The one thing everyone who knows me can testify to is that I am a romantic. And as a romantic, looking back and analyzing different elements of our past as well as the lives of those who lived generations before us is important. My search took a turn when I started to move past romantic notions of bravery, nobility, honor etc. and instead focused on fundamental things like nutrition and health.
As a child, science and biology always fascinated me, I constantly found myself in awe of what happened within our bodies especially when it involved what we ate. The food pyramid was my commandment and I took it to heart. An episode of ‘The Good Wife’ destroyed my faith in the chart as I began to understand the importance of what was placed where and how many zeroes that position entailed. That brought up a lot of questions and a lot of mistrust in our teachers, doctors, journalists, scientists and all the institutions that they associate with.
Today we live in a time where illnesses and diseases are more common and reoccurring than any other period in time, however, associating that with what we eat, how it is cultivated and how it is prepared is still a foreign notion in the mainstream. The approved solution is simply to go to a doctor and get treatment. Unfortunately, modern medicine today is merely a business which is aimed at resolving symptoms and not eliminating the root cause of the illness or disease. Prescription drugs are acquired effortlessly, in abundance and legally. Bad attitudes and bad days are treated with over the counter drugs just as reoccurring constipation and headaches are fixed with one-time solutions rather than equipping the body to fight its own battles. The truth is we are what we eat and that includes the medications and supplements we ingest. This is why the mechanics of most drugs are hardly made understandable to the everyday Joe, for it is in the best interest of the $200 billion industry that we trust with our health, to keep us oblivious to that fact that drugs are chemicals. These chemicals get into our bodies and target the aching tissues, organs or systems which bring us relief but at the same time creates multiple other chemical reactions within the body. Furthermore, because these chemicals (drugs) and their concentration were not part of our evolutionary process, our bodies are not equipped to tackle the residual effects of the drugs; and as a result approx. 106,000 (USA) people die annually due to adverse drug reactions. Imagine the number worldwide (don’t forget trends that are observed in the U.S. eventually find themselves in third world countries)
Don’t get me wrong, the entire medical profession isn’t bad, neither is it inadequate, on the contrary, medicine has excelled in two departments: surgery and psychiatric help. It is miraculous what doctors can achieve when their skills are aimed at tearing us open and stitching us back together (Dr. Frankenstein would be proud), however, the commonly used pharmaceutical medicine isn’t the answer for everything and everyone at every time. Cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and atherosclerosis are the leading killers of adults; they are also diseases of ignorance, bad lifestyle choices, and nutritional deficiency. And the patchwork that is pharmaceutical medicine isn’t a strong enough band-aid to cure/ reverse years of negligence. So we have to change or at the very least improve on ourselves and our choices.
“Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.)
One of the most admirable qualities of the human race is its resilience, and its desperate drive to survive. This drive is the reason why human beings are omnivorous i.e. an ability to sustain on both plants and animals. However, many have debated on what is the ideal diet for the human race? Some scientists claim that different diets work for different people. This concept makes sense from the view of molecular and cellular differences between organisms even within the same species. But when looking at it from the phylogenetic tree of life the view is entirely opposite, as logic dictates since different species of animals and plants have ideal diets so should the human race. Dr. Pamela A. Popper and numerous academics/specialists claim that “the best diet for humans is plant based, filled with all four categories: fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains”. No less than 51 percent of the human diet is supposed to be raw and plant based. That means 51 percent of your nutrition should contain no cooked foods, no preservatives or additives, and most importantly no meat.
This revelation took the spring out of my ‘pro-healthy’ steps. To be honest I am not a meat-crazed person but thinking of giving it up as well as cooked and preserved foods just weren't what I signed up for. And what about nutrients like protein, calcium, omega-3 and vitamin B12 that are high in animal products? And didn’t people live on animal produce in the past? Questions like these made me skeptical, however, I dug deeper, all the way to the hunter-gatherers. This period of human history is often used to show the progression of man, in which males not only found sport in hunting but also used their skills and biology to provide. What is often left out in this period is that despite the division of labor, the people that feed the community were 90 per cent gatherers i.e. females, children and the old. This means that 90 percent of the human diet from the very beginning was indeed raw and plant based. Also, when you analyze any civilization you realize that the people mostly ate fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Only the nobles and royalty (over) indulged in meat eating which correlates with heart diseases, diabetes etc. only found within these rich circles. Today everyone is a king/queen in their own home and therefore the have endless sources of meat and the diseases that come with it. I would not suggest complete elimination of meats and animal produce, lord knows I wouldn’t survive that. However, I do suggest that we take a cue from the healthiest society in the world, Japan. More than the sushi, japan is known for the incredible longevity of its people which comes from healthy eating and exercise. Japanese citizens, use meat and fish as flavor enhancers rather than a major food group.
The truth is eating just “plants based foods” doesn’t really help either if you do it wrong. Soft drinks and bags of chips might be considered vegetarian but that hasn’t stopped people with these diets from obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, the solution is simple, forget the dietary titles such as vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian, pescetarian, high-protein, low-carb etc. and focus strictly on educating yourself on food, nutrition, and health. The more you read and research the more you are to understand what really works as well as what you can do to achieve the optimum health that you desire. In the words of Linus Pauling, 2 time Nobel Prize winner, “Optimum nutrition is the medicine of tomorrow”; and the first step is education.
(clip from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution)
P.S. This article barely scratches the surface of the many wrongs within our current food and health systems, and the choices we make in vain because of our ignorance and lack of real information. For this article I have researched many food and dietary journals, as well as watched 'too many!!' documentaries. If you are looking to go on this journey, 'Food Inc.', 'Food Choices', and 'Food Matters' are a few examples of the documentaries you should watch.