I found this fantastic article by Loren Howe exploring and summarizing the intricate connection between the food we eat every day and our overall health. How important is your health to you? Why wait and get sick if you can adjust your what you eat today and start eating more healthy!
“A wise man ought to realize that health is his most valuable possession and learn to treat his illnesses by his own judgment.” – Hippocrates
Often it is argued, “I would rather enjoy my life and eat what I want rather than live a few years longer.” This overlooks two significant issues. First is the negative impact that chronic conditions have on your quality of life. Living one year longer might not matter (now), but living a decade with Alzheimer’s disease or a lifetime with poor health will matter. Secondly, health not only increases your physical ability, but also your mental aptitude and outlook. People are designed to live happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. If we are not doing so, it is often because we have dietary and physical constraints outside of the natural state for humans.
Society today often makes the mistake of acting as if all dietary knowledge has been discovered. In order to achieve optimal health, it is vital to escape this mindset. Remember that only 100 years ago, we did not even know what vitamins were, and many “doctors” advised that vegetables should only be eaten people who couldn’t afford higher caloric foods. It is nearly inevitable that a broad range of generally unstudied substances exist in our foods that are harmful, healthful, or neutral depending on dietary intake, combinations, and individual genetics. There is such a broad range of variables involved in diet that no one can analyze everything at once and definitively determine the “perfect” diet. For this reason, empirical and traditional knowledge are some of the best starting points.
A second problem with dietary knowledge is that a great deal of harmful information is disseminated through press agents on behalf of industry. Most information has little to do with health and a great deal to do with profit. The greater the profit margin and industrialization of a food product, the more positive press will be created.
To eat a truly natural and traditional diet may be costly and in some cases incur an inescapable time investment. Only by making changes and experimenting can you determine what the benefits and costs will be for you. These benefits are often far greater than would be assumed, however. In the case of nervous system health, for example, improved diet can improve your entire mental process and outlook. Most people may never know their true potential without adopting traditional dietary practices and experiencing the benefits firsthand. The more knowledge you accumulate, the greater the benefits should be, and the more time and cost saving food preparation methods you will learn.
Rather than theorize or conduct limited studies, it is almost always simpler and more effective to learn what our ancestors traditionally ate and how they prepared their food. It is also important to recognize that every sub-population and individual has genetic variability. It is necessary to keep an open mind, experiment, and follow your instincts in order to arrive at an optimal individual diet for yourself at any given period of your life.
In addition to minimizing cooking and eating more raw and fermented foods, humans also traditionally had different food sources from today. Until the advent of agriculture and animal husbandry 8,000 years ago (less than 1% of human existence) dairy, grains, and beans (legumes) were an insignificant part of our diet. Adoption of these foods allowed an enormous new source of calories, however, our genetics could not fully adapt in such a short time. A well-known example is the fact that most adults worldwide are unable to digest milk’s lactose. Similar problems exist for the compounds in grains and legumes. Problems with gluten digestion in wheat are perhaps the best-documented example. Hemagglutinins in beans are similar to the gluten in grains. Basically these substances in grains and legumes are a natural defense. An animal that is not adapted or eats too much of these food sources will have their systems clogged and blood flow decreased in the capillaries. Such clogging has a relatively unstudied effect on nutrient and oxygen flow to tissue like the brain. Traditional methods such as sprouting, fermentation, or soaking helped improve the digestion of dairy, grains, and legumes. Unfortunately, these methods are rarely followed in modern large-scale food preparation.
There are so many variables and interactions involved with any food source that it becomes impossible to fully determine the long-term effects of one food for a given person. While non-biased studies are helpful, the best method is probably to study the traditional diet of your ethnic type and region while observing the taste and effects of modified diets. Simply making one or two changes, however, will not alter an overwhelming unhealthy trend. In order to truly feel the potentially enormous benefits, it is necessary to make a significant transition back to some semblance of what our ancestors ate.
In summary, our ancestors had a very different dietary foundation (fruit, nuts, roots, meat, and greens) compared to our current staples (grains, legumes, meat, and dairy). For nearly all of human history, most foods were also eaten raw or processed through fermentation or low heat cooking when necessary. By experimenting with these traditional practices we can begin to overcome endemic food-related health problems that have been accepted as unavoidable for millennia. Examples include frequent colds, headaches, and depressed mental function. Hopefully this information will assist you in learning about a misunderstood topic and enjoying the health and well being that should be the birthright of everyone.