For at least 25,000 yrs, people on this earth have lived from generation to
generation eating foods in their whole, unprocessed state. For different
cultures or tribes, this food varied greatly and was dependent on where they
lived. Some groups subsisted almost entirely on meat, some on grains,
beans and vegetables, another mostly fish. Among all these groups, there
was one common denominator – food in its whole, unprocessed state.
We have now begun a massive, world-wide experiment to see if the people
of this planet can exist on a diet of processed, genetically-altered,
nutritionally-deficient foods. It’s only been about 50 or 60 years – since
World War II – when this has really developed. This is a very short time in
the time-line of human existence. Let’s consider a few examples as
SUGAR consumption at the turn of the century was estimated to be about
10 lbs. a year. Now we consume over 150 lbs per person each year, one
major source being soda.
MEAT products bear little resemblance to the wild-grazing animals our
ancestors hunted. They are now regularly treated with hormones and
antibiotics to promote weight-gain and prevent disease. They are often
processed with nitrates and various preservatives to preserve shelf life.
VEGETABLES are grown in soil that has been gradually drained of its vital
trace minerals. They are sprayed with pesticides in the field and treated with
irradiation and sulfites to preserve shelf life and prevent browning. And let’s
face it, many people don’t eat them anyway.
Given this information, what then is the optimal diet? If you’re looking for a
formula, I think you’ll be disappointed. We’ve become such a melting pot
from so many cultures that we’ve lost the thread. The unified way of eating
which had been adopted by each culture and which had sustained its health
and well being from generation to generation is a wisdom we have lost.
What is a way of eating that will help promote and maintain health? How do
we get the nutrients our body needs to perform its basic functions, to support
immune function, to ward off the detrimental effects of a toxic environment?
In my 35 years of studying diet and its relation to health, I’ve seen many
“wonder diets” presented to the public. Looking back in time, let’s name a
- The Zone Diet
- Fit for Life food combining
- Vegan Diet
- Hippocrates Institute Diet (raw foods)
- Dr. Atkins Diet
- The South Beach Diet
- The Mediterranean Diet
- Eat Right for Your Blood Type
- The Metabolic Diet
- The Caveman Diet (Hunter/Gatherer Diet)
Each of these has evolved because it worked for someone. It may or may
not work well for you. It is however helpful to have a starting point. My
personal interest is in what sustained cultures – whole groups of people – for
generations. Do we really think we can improve on what cultures around the
world took generations to perfect? I will be exploring this train of thought
more in subsequent articles.
Jamie Stunkard has been a certified nutritionist and naturopath since 1997
and is the proprietor and founder of Nature’s Grace Natural Foods. He does
health counseling at the Honesdale Wellness Center.