01 May, 2012

Fad Diets

Here are some thoughts from a recent discussion on WPF-, Paleo-, Raw-, diets (I enjoy learning about all these diets, however, because it helps me to be more creative in serving food to my family. It is too bad each 'camp' is so hostile towards the others. Here is an article that expresses the tragedy of it.):

Many 'special diets' were developed for people with serious health problems. Food restrictions (you can get raw food and vegan on one extreme and Paleo or Weston Price -- WPF -- on the other) and special foods can be quite useful, short term, to get past a health crisis, but humans are omnivores and thrive best on a varied diet: consuming foods as close to the way God produced them as possible. 

Once humans get their hands on things, they want to 'improve' them. Most of the time, these 'improvements' come in the form of isolating particular aspects of the item, throwing off the delicate balance inherent in the creation of that item. Take as examples: pharmaceuticals, hybrid plants, genetically modified organisms, or the 'whites' -- flour, sugar, salt....

Observation shows that people often choose some radical diet to reinforce their prejudices on food. Most paleos and WPF people I know use these theories to justify heavy meat/fat consumption. Then people compromise, due to budgetary considerations, and purchase factory-raised, mass produced, and de-natured animal products from the local big box. But they stop short, in other areas, of really eating the way the diet would indicate. There are healthy fats which will indeed enhance health, as can animal foods which have been raised the way Nature intended. Still these are not the cornerstone of the human diet. Affordability also determined the limitations on meat consumption throughout history. In fact, throughout history, other than fermented dairy products (which were limited in daily amounts), animal foods were used for feast days and ceremonial practices. Meat consumption, beyond these special occasions was a 'badge' of excessive wealth -- and the wealthy suffered many of the serious health problems we see today -- diabetes, heart disease, obesity.... Perhaps there is a lesson here.

Price emphasized that when cultures ate meat, people consumed ALL the edible parts of the animal, and especially all the organ meats, like liver, kidney, pancreas, thyroid, gizzard, sweetbreads, heart, tongue, and even brains. Most people I know have major objections to many of those delicacies, consuming exclusively muscle meats. Reading his treatise, he did NOT say that 'eating grains' is a bad thing, many of the cultures he investigated in temperate areas did indeed eat whole grains -- in moderation. Grains become a problem when those grains become more and more processed (in an effort to 'improve' their taste and keeping qualities), and, especially in their refined form, an increasing focus of their diet. Those with poor teeth (he was a dentist, so teeth were his measure of health) did not include veggies, legumes, and organ meats, but ate mainly sweets, breads, or polished rice.

Paleo peoples did not eat cows or pigs or large animals, except at the occasional feast after a good hunt. Their meat consumption was mostly small birds, rodents, and insects. Again, they ate ALL parts of the creature.
Their carbohydrate needs were met by an emphasis on ROOT vegetables -- not meaning potatoes, but primitive beets, wild carrots, yucca, and many that we no longer find familiar -- or palatable. We do not find a lot of evidence of the fruits and vegetables they ate because those decay much faster than those of animal origin. Perhaps the fruits and berries they ate were taken from their plant 'homes' and consumed immediately, on the run, so to speak. So the fossil record is really incomplete. Grains were consumed, because grasses are the most abundant plant family on earth. But if they picked them as they grew and munched on them, they were hard to chew and difficult to digest. So they soaked, sprouted, and boiled or roasted them. Again, the remains decayed before they could be registered in the fossil record. The caveat here is that the most popular grain-foods today have been hybridized, genetically modified, 'refined', and laden with so many chemicals that the body no longer recognizes them as food. For these reasons, many are looking to more exotic grains and seed-foods for the important role that these play in the human diet.

Beans/legumes also were problematic because they require soaking and long periods of cooking. As civilization settled, consumption of seed foods became more manageable, and records of their consumption are more complete. 

One of the other issues with the Paleo people is that they use their theories as a soapbox to vent their rejection of religion.

Raw foods as an exclusive diet might make more sense for those focused on primitive humans. There are advantages to consuming a number of raw foods in one's diet. They provide needed enzymes which must be replenished and refreshed for proper digestion and assimilation of foods. 

One downside to eating raw foods is the sheer volume of food consumed. Because of the lower calorie and fat content of fresh, raw fruits and veggies, a person must consume large amounts of them, and eat every two to three hours throughout the day.

Yet, there are a number of foods, which add nutrients to a healthy diet, which are much harder to digest if they are not cooked. 

A number of essential amino acids, the building blocks of the proteins which form many of our organs, can only be found in animal foods. Yet, we do not have the super-strong acids in our stomachs to digest raw, naturally raised meats as carnivorous animals do. Not all people can actually digest animal products, either.

Seed foods, which seem to be the real focus of the human diet, based on tooth structure, gut anatomy, and Genesis' proclamation (Gen 1:29-30). Consider that seeds contain all the necessary nutrients to sustain life, sometimes for considerable periods of time, between their sprouting and their eventual formation of leaves and roots. Many seeds are most beneficial if they are soaked/sprouted, and then slowly fermented, baked, boiled, or roasted. This removes the protective chemicals which keep these concentrated sources of nutrients from being overly consumed by other living creatures -- everything from one-celled organisms, to insects, to birds, reptiles, and mammals. Nuts, however are a notable exception to the need for heat processing. In fact, nuts, once soaked are wonderful foods and applying heat denatures their precious oils.

Let us not forget that fasting, too is part of a healthy diet. Humans have not always had the local grocery store to run to for that midnight nosh festival. They ate what was in season or what they could store for the next season, and if there was a lean season, they ate sparingly. Every religion has periods of fasting throughout the year -- most notably in the early springtime. It is good to give the system a rest from digesting heavy foods every now and then. Great healing has been reported through fasting, especially fasting from heavier, hard to digest foods. Of course, consumption of water was rarely restricted.

The Bible warns us that in the end times men will say that we can't eat certain things. (no, I am not a "Left Behind" fan, but I do know that we have been living in the 'End Times' since Christ ascended into Heaven). In fact St. Paul warns us against judging people based on what they eat (Romans 14:2-3), so arguments over dietary choices (short of those which are so de-natured as to be totally de-structive) are not productive.

From my wise friend, Rachael:

[E]at what makes you feel and look good (not temporarily good...long-term good). 

Whatever those foods are, your plate needs to be 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 meat, 1/4 carb/starch/grain of your choice (whichever one works best for you--pasta, bread, rice, corn, quinoa, GF [gluten-free] whatever). No one has ever suffered negatively (unless gassy) from excess vegetables. 

Use good fats: butter, ghee, EVCO [extra virgin coconut oil], olive oil. 

Use herbs and spices. Use sea or Himalayan salts. 

Eat fresh or frozen whenever possible. Reduce/remove refined oils, sugars, [processed] grains from your diet. I will post a chart in a bit, but eat foods that are alkaline, not acidic. 

These are relatively basic instructions for clean eating for optimal health without giving up everything. 

Drink lots of water. 

For a while, stay out of the isles in the grocery store, rather find foods (and recipes to match) you like and enjoy on the outer perimeter. 

Better yet, check out local farmers markets and eat what is in season!!! This is a great time of year for some fresh finds that are full of color and health! 

Snack on fruits and nuts (my children ate all fruits this morning, and are happy having done so--kiwi, banana, raisins and oranges). 

Enjoy the occasional homemade sweet treats (I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies, made with EVCO instead of butter--mmmmm!). 

I personally believe that every meal should be as colorful as possible (naturally, not artificial). 

Eventually, start adding fermented foods and beverages to your daily meals. 

It makes a world of difference just making ONE CHANGE per week. Just one. There's a blogstress who has committed to making one change per week, and it's relatively easy to follow--I thought it was a cool idea!