“A good half of the art of living is resilience.”
― Alain de Botton
Ask anyone what makes for an interesting life and you’ll hear mentions of different people, places, ideas, and mostly, varied and different experiences. It is the exposure to these differences that builds the resilience that empowers us to grow through the experiences and challenges we go through. To put it simply, diversity in emotions, situations, and experience is the only way to build the resilience that equips us to live ‘fuller’ and holistic lives.
We can extrapolate it to our diet and how that can build immunity or should we say resilience in our bodies against the external factors
But look closer home - more specifically into your kitchen shelves - and you’ll find how we’re depriving our bodies of the opportunity to build the resilience they need to help us lead healthier holistic lives.
And that’s what’s missing in our approach to food today: building resilience.
The unmissable lack of diversity in what we put into our plates and bodies.
Think about the last three meals your family ate. It’s most likely a combination of wheat, corn, rice. Grains that have pervaded so deep into our lives that it can be hard to imagine meal options without them. It’s not surprising that half of our plant-derived calories come from just rice, wheat, and corn. (so ubiquitous and well engineered to suit our tastes and flavors, sure they are convenient , they penetrated so well into our staples that older, time tested traditional recipes that called for unique ingredients were replaced with these alternatives
But this level of dependence, easy to miss under the garb of comfort and convenience, is the reason we’re depriving our bodies of the resilience-building they need.
The ancient wisdom in building resilient food systems
During my trip to India which set me off on my journey to starting Svaa Haa,I was struck by two aspects of the deep ancient wisdom rooted in the farming and eating practices in Indian villages:
- Incorporating diversity into meals
Traditional culinary wisdom encourages the wide consumption of diverse crops. This is evident in the cultural celebrations and celebratory recipes at different times of the year depending on the crop cycles.
These crop cycles also coincided with the best times of the year to consume those crops/ harvest for their inherent nutritional benefits. This diverse nutritional intake allowed communities to gain from several micronutrients besides enabling them to build stronger immunities.
This healthy balance of demand and supply ensured that biodiversity was critical to building resilient food and farming systems.
- A harmonious relationship between eating habits, harvest cycles, and seasons.
Take, for instance, the gluten-free or grain-free approach to healthy eating. In Indian villages, gluten-free is not a fad, but simply a way of life interwoven in their eating habits.
It’s a common practice for villagers to eat gluten/grain-free meals at different times of the year. These fasts and diets were perfectly harmonized to the seasons and harvest cycles. This practice naturally limited overexposure of digestive and immune systems to just a handful of grains. This, in turn, meant that there was a lower risk of developing intolerance to specific food types.
Today, we are moving to just a handful of grains, beans, and vegetables in our diet and closing the doors forever to all the wholesome goodness that other diverse food crops offer.
The declining diversity in our consumption patterns has some real and scary implications for our health. By reducing the diversity of the bacteria living in our guts, we are depriving our bodies of opportunities to build resilient gut and immune systems.
But this is just part of the bigger problem.
Why it’s about more than just your health
While there’s enough reason to worry about the health benefits we stand to lose, there is a much bigger problem. From a resilience standpoint, it’s scary to see how dependent we are on these staples. What, then, would we do if anything were to happen to these plant species?
On the other hand, the disproportionate demand for the dominant staples is causing a dwindling demand for more diverse crops. Think about this: The production of these beans has dropped by 80% in just the decade gone by.
This rampant homogenization of the global diet has repercussions that go beyond our health to the health of the planet. We are at the risk of losing precious nutritional, soil-forgiving, drought-tolerant crops as we continue to rely on a handful of industrialized crops to serve up the majority of demand for global food production.
And with that, we risk eliminating the biodiversity in our fields and the diversity in our meals.
In our focus on simple solutions and economies of scale and growing appetite for food staples, we could end up wiping off the cultural practices steeped in the ancient wisdom of our ancestors.
Svaa Haa: A small step in the right direction/
Svaa Haa: Doing our bit to be part of the solution
Svaa Haa: Every bit(e) counts
One of my biggest motivations to start Svaa Haa was to introduce delicious snacks made from nutrient-dense and diverse crops, but the more I researched the state of affairs, I became increasingly resolute about bringing attention to how we’re all collectively damaging food systems beyond repair.
At Svaa Haa, we believe that our food should nourish us and heal the planet. Through our products, we want to do our best to help build resilience in our eating habits, and through our business model, be part of the solution i.e. fostering biodiversity by building resilient food and farming systems.
Biodiversity starts in the distant past and points toward the future. - Frans Lanting
On my journey to building Svaa Haa, the wisdom of these words is what keeps me going.
In the next post, we look at how by honoring our time-tested ancient wisdom, we can build resilience not just in our gut and immune systems, but in our soil and farming systems to do our bit for stronger yet kinder food and farming systems.