Is there a perfect diet?
Go paleo, go vegan, avoid gluten, eat whole grains, eat fat, don’t eat fat…..we have all heard these conflicting statements about how we should eat. Since 80 percent of our medical problems are due to diet and lifestyle, the solution to our chronic conditions, our rising health care costs, and global warming is in our food. History can teach us a great deal about the ideal diet.
Around 10,000 BC our pre-farming ancestors had a pretty decent diet. They ate wild berries, nuts, wild grains, grasses, and tubers. They consumed no dairy outside of breast milk as a child. Depending on where they lived, they hunted wild game which was extremely low in fat or they ate seafood which meant deep diving or picking tiny creatures stuck to jagged cliffs. All in all, they spent the bulk of their days walking, running, swimming, and climbing for their food.
This ‘Paleo’ diet was quite healthy, entirely wild, unprocessed, and very different from the popular ‘Paleo’diet nowadays. Modern meat is extremely fatty by any standard compared to the lean meat of the ice age and far more plentiful than anything our ancestors would have had. Organic or not, domesticated animals, meant for consumption, are well fed, plump, and fatty. The other misconception is that hunter-gatherers did not eat grains. Fossil evidence refutes this. Whether these ancestors ate grains they picked themselves or grains found in the stomachs of wild game they ate is up for debate. Nevertheless, our hunter-gatherer ancestors did consume whole grains. The main problem with the hunter-gatherer diet is that there simply isn’t enough wild food, plant or animal, to feed large populations, which is exactly why our ancestors started roaming the earth, settling down, and farming. You can see this even today in ecosystems all around us. The higher up on the food chain you go, the fewer numbers there are. It takes a lot of gazelles to feed one lion.
Stating around 5000 BC, farming led to the accumulation of the most important, versatile and nutritious pillar crops humans had ever seen, pillar crops that supported a population explosion and the growth of empires, the whole grains. Drought and war were constant threats to the food supply and the main reason for periods of hunger and disease. But if times were good with good weather and peaceful neighbors, our early farming ancestors also ate well. Their diets consisted of large amounts of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and some nuts. They ate extremely small amounts of fish, meat, and dairy on special religious occasions. Unfortunately as crop production increased, so too did processing. Processed grains, expressed oils, refined sugar, cured meats, and cheeses are all foods that arose from having enough unprocessed crops and lots of cheap or slave labor to process the food. Processed food consumption increased early on, and so too, did chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Today there are 7 billion people in the world. We need to eat the healthiest diet possible for ourselves, our fellow man, and our planet. The perfect diet is one that is extremely low in fat, unprocessed, and plant-based just like the diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors and our early farming ancestors. The less meat, dairy, oil, and refined sugar you eat the better. This old way of eating is new for many of us. Learning how to prepare healthy meals that are satisfying will be rewarding.
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Apr 24, 2017
While dairy consumption served a purpose in the past, its nutritional value in today's society is questionable.