Health is Our Greatest Wealth. But Are the Wealthy Making Us Unhealthy?5 years ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
How many of you have seen a huge, gorgeous home and thought that it may be the root of many of our health problems?
Well, after reading a recent report about mega-mansions in Canada, you might start to see these types of homes through different lenses - and not rose-colored lenses.
In some parts of Canada, beautiful, luxury homes are built with not only hundreds of millions of dollars but also at the expense of sacrificing large amounts of valuable farmland. According to the report, 350 acres of farmland are lost per day in Ontario alone to non-agricultural uses, like mega-mansions.
And this loss of farmland may be causing detrimental effects to the health of the community by limiting access to healthy foods and inflating the prices of fresh produce.
“Our health and well-being are directly tied to the land,” the report says.
“Most worrisome is the potential of this conversion [of farmland to mansions] to increase rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and certain types of cancer.”
A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, which are nutrient-dense, is one of the most effective ways to prevent and manage many types of disease. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 30–40 percent of all cancers can be prevented by lifestyle and dietary measures alone.
“Intake of flax seed, especially its lignan fraction, and abundant portions of fruits and vegetables will lower cancer risk.”
These are all foods that require land or a farm for growing them. And without sufficient land to grow these foods, the more expensive they will be.
(And don’t forget that the remaining farmland that is actually being used for farming may have soil lacking in nutrients because of overuse).
So even if their health depends on it, many people will be unable to afford food that is more expensive.
Reportedly, in Canada, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables has been on the rise. In 2017, tomatoes cost 16 percent more than they did in 2016. The cost of potatoes increased by 10 percent.
“Relying on fresh produce from the United States, especially from drought-affected California, also contributes to high costs at the cash register and in turn limits what we can purchase, ” according to the report.
With the increasing prices of healthy foods, many people turn to cheaper, nutrient-void foods that are full of fat, sugar and oils. Consumption of these unhealthy foods may lead to weight gain and, eventually, obesity.
“Obesity is a serious concern because it is associated with poorer mental health outcomes, reduced quality of life, and the leading causes of death in the U.S. and worldwide, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer,” reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
And think about it…
It’s one thing to be healthy and not have access to healthy food. It’s even more dire to have existing health issues and not have access to healthy food. Imagine being diabetic and feeling like you couldn’t afford to buy fresh vegetables that may help control your blood sugar.
So are we having the same issue with mega-mansions in the United States?
It appears so.
Reportedly, farm mega-homes are on the rise in the U.S. And what may be infuriating to some is that many of these farm homeowners may be getting huge tax breaks that are intended for farmers.
“Even if mansion owners are not farming on a large scale, some have the ability to receive hefty tax exemptions, a loophole that city councils are trying to regulate,” according to one source.
“These homeowners can benefit from tax exemptions originally designed to promote food production. But when a farm property becomes residential, the quality of the soil diminishes over time, making food insecurity more likely in the region.”
(Some areas in the U.S. are working to set limitations on farmland mansions).
And it’s not just luxury homes that are depleting farmland. In addition to basic residential development, athletic fields and shopping centers are also taking away valuable farmland. Check out these unsettling findings from the American Farmland Trust:
- “America’s farms are critical national infrastructure, but are disappearing at the alarming rate of 3 acres every single minute. Our new Farms Under Threat report finds that 31 million acres of farmland were lost between 1992 and 2012. That’s nearly twice as much as previous datasets have shown.”
- 11 million of those acres were among the best farmland in the nation—classified as the most productive, most versatile and most resilient land.
- More than 70 percent of urban development and 62 percent of all development took place on agricultural land.
- Low-density residential development accounted for 41 percent of the loss and included residential areas with houses built on one to 20-acre parcels and exurban homes on even larger lots that effectively removed these properties from agricultural uses.
The American Farmland Trust sums up the problem in a nutshell quite simply: “No Farms No Food.”
And they mean healthy food.
So how can we be proactive?
This is a daunting problem and may seem like it is way beyond our control. But I think it’s extremely important to shed some light on the issue and educate ourselves. Many people do not know this problem even exists.
Here is what I think we can do:
- Get involved.
Talk to your local government about protecting farmland. Our strength is in how many of us speak up. If we can protect farmland, we will help protect the health of our children and children in the future.
- Support our farmers.
You can do this by shopping at your local farmer’s market and eating foods that are in season.
- Be self-reliant.
If you can, grow your own produce. Even if you can’t grow all of your food, growing some of it, even if it’s just herbs and spices, may make having access to healthy foods more affordable. Many people may not know or forget that many herbs and spices, like parsley and cayenne, are just as full of nutrients as fruits and vegetables.
- Prioritize your spending.
Fresh produce should not be considered a luxury but if money is tight, produce may certainly seem like a luxury. Now that you know the gravity of the situation, make sure to allocate sufficient funds to purchasing healthy foods. Think about the areas in your life where you can cut costs. Material things mean nothing if you are not healthy and happy.
Finally, one takeaway from this is that we cannot take for granted the produce we do have access to. I know the next time I am at the grocery store or farmer’s market, I will certainly appreciate that bundle of kale or fresh strawberries more than ever before.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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