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What This Year's Super El Niño Means for Your Diet


Surprised you could wear shorts to your holiday party last month? Horrified by tornados and massive floods in December? You can thank El Niño—the cyclical weather pattern caused by warm ocean currents and fittingly named after the Christ child—for the crazy winter we're all having. But this isn't just any El Niño, it's a super El Niño, the type that only happens every few decades. And, experts warn, it's not done with us yet.

As the weather pattern continues to do weirdo things, it's likely going to effect our diets and health, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For starters, the unseasonably warm winter is causing the failure of red winter wheat crops. which need the snow and cold to grow properly. Because red winter wheat accounts for 70 to 80 percent of all grain consumed in the U.S., the scientists say this will likely lead to grain shortages and higher food prices across the board later this year.

It's not just grains, however. The early warming has also caused fruit trees and flowering plants to bud very early. While it's fun to see flowers in January, it's bad news for fruit and vegetable farmers—early budding leaves their crops vulnerable to freak freezes. And last year was difficult for many fruit farmers due to a late freeze, so another bad crop this year could lead to the price of fruits and veggies also increasing. (Don't mess with our Top 50 Winter Foods for Weight Loss!)

Lastly, the scientists caution that the uptick in warm, wet weather could lead to a bumper crop of—wait for it—mosquitoes. And all the diseases that go with them.

But no need to go full-on panic room just yet. The experts say to be smart and use this information to plan a little extra room in your budget for healthy staples like produce and whole grains, and stock up on bug repellent. It's also a good idea, El Niño or otherwise, to have a 72-hour kit and other emergency supplies handy, particularly if you live in a place susceptible to flooding, tornadoes or other natural disasters. (Find out why Climate Change Is Now Considered a Medical Emergency.)


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