from about 20 to 70 mcg, depending on where the cows are raised. In fruits and vegetables, content can vary by a factor of ten. Rice has been sampled as high as 1.0 mcg/g and as low as .02 mcg/g, depending on geographic origin. USDA says rice contains .11 mcg/g, so you could be getting ten times more… or 82% less.
We take our food for granted. It’s supposed to be healthy and nutritious. But it isn’t as clear cut as we like to think. Global economics and mega-farming have put even our expected nutritional content in danger.