Politics influences every aspect of modern life, even down to the food we eat. It is often an incongruous picture—from federal recommendations that promote eating more fruit and vegetables, next to the U.S. agricultural policies that overwhelmingly favor meat, dairy, and corn.
Our ideas about our health, diet, bodies, and politics have always been very closely intertwined.
According to a new book, “Dangerous Digestion: The Politics of American Dietary Advice,” politics has been shaping our dietary advice all the way back to the Founding Fathers. Author E. Melanie DuPuis, professor and chair of environmental studies and science at Pace University in Pleasantville, N.Y., shows how political philosophies from our past still influence American cuisine today.
DuPuis says that throughout American history, dietary advice often mirrored political trends.
“The way in which Americans think about freedom and order is through creating a world in which one side is pure and the other side is impure and putting a strong border between the two,” DuPuis said. “This idea of purity is in our politics today whether we are talking about immigration or creating safe food.”
As American ideas of politics and purity changed over time, so did our understanding of what constitutes a perfect diet. DuPuis’ examples include the abolitionists who ate vegetarian, early 20th century nutritionists who advocated for eugenics and racial purity, and contemporary struggles to contain food borne illness.
Epoch Times talked to DuPuis about how food links with politics, what forces helped shape the standard American diet, and why health professionals now point to foreign foodways to promote health.
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