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The best nutrition expert… is you

The best nutrition expert… is you 960 640 Janie

In the 1970’s the science of nutritionism was born. This is when we decided that food wasn’t just food – but it was a substance that contained nutrients that we needed to consume in the right ratios for good health. And because we couldn’t see those pesky nutrients in our food, we had to trust experts to tell us what and how much we needed to eat.

The experts then decided that some nutrients were ‘good’ and some were ‘bad’, and food manufacturers and marketers jumped on the latest fad, producing foods with extra of the so-called ‘good’ nutrients, and less of the ‘bad’ nutrients, and at the same time they added chemicals and other substances that tantalised our taste-buds and made us want to eat more of their food. And with the health claims of the experts behind these food products, we implicity trusted that what we were consuming was good for us.

The first ‘bad’ nutrient that nutritionism created was saturated fats. Even though our ancestors had been living on them for hundreds of thousands of years, we collectively decided as a culture – based on questionable science – that these fats not only made us fat, but they clogged our arteries and gave us heart disease. This was despite the fact that Eskimos in Greenland had a diet of 80% fat from seal blubber and had some of the lowest levels of cholesterol and lowest rates of heart disease on the planet. We ate more and more “low fat” or “no fat” products… and we got fatter and sicker.

So then we had to find something else to blame. It must be sugar that’s the problem! Our cultural addiction to low fat did not change – the statement “artery clogging saturated fat” is still part of our language even though the association has been discredited – but now we have to eat low sugar too. Apparently all the sugar we eat goes straight to fat in our bodies and causes obesity and diabetes. This is despite the fact that the Gwi Sin bushmen of Botswana live on a diet of 40% sweet fruits and melons and are one of the leanest people on the planet. So then we had products that were low fat AND low sugar, and they were pumped full of more and more chemicals to make them taste better… and we all continued to get fatter and sicker.

OK, said the experts – so maybe it must be the type of fat, or the type of sugar – and so now we have Omega-6 and fructose as the next bad nutrients on the block. How long is this going to go on? How many nutrients do we have to blame before we realise that the experts have absolutely no clue, and that their search for the ONE bad nutrient that is causing us to be fat and sick is completely in vain? How many toxic synthetic chemicals do we have to consume before we realise that there is no magic ratio of nutrients?  How long will we continue to support the food industries that are producing food that is killing us?

The diets of traditional people  vary tremendously in terms of the nutrient ratios, and no matter what they eat these people are generally healthy and they do not experience the modern diseases of obesity, diabetes, heart conditions, stroke, alzheimers, autoimmune diseases and parkinsons disease. Of course they suffer from traditional diseases caused by bacteria and viruses, and nutritional deficiencies when they do not have access to their normal food, but they are nutritionally healthier than their western counterparts. And when they are introduced to a western diet they start to experience the same modern diseases that have become so common.

We are taking our western diet around the world as the foundation for all people living on the planet, yet it is killing everybody. We are holding it up in all its scientific glory yet traditional cultures perish once exposed to it. Can we really trust the experts who preach this food?

Think about this for a moment – the nutritionism experts cannot replicate the ideal diet to feed someone by tube in a hospital when they are unable to eat. No matter what they concoct, it does not replicate the real thing and cannot sustain life for long periods – people on these man-made diets get very sick. So how can they claim to be experts? If they cannot come up with a diet to feed a person through a tube in hospital and keep them alive, then they cannot understand what a person really needs in their diet. At some point we have to accept that we have not been able to replicate nature, so perhaps we would be better off to have some humility, admit our mistakes and go back to something that works.

So then if we can’t trust the experts, where do we turn? We may have lost touch with what food is and what keeps us healthy, but we have no choice but to start looking to our own experiences and observations about what is wrong with the western diet. Our parents’ parents’ parents survived on ‘meat and 3 veg’, on potato smothered in butter, on meat drippings and seasonal fruit, yet despite all that saturated fat and sugar they probably died of old age or an infectious disease. Chances are they did not get sick from their diet and die from heart disease or diabetes.

cooking2What is different is that they ate REAL FOOD. It was locally grown, as close to its natural source as possible. It was most likely organic, fresh, and full of nutrients and vitamins as it was grown in fertile soil on family farms. It was cultural – it was based on information passed down through generations about how to prepare it so that it was optimal for consumption. That’s what a recipe really is! How to prepare food so that it is nourishing and promotes wellness based on the trials and errors of those that came before.

But now we have lost all this knowledge – so we have to work out for ourselves what real food is. Here are my guiding points on what makes a food real and hence fit for consumption. If a food (or food ingredient) fails on any of these three points it is not a real food and therefore should be avoided:

  1. It must contain nutrients or energy or both
  2. It must not contain toxins that stress the body
  3. It must be as close to its natural form as possible

Sometimes it is obvious. A mushroom is real food, but a toadstool is not. Even though a toadstool contains nutrients, the toxins (that kill you!) make it not a real food.

Sometimes it is different for different people. An egg to most people is real food (especially if it is free-range and organic), but for a person allergic to eggs, an egg is not real food.

Sometimes it is based on the method of preparation. Raw potatoes and raw chicken are clearly not real food, but when cooked, they are very nutritious forms of real food.

Sometimes it is not so clear. Our ancestors did not consider unprepared cereal grains and legumes to be real food. Through trial and error they learned that soaking or fermenting these seeds made them into real food fit for humans to consume, otherwise they got sick in many different ways. This preparation of cereal grains was practiced completely independently by hundreds of different cultures across the world, yet today we have discounted this extensive traditional practice in our foods. And we wonder why Celiac Disease and other digestive and autoimmune disorders are on the rise (must be all that Omega-6 and fructose!)

If we look at many of the newfangled chemical foods, they fail on all three criteria – take aspartame – consumed as an empty calorie sugar replacement, but providing zero nutrition, copious amounts of toxins and created in a laboratory. Why do we think our body knows what to do with this chemical? How can an expert know what this chemical is really doing to our body when they do not even know what a person really needs in their diet in order to survive, let alone thrive?

Woman with a shopping list for groceries at the marketSo until the experts understand a little bit more about what is really going on in our food and inside us, I highly recommend we acknowledge  their mistakes and quietly move back to a diet that we know really works – one full of real nourishing traditional food, not in any particular ratios, guided by what is available locally, eating what our body wants to eat based on our hunger levels, as has been done for aeons.

Interestingly, when we do this, some likely side effects are higher energy levels, reduced symptoms of illness, healing from disease, weight loss and feeling satisfied and nourished – everything that the western diet promises but does not deliver. The traditional diet does not have to promise these things: the food and the side effects are one and the same thing… because that is what food is supposed to do.

The Healthy Body Happy Mind Program provides a framework to reintroduce you to Real Food and a process to customise your food for how you are meant to eat. Contact us today.