The Know-a-tarian Diet for Body, Mind, and Soul: Part I
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on January 1, 2013.  Posted with permission.

kelly walsh

Kelly Walsh in the FGCU Food Forest

 Part I.

During the holidays we more than recognize that food connects people.  Yet, ironically, food is also humanity’s greatest disconnect.

How can this be?

Eating is our fundamental intimacy with nature, but the average person doesn’t know squash about what’s on the plate.  People will actually do more investigation into potential sexual partners than they will about the food they place on their tongues and swallow.

It’s time we all started using protection and practiced safe eating.

Are you a know-a-tarian?  Credit for this term rests with KellyWalsh, a student in Florida Gulf Coast University’s Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education and a supervisor of FGCU’s Food Forest.  Walsh was a featured panelist at the recent Terry Tempest Williams Student Dialogue at FGCU, an event exploring the fundamental principles of the Earth Charter, an international initiative dedicated to a more sustainable way of life in the 21st century.

For Walsh and other know-a-tarians, the only strict dietary requirement is to make aware food choices. Those choices must be ethical, humane, and sustainable.

Anyone who attended the Terry Tempest Williams Student Dialogue and listened to the passionate guest speakers would think that the world was on the brink of revolution.  And the speakers had a point.  Food is a bigger issue than the size of your pants.  The total influence of the global food supply system has economic, political, and even spiritual ramifications.

What should a know-a-tarian know first?

First, the food we eat today is not the same food that our ancestors ate even a generation ago.  Food, relatively constant for centuries, has changed a lot more in the last fifty years than the human body has.

Know your GMO.

GMO stands for genetically-modified organism.  During this last election cycle, Californians were asked to vote on a measure that would require all products with GMOs to be labeled.  This measure was strongly opposed by agribusiness, and it was defeated.  Why?

A GMO is one that has been modified by splicing the genes of one species into another creating a new gene combination that does not naturally occur.  The common stated reasons for genetically modifying food through such biotechnology are to increase crops’ yield as well as resistance to viruses and pests.

Many GMO crops are scientifically developed to withstand pesticide carpet bombing.  All that survives in the field is the product you eventually put in your mouth in one form or another.

According to Sayer Ji, founder of and co-author of “Cancer Killers,” the problem is that the studies looking into the potential health impacts of GMOs are not  long-term.

“We simply don’t know.  Genetically-modified food is playing God,” Ji said.

About 47% of California voters wanted to be informed if their food was genetically modified.  Maybe we should know, too.

Know that high-fructose corn syrup is different from cane sugar. 

To consume vast quantities of sugar in any form isn’t a good idea.

HFCS is cheap thanks to the government subsidies supporting the corn farmers, and it’s in virtually everything, including that canned cranberry sauce we plopped onto our plates Thanksgiving.

But, some studies indicate that the body does not metabolize HFCS the same way it does cane sugar.  HFCS is an industrially-created compound, and studies look at HFCS as one of the prime suspects in the explosion of disorders including but limited to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Although foods have been genetically modified for centuries by crossbreeding, GMOs derived through genetic engineering and HFCS are new in the human experience.  HFCS began to be added to processed foods in the 1970s, and the products with GMOs began to hit the shelves in the 1990s.  What is a know-a-tarian to do?

Step one for fledging know-a-tarians is to start reading and viewing. Visit the online version of this article for a list of links, books, and videos for further exploration.

Next week:  the spiritual dimensions of being a know-a-tarian.



Nancy B. Loughlin is a writer, yogi, teacher, and runner in Ft. MyersShe can be reached at