We are currently in the middle of the defining global health crisis of our time, the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. The virus has spread rapidly, causing fast infections and deaths across the world. We know this because the statistics and facts are everywhere, and we are able to see the effects of the virus unfold in real time. Despite countries taking different approaches, we have managed to come together to incorporate a “think global, act local” approach to help protect our most vulnerable, flatten the curve and ease the fierceness of the outbreak.
As we experience the coronavirus pandemic and its effects, the rise of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity is on the rise in Australia and can be labelled a silent pandemic of their own making. The rise of Chronic disease is noticed as a challenging public health issue with effects on societies and economies. As a result, it highlights the importance of preventive measures alongside effective management and care. It is true that we are in the midst of a bit of a food revolution – there are shifting consumer preferences, new and exciting food innovations, and emerging nutrition science. But at the same time, we are also a little bit stuck. According to the National Health Survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, two thirds of Australians aged over 18 years old were overweight or obese in 2017-18.
It makes sense that as humans we are hard wired to respond better to acute risk (such as COVID-19, Ebola etc.), rather than chronic risk. Acute risk is more immediate, fast and threatening to us compared to chronic risk (e.g. cancer, obesity and diabetes risk) which is sometimes a little fuzzy and slow-building, and therefore harder for us to connect with. One challenge that makes the connection between our current health and our future health ill-defined is the constant science and nutrition information that is deposited into the media every day. There is definitely an aura of health being created but unfortunately this does not always match the science.
So what do we need to know?
The foods that we need to eat should mostly come from the earth, and be in their whole food form. We can call these foods life-giving foods because that’s what they do! They give us life, they can heal and repair us. They are foods that contain bioactive compounds, fibre and healthy fats for good health. We are talking about fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and whole grains.
These nourishing and life-giving foods given by the earth should be celebrated and given value for their role in the prevention of chronic diseases. As a country, we spend more money each year on health care yet we don’t seem to be that much healthier. Rates of chronic diseases have only increased over time, and they are headed for even more increases. In addition, the consequences of unhealthy eating have not been fully recognised – costs to businesses, companies, to the healthcare system, and to our health and well-being.
Diabetes Australia states that the total annual cost for Australians living with type 2 diabetes is $6 billion (and that’s just for diabetes, let alone the many other costly chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and obesity). This makes the chronic disease pandemic a fundamental economic problem and we need to realise the importance and power of food and nutrition as medicine and as tools to eliminate poor health now and into the future.
Remember, healthy food doesn’t have to be tasteless and joyless, it can easily be yummy, satisfying, joyous, tasty and sustainable all at once! Just taste ours J
“The foods you eat can heal you faster and more profoundly than the most expensive prescription drugs, and more dramatically than the most extreme surgical interventions, with only positive side effects.” – T. Colin Campbell, PhD