Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants
Animals feed but humans eat. People eat for different cultural reasons other than biological: bonding, spiritual, and pleasure. The human body can adapt to various different diets: low fat, high fat, high carb, but we had industrialized Eating; processed it, sweetened it, and flavoured it. Eating decisions shouldn't be based only on what the science says, but instead on culture and conventional wisdom. The evidence is compelling against the western diet. It's clearly not good for us.
Initially, we discovered macronutrients( fat, protein, and cholesterol) and micronutrients( vitamins). We thought food was all about nutrients and antioxidants. Enter Nutritionism, the ideology that reduces food to good vs bad nutrients. Nutrioinists were confused: do we need more Protein, more fat, or more carbohydrates?; is omega-3 good? How about omega-6? what of milk?. The Adulteration of food started with margarine replacing butter, and from there, food underwent a process of imitation by fake inferior products that purported to contain the same healthy stuff. Imitation labels were being removed, making it easier for food products to masquerade as real food. Nutrionism had big pockets now which made it easier to slap a health claim on any newly engineered food. Pay scientists enough money and get a scientific study that makes you proud. Farmers began feeding their livestock flaxseed to promote the healthy fats the "science" was now promulgating. The whole foods like carrots, potato and avocado were being deserted in the peripheries for the new shiny claims. Couple theories emerged during that period. The Lipid hypothesis: there is a correlation between blood cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. The experiment lasted for 30 years. You should eat a diet that is low in fat, the advice went. Eggs and dairy contain saturated fats which is linked to CHD and cholesterol in food might be increasing cholesterol in blood, they thought. Only to realize that the lipid theory is bogus. Saturated Fats have been found to have no effect on heart health. The bad stuff are actually the trans fats and the refined carbohydrates. Instead of eating less, people were encouraged to eat more trans fats and carbohydrates, and this combo gave rise to the epidemic of obesity of diabetics. Attempts were made to strip food of its aesthetic value, pleasure, and its cultural origins(what you eat was indicative of where you come from). If anything, the low fat campaign promoted increasing consumption of the low fat stuff. The carbohydrate theory emerged next: refined carbohydrates interfere with metabolic insulin which promotes hunger, and fat storage is complicit in promoting the onset of certain diseases. The mistake made was that you can't possibly point fingers to one nutrient being the culprit to the exclusion of all the other components of the food. The changes in diet that at first blush might appear to have lowered heart disease mortality were the result of something else entirely. The admission rate to the hospital was still the same but people had better survival rates, thanks to the advancement of modern medicine.
Parking lot science( losing keys in the dark but looking for them under the streetlight) is what reductionist science is applying to food. Food is a complex system whose whole is not the sum of its parts( nutrients). You can't isolate the good nutrients and claim that this is what's good for you. Food is a lot of chemical compounds interacting with each other in a way that is not really clear how. Not to mention that the body is a complex system that reacts to different Food combination in different ways. We don't understand how digestion really works. It's sometimes more what you don't eat than what you eat more of. It's not the saturated fats in meat, it's the whole meat. Combining foods can induce a lot of reactions in the body. The order in which you eat factors in that complexity too: Sugar should be eaten at the end of the meal; plant butter on a bagel suppresses the insulin response in carbohydrates; meat with coffee impedes iron absorption; thyme promotes healthy reactions... etc. The data that comes out of nutrition science can not be accurate for various reasons: people overestimate/underestimate their intake, their memory of what they consume is not accurate, in addition to the nature of the experiment conducted( in case studies, you study the cause of things retrospectively; in cohort studies, you study things prospectively, focusing on one particular group of people). The effects of diets should be studied in the context of lifestyle( Mediterranean people had other things going on, other than diet: exercise and fasting). It could be the case that what contributes the most to your health is your social status rather than what diet you consume(?).
Thinking about what eat has become a source of confusion and neurosis in our society. The science of eating had stripped the joy of eating from our lives and made us feel guilty for even thinking of unhealthy foods. Food science ignored common sense, tradition, and culture and created this unhealthy obsession of healthy eating(Ortherexia Nevrosa). We need a new way of thinking about eating. When the aborigines of Australia left civilization for 7 weeks as part of an experiment to see the effects of a hunter-gatherer diet on their health, a significant improvement was recorded, meaning that the bad effects of the western diet can be reversed with the right diet (as opposed to the right nutrients!). There is a very symbiotic relationship between humans and their food environment; a complex chain that starts from the soil and stretches all the way up to humans. Any disruption in the chain can wreak havoc on its components. When a fruit is ripe(highly nutritious), it sends signals like smell and colour to facilitate the spread of its seeds. Bad things start happening when we manipulate the growth of plants: we distort the said signals when we re-engineer food. Adding chemicals to the soil affects the health of the cow, which in turn affects the health of humans. It takes species long stretches of time to adapt to a new disruption in the food chain. E.g, Humans had developed the digestive enzyme lactase to digest milk as grown-ups. The industrialization of food: fibres and micronutrients reduced to the essence( sugar_sucrose, turned into glucose and fructose); food's shelf-life lasts longer now( germs that make the food nutritious were removed, making food unappealing to bacteria). With the absence of fibres and other micronutrients that slow down the breakdown of sugar, sugar gets absorbed fast and the system get chocked, which in turn sends signals that you should eat more, while fructose decomposes in the liver into glucose and store the excess as fat. Refined carbohydrates, white flour, white sugar, and white rice decompose into sugar. Corn and syrup are efficient in turning sunlight and soil chemicals into carbohydrates, protein, and fat. To be healthy, humans needs a large variety of compounds and foods. Simplifying things is bad. Introducing pesticides in agriculture (disrupting symbiotic relationship with fungi and soil) and focusing on a handful of food types shifted the focus from quality to quantity. To sell more, you need to produce more, which leads to products with high calories and low notional value. The body reacts to this by craving more in hopes of acquiring the missing nutrients. Organically grown plants grow slowly, undergo a lot of stress periods, which promotes the fighting compounds like antioxidants. There was a shift from leaves( plants at the base)to seeds(cow feeding on grains). An imbalance in The ratio of omega 3 fatty acids to omega 6 acid made people deficient in omega-3 and inundated them with omega 6. Omega 3's Origin is plants not fish( as is widely assumed). Fish obtain it from plants. To make food more nutritious, nutritionism add additives or remove things like fat which makes the food more complicated and they end up compensating low fat for more additives.
Science funded by a particular industry tends to produce studies that favor that industry. We replaced food culture( mom's advice on what to eat/ what has been proven to be healthy) with science/nutrionism. We created a profitable industry from Diabetes instead of attacking the root cause of the disease. We need to break free of the reductionist science. Going backwards is key. All these theories from lipid theory to carbohydrate theory to refined hydrocarbons to the deficiency in omega 3, have led us astray. The only thing they succeeded at was helping the food industry and drug companies keep business as usual: invent new drugs to treat diseases and engineer new food products with "healthy" stuff to increase profits.
Which brings us to the one million dollar question: What should we eat!?
To eat well, we can follow some mental algorithms when shopping for food:
- Don't eat anything your grand-grand-mother wouldn't recognize as food
- Don't eat anything that doesn't rot. Grandma can be fooled by imitators, so avoid products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, exceeds more than 5 ingredients in numbers, contain unpronounceable words, and definitely keep away from food with high fructose corn syrup.
- Avoid food that makes health claims: the big players can afford paying commissions to studies that support their claims. FDA qualified approval is all but meaningless: big hype, tiny disclaimers on the back. Words like might, could, and only if..
-Shop the peripheries of the supermarket(stay out of the middle)
- Whole fresh food rather than processed.
- Meat as a side not a main dish.
- Eat meals, at a table, not alone. Grow your own farm, don't snack.
- Buy a freezer to store things in bulk: produce at highest of the season, pasteurized milk..
- Eat like an omnivore: variety.
- Organic and local
- Eat well grown food from healthy soils( organic is not all too healthy)
- Eat wild greens (lambs quarters and purslane). Mostly, plants that have been under a lot of stress.
- When shopping Dairy, meat, and fish, Look for "pastured food finished grass", " 100% grass fed" "animal products and pay the premium. https://eatwild.com is a good resource.
- Get out of the supermarket altogether. Find Farmers markets/community supported agriculture(CSA box); shake the hand that feeds you ( short food chain direct relationship) instead of long chain( a wall of ignorance and complexity and carelessness)
- Convenience stores, fast food outlets, and the supermarket are danger zones for you.
- Vote with your food dollars to support short food chains that share your values. It's an agricultural act, we're co-creators of the systems that feed us. If we want the best for all, we should spend money and effort with the communities that do that.
- There is no consensus on why plants are good for you but ages ago, humans used to produce vitamin C from scratch(in-house), a vitamin that has ascorbic acid with properties that enables it to absorb the protein radicals( free radicals), the product of cell metabolism and a protective reaction against inflammation. Protein is produced with an extra unpaired electron before they do harm.
- Antioxidants help the liver produce enzymes that digest these antioxidants and as a by-product clean up all the toxins and harmful components it find in its wake, which is why consuming a variety of antioxidants( found in a variety of plants _more leaves than seeds) is pretty good for you.
Nearly vegetarian= flexitarian
-Unrefined seeds like whole grains and nuts are highly nutritious but they're high in calories as opposed to leaves(low in calories); they're energy storage devices.
You don't need meat to cover your bases except for vitamin B12 which is a form a bacteria that can be found in decaying produce. Industrial meat production is beastly and cruel toward animal lives and contribute more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and waste resources like water grain and antibiotics.
-Treat meat it as a condiment for your vegetable.
-Animals breed faster on a diet of seeds grains. Cattle has to be given antibiotics because they're ruminate designed to feed on grass, not high energy grain. Grains make them sick.
-Yellow butter or bright orange yolks indicate presence of beta carotene( fed on grass)
-Be the kind of person who take supplements after 50: body's ability to absorb nutrients start diminishing.
-Regard non-traditional food with scepticism
-Author claims that wine with food *can be beneficial because it contains polyphenols and resveratrol with protective qualities.
-Focus on quantity and time cost has been the focus in the west. People pay less for food and eat more they depend on external factors to stop. The french eat higher quality food less of it and enjoy it Bite by bite. Better pay more on high quality food and eat less of it, naturally.