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The Intimacy of Health and Whole Food

Can you define what it means to be in good health? For most of us it simply means we feel good. But there's far more to it. “The English word "health" comes from the Old English wordhale, meaning "wholeness, being whole, sound or well,”. The World Health Organization defines health as “‘... a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ The definition has not been amended since 1948.’” But what in the world does it mean to be 'whole' or 'complete' health-wise? If health is at least in part how we feel, it's also in part what we taste. If we have a choice say in getting a good dose of vitamin C, we might choose an orange, or a glass of orange juice or simply a tablet of ascorbic acid. Yet we know that the orange is likely the best option. Why? Because intuitively we know that the essence of a vitamin lies in its original form, from where it is initially derived, in a plant. And well, plants taste better than tablets. Juice is another matter.


As much as we like to isolate and compartmentalize attributes that characterize any item, those attributes co-exist and function as a unit, a whole. It's epitomized in the case of whole foods. Inasmuch as the extraction and the concentration of particular attributes like juice or nutrients provide for nutrition, we never doubt that Mother Nature has one over us when it comes to nutrition. Nature is diverse and is the optimal unifier of ingredients. That is presupposed in every food that comes derived from it. It's hard-wired in the terms 'natural' in contrast to 'synthetic' or 'processed'.

The communal connection

So, why don't we stop taking juices and tablets altogether? One reason is the competition: the 'how we feel' versus 'data'. Knowing is just not enough. All the data in the world needs to get under our skin. It's about intimacy, or rather communal integration. Knowing what's good for us and where to get good food might be simple but not easily integrated in our societal norms. Diets are inherited in families and local communities. Food is a communal affair. Our customs have changed. The North American diet has been de-localized. A well integrated local community, family and neighbourhood makes up the whole of what we eat. The more we connect with the immediacy of our reality, the more local foods become the staple. We have become accustomed, plain and simple to the generational paradigm of the modern food market. Whatever makes its way to the plate comes from what is offered locally. In our case however it's the national industry that is the provider, not mom or dad, or the family farm or local market.

The 'whole' in food

It may take some time, a generation perhaps. But health is only as 'whole' as the food product is drawn from a local source, and integrates the local community more intimately - in the way the garden, the supper table and the local producer makes that happen. The workplace, schools and governments must come alongside. The modern world is far too monolithic in its divesting the markets of needed diversity and symbiosis that comes with a close connection with the natural order. It's not enough to purchase a few oranges for a daily dose of vitamin C. We need to conclude that there is no other dietary option given how industry and governments who dictate how we should eat and socialize have duped us. The notion of health as 'whole' or 'complete' is, simply put, 'organic' - that is, organismic: to '...stress the organization, unity, and integration...', not of institutions, but of '...human beings.'

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