Food Wars Part 2: The WINNING Diet
It has been several weeks since we’ve visited food wars. We didn’t quite make it to the end where we decided which diet was the winning diet. By now, you are probably wondering whether a winning diet ever existed! Alas, in the chaos of writing a new book, the task of giving you the winning diet was lost, but not permanently. So let’s discover what history has taught us about food and the BEST diet.
Our last blog took us on a journey through various cultural dietary patterns, and factors that influenced those dietary choices. We also briefly reviewed the history of the American cuisine and why we are so confused about diet and health.
Now, we will look at history again to understand what has changed and how it has impacted our health. In doing so, we can draw a conclusion regarding the BEST diet for mankind.
Historical Pattern: Proteins have become such a controversial topic ranging anywhere from Paleo to vegan. Well-meaning people are willing to die on the hills of both camps declaring one or the other to be the elixir of health. As far back as history begins mankind has always consumed animal proteins, but the quantity has been based on availability. Some cultures had the freedom and land to hunt and fish more readily. Some had to rely on domesticated sheet and goats. In either case, the animals were living in their natural habitat and feeding upon their natural diet. Growth and reproduction took their natural course meaning the availability of animal protein was naturally limited by life cycles and the work it took to hunt, kill, and cook.
Historically, nearly all cultures have included copious amounts of plant-based protein such as nuts, seeds, beans and legumes. These were sufficient for providing adequate protein when animal-based protein was scarce.
Modern Pattern: Animals today are mass produced in large, corporate buildings and farms. Living packed tightly in dark cages and fed unnatural grain-based diets, these animals have been manipulated to speed up growth rates. The result is a greater availability. In fact, between 1990 and 2009, chicken consumption increased by 76 percent!
The change from the historical pattern of eating animal proteins to today’s patterns have altered both the quantity of animal protein we eat, and the quality. Just as “you are what you eat,” an “animal is what they eat.” Modern industrialization of animals has provided us with meat that lacks the nutrients, antioxidants, and healthy fats found in the meat of animals raised in natural environments, consuming their natural diet, and growing at natural rates. In exchanges, the meat of industrialized animals is higher in inflammatory fats, contains drug residues, carries increased amounts of dangerous microorganisms, and contains various hormones. Collectively, these contribute to poor health.
Additionally, our modern diets rarely include adequate amounts of plant-based protein sources. Beans and legumes elicit negative attitudes and are viewed as the “stink-producing” foods. Likewise, nuts and seeds are often looked upon with disdain unless a jar of Planters peanuts counts.
The BEST protein sources: Small amounts of clean animal-based protein from animals raised in their natural environment, fed their natural diets, and allowed to growth at their natural rates. Also, ample (daily) amounts of plant-based proteins such as nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes.
CARBOHYDRATES (aka. All plant-based foods)
There isn’t any time in history, nor any culture that did not rely on plant-based foods for the mass of their diet. These include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, and grains ... foods that grow from the ground. There’s no question that these foods impart the greatest measures of health.
Historical Pattern: Historically, plant-based foods were only ever eaten when grown in their natural environment. Mankind has always worked the ground, planted seeds, watched them grow, harvested them, and then eaten them in their natural forms. Storage and preservation were limited so foods had to be eaten quickly and grown routinely. Some foods could be stored until the next growing season or a little longer, but this was not a common practice for most plant-based foods.
Historically, the balance of fruits and vegetables favored the vegetables. Vegetables were easier to grow, leading to greater availability. Fruits were more difficult to grow and naturally have a longer growing period. Therefore, fruits are naturally more scarce.
Modern Pattern: Today, many of our plant-based foods are no longer consumed in their natural form. Instead, we eat canned vegetables, packaged fruits (or fruit snacks), juices, and processed vegetable condiments. I find it difficult to believe that any other culture or time in history would consider ketchup a vegetable, or jelly a fruit. The novel invention of preservatives, additives, and processing has also allowed long-term storage of our plant-based foods … as in years! Many fruits and vegetables have been genetically modified (in unnatural ways that do not simulate natural breeding) for higher yields and to withstand greater amounts of insecticides.
Today, our balance of fruits and vegetables favors the former because greater availability (from imports) have allowed us to cater to our taste buds, which prefer the sugary sweetness of fruits. It is not uncommon to meet Americans who will not eat their veggies, but have no problem consuming fruit … or should I say, fruit “products?”
Grains have had a presence since the beginning of history, but have become a very controversial food group. There are many good reasons for avoiding grains, today, based on our current health challenges. However, one principle holds true throughout all of history - grains should only ever be eating in their natural, whole form.
Historical Pattern: Grains have been an important part of every culture’s diet as one food group that could be stored. However, grains were never processed beyond the threshing process that turned them into a flour-like substance. They were not sprayed with chemicals (glyphosate) to ensure even maturity or genetically modified (again, using unnatural methods) to gain a greater yield. All grains were whole grains and grains did not create a bulk of the diet since they were only grown annually.
Modern Pattern: For the first time in history, we are stripping grains of their vitamin-rich bran and protein-rich endosperm, creating a high-starch processed product that is used in all of our processed foods. I would submit that this is one of the most unhealthy modern food revolutions. High-starch processed foods promote inflammation, raise blood sugar levels, increase fat cells, all of which contribute to all our biggest health problems. Sadly, these processed grains are highly promoted by the government, through subsidies, and form a bulk of American’s diets.
Nuts & Seeds Nuts and seeds have always been more abundant in historical diets not only as sources of foods, but for their fats and oils. These natural fats help to reduce inflammation while the protein provides an alkaline source of healthful amino acids. Today, these small superfoods are considered specialty foods that few people regularly include in their daily diets. Those who do often choose varieties that are processed in highly refined oils and coated in sugar or salt, contributing to inflammation and disease.
Beans & Legumes Like nuts and seeds, this food group seems to be considered antique in today’s diet, but provided vital sources of fiber and protein in most historic diets. They are easy to grow, dry, and preserve with few adulterations. For the first time in history, we are living in a culture whose fiber intake doesn’t even begin to meet basic nutritional requirements. Beans and legumes provide the richest sources of dietary fiber of any food group. It is likely that our increasing aversion to this food group is contributing to many health conditions rooted in a lack of fiber including high cholesterol, toxicity and colon cancer.
FATS & OILS
Fats and oil have also provided a fair amount of controversy, swinging on a pendulum from fat-free diets to high-fat Paleo diets. This confusion between good fats and bad fats has stemmed from the invention of modern processing …. again.
Historical Pattern: Natural fats delivered in their original food sources included animal fats, omega-3 fats from fish and some nuts, omega-6 and omega-9 fats from all nuts, seeds, and vegetables. If oils were extracted from fruits or vegetables (ie. olives), “pressing” was the only method of extraction. Therefore, historical diets had a good balance of natural, unrefined saturated and unsaturated fats.
Modern Pattern: Today, fats are extracted from plants using harsh chemicals, pressure, and industrial processing techniques for extending shelf life. Examples include vegetable oils, spreads, spray oils, shortenings, and other refined oils. These oils are primary inflammatory omega-6 oils. We also consume animal fats, but these are sourced from industrialized animals and therefore, contain high levels of inflammatory omega-6 fats (from the grain-based diets). Our fats are highly unbalanced with a heavy weight toward the inflammatory omega-6 fats and very little anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. This tip has exacerbated our inflammatory conditions including cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
The WINNING Diet
Eating a healthy diet is not about quantity as much as it is about quality! This may seem too simple, but in a world where conflicting information pours down on us like a storm, we need a simple ray of sunshine to believe in. This is it. QUALITY.
The WINNING diet is the one that is committed to only eating food that…
has been raised, caught, or grown in its natural environment,
fed its natural diet,
has not been unadulterated, genetically
does not impart chemical or hormone residues
has not been processed or refined, and
only includes food that is clean.
If we can simply stick with these foods and avoid those that are only available because of modern industrialization, our health would be on a different trajectory. We would no longer be confused over faddish diets. We would simply be eating what nature has provided and intended.
Is this too simple? Where are the specifics of this “diet,” you might ask? Here they are:
Protein: Eat clean meat raised in natural farm environments and allowed to roam and graze on their natural diets. Eat fish that has been naturally caught in its natural environment. Balance with plant-based proteins.
Free-range poultry and eggs
Beans & Legumes, daily
Nuts & Seeds, daily
Vegetables and Fruits: Eat more vegetables than fruits, and make vegetables the bulk of your diet (historically, they always have been!). Eat produce that is clean (no chemicals residues), grown in a natural environment (in season), and not genetically modified.
All fresh, in-season vegetables & fruits
Most frozen vegetables & fruits
Organic, when possible
Eat a large variety of colors
Grains: Only choose whole grains that are not genetically-modified and have been grown in a natural environment. Use unadulterated forms that you can cook using water.
Nuts & Seeds: Consume all varieties. Eat some daily in their raw, unadulterated form. Beans & Legumes: Consume all varieties, but cook naturally and avoid those processed in cans. Fats & Oils: Consume unrefined, expeller pressed oils only. Eat saturated fats from clean meats only. Obtain fats naturally by eating fish, nuts and seeds.
And finally….. perhaps the most important thing to notice is what is missing from the list.