Communication on correct nutrition is broad in institutional messages and as a complement to information in packaging and advertising, with a common denominator in messages that affect the recommendation to increase consumption in the intake of fruits and vegetables.
But the diet of the individual is conditioned by multiple aspects (geography, culture, religion, age, education, beliefs, income per capita … ..), being the economic aspect in many cases determinant for the preparation of the diet. Another factor to consider referred to the intake of the kcalories of the individual, and basic reason for survival: first is to satisfy the appetite (basic need) and then reflect on the diet.
Lavoisier in the eighteenth century, considered the initiator of modern biochemistry with applications to aspects of nutrition, and globally defined nutrition as the basic satisfaction of the energy needs of the individual for their subsistence. Afterwards, it will appear how this energy that is needed to live is properly fulfilled (in proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minority components …) and in the appropriate doses. But the primary impulse of subsistence is to seek the necessary energy for vital functions, from wherever. Then the knowledge and study of the composition of food will allow us to adjust it to our needs, but this adjustment, among other aspects, will also be conditioned by the economic availability of each individual.
We will illustrate this approach with an example: we situate ourselves in an urban environment and buy some products in a supermarket. We selected three different products with a different qualification in the diet concept: a gourmet salad / a fabada / a croissant with chocolate. We could say: the product most recommended nutritionally to the most maligned product. If we make some simple calculations based on the nutritional information provided on the labels of the containers and assuming that we can have all the daily energy we need (at least 1500Kcal / day depending on physical activity, sex, age … ..), It would turn out that if we only obtained the energy our body needs each day, exclusively with only one of these three products, the daily cost of our intake would be respectively € 42.45 for the gourmet salad, € 4.95 for the fabada and € 3.15 for the croissant with chocolate.
The table indicates the units and calculations that illustrate our reflection:
Source: Own elaboration from supermarket products
It is an intellectual exercise that can draw several conclusions related to each other: in an urban environment and under normal conditions, the diet increases dramatically in price by increasing the proportion of vegetables and the cost decreases by increasing the presence of starches, proteins, fats ( fabada), and spectacularly by including sugars and flours (pastries). Therefore, the economic pressure suffered by many citizens (approximately 30% in Spain), will move the diet towards low costs, obtaining the necessary energy at the lowest possible price and probably not because they do not know that the presence of vegetable components, but because for all living beings the primary objective is to satisfy hunger. The consequence of satisfying hunger in this way and in the current living environment (sedentary lifestyle …) results in an increase in obesity.
It is evident of the need for training, but by itself will not solve the problem, not only should be linked with physical exercise but with dynamic campaigns to promote the consumption of seasonal products taking advantage of the agricultural wealth of Spain and integrating the consumption of surplus with the correct diet. It would be one of the imaginative ways to increase purchasing power relative to diet with improved diet.
Another reflection is the question of whether the tax that many governments study on high-calorie foods with sugars, fats, or the use of virtual warning lights (red for oils and fats, green for fruits and vegetables) will be effective. …), but what would olive oil look like with this approach? Well, unfairly wrong, and more so in our country, which is a great producer. It is evident that for citizens with a sufficient purchasing power, this type of tax can curb the excesses of recreational or pleasure consumption of these products, but for low income levels it will hinder the immediate solution of the famine (basic need for food intake). Kcal a day), latent or not. The objective of achieving a sufficient and balanced diet for all citizens, is one of the human food rights (FAO-Barcelona 1992), and is the responsibility of governments, is a priority element and should be addressed with articulated training actions, from the school and public bodies, not from publicity and fiscal policies on food products, such as reaching a balance between sufficient purchasing power to achieve healthy diets with prices that allow adequate economic activity to producing companies, something that It needs an ethical pact in society and with the involvement of technologies. The solution to famine and malnutrition starts here.
Triptolemos Foundation from its vision of the food system model collaborates in the optimization and articulation of its operation, so that it results in a greater availability and quality of food, in trust and dignity, in an environment of global sustainability, in the conviction that there can not be a sustainable and socially balanced development if, at the base, the global food system does not maintain the balance among its actors. It is open to any new incorporation that shares its objectives.
Ramon Clotet | Secretary of the Triptolemos Foundation for agri-food development