by Markus Haastert, Anne-Kathrin Kuhlemann
The trend of over processing food has just recently been brought to light by researchers. The total annual amount of food-based, organic waste produced in the world is currently at 1.3 billion tones and as bad as it may sound, when combined with the fact that it accounts for one third of all the food produced in the world yearly, we really have to question ourselves: “Where does all that waste go?”
Now, the answer is quite simple. There are two most common ways of disposing of food-based organic waste and those are: composting and dumping. The first of the two is much more efficient and include reuse of the waste in manufacture of natural fertilizer. The later, however, has a much more negative environmental impact and the fact that it has become increasingly popular over the years is not helping the cause at all. As it happens, the waste is usually stored in massive landfills, where it is left to decay and decompose over the time. The liquid created by this process is very toxic, not as much chemically as being a spawning ground for various microorganisms. In the worst case scenario, this liquid can seep through the porous earth beneath it and get into underground water system, causing serious health risks. The other ecological danger this type of waste disposal brings is the increased emission of methane gas, which according to research is as much as 23 times as potent in creating the greenhouse effect as CO2.
The root of these problems is the over excessive processing of food. From the point when food is picked or harvested from a field to the point when it reaches our tables, most of it has gone to waste. This is most common in fruit and vegetable production. It is not uncommon for peel and seeds to be discarded as inedible, unusable or plain bad tasting. What is often overlooked is the fact that precisely these parts hold the most nutrients needed for healthy living. The skin of the fruit can have as much nutrients as the flesh, if not more, and throwing it away is often equivalent to throwing away another piece of fruit. On the other hand, some of the seeds are regarded as toxic for humans, which can hold true in some cases. The seeds of some fruits are meant to go through digestive tract of animals, humans included, without being dissolved. On the other hand, seeds from blueberries for example hold a great amount of Omega-3 and Omega-6 acids as well as carotenoids, ellagitannins and ellagic acid and the seeds of watermelons and honeydews are used as a healthy snack in some cuisines, watermelon being rich in protein, zinc and iron, and honeydew seeds offering vitamins A, B6, B12, D, E and K, coupled with an assortment of other nutrients and antioxidants.
The good news is that many companies have decided to tackle the growing problem of food waste. A startup company named Eatlimmo, originating from Mexico had an idea on how to reduce the growing obesity problem that was plaguing their country. They came up with a way to create a substance, using only fruit seeds and peels, which can substitute eggs and fats in many dishes. Since modern Mexican cuisine relies heavily on fats and flour this product has already found acceptance from bakers manufacturing pastries, bread and tortillas, as replacement for more expansive and less nutritious ingredients. The best part is that the taste of the food stays the same, while its nutritional value increases and cost reduces by up to 12%. Another company, named Southbrook vineyards from Ontario, Canada, has developed an antioxidant, from grape peels. According to them Bioflavia, as their product is called, can provide the human body with enough daily Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity Units or ORAC for short to reduce the risks of degenerative diseases, heart problems and cancer.
There are already researches indicating the possible use of fruit waste as medicine for reducing the effects of diseases caused by high cholesterol and reducing obesity. A research has discovered that fruit like raspberries, mulberries and peanuts contain a substance called resveratrol, known for its use in treating cancer patients. Resveratrol helps inhibit the action of nuclear factor –kappa B, causing the cancer cells to starve and effectively “self-destruct”. The highest amount of resveratrol however, can be found in grape skins, making one glass of wine, three to four times per week, an effective way to battle cancer, according to the research of Fan Yeung, a research associate at University of Virginia Health System. Throughout history, many of the incurable diseases were later connected to the deficiencies in diet and the fact that no substance foreign to our bodies can help it as much as those we take in with the food we eat, is becoming clearer by the day. In 18th century, a disease called scurvy was decimating naval expeditions, seeming impossible to cure, until it was discovered that it was caused by vitamin C deficiency and could be treated by adding citrus fruit to the diet, couple that with the fact that orange peel and pith have as much or even more vitamin C and the damage we are causing to ourselves becomes very clear.
All things considered it is easy to see that improvements in the field of waste processing will help solve many major problems weighing down on today’s world. From saving the energy and resources, over reducing the pollution levels, to providing healthier dietary options for developed countries, but also cheaper resources to those countries in desperate need of basic sustenance, everybody will benefit if this matter is better looked into.
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