Many of us change our diet to make ourselves healthier. Most of us are having some health problems or some symptoms, which motivates us to change our eating patterns.
Is this the right way to approach the problem? There is a simple question that I wonder about. If the diet is the problem now, the first thing we need to ask is why the diet is a problem now. If the foods were not a problem the year before, or five or ten years before, why is it a problem for the patient now.
Maybe the diet is not the problem. Honestly I don't like to change a person's diet if I don't need to. What I like to do is test so that we can see what foods are causing the symptoms. Then we can at least eliminate them to eliminate symptoms. And then we start trying to figure out how to get things working again. To me the ideal state of health is where we can eat whatever we want and digest it well.
So when people have symptoms and try to have a more healthy diet they often make themselves worse. This is because there is no such thing as a healthy diet. Each person needs the right diet for them. For many people the standard american diet with its high amounts of processed food is the right diet for them. And yes, the high amount of sugar, and even yes the high amount of fat. I'll try and explain why this is. Keep in mind by standard american diet I mean a 1950's diet before toxic food additives and artificial chemicals.
The standard american diet can be deficient in some nutrients, but experience, and good science have addressed many of those problems by fortifying white flour with vitamins and minerals. However our modern diet is also low in some other substances that can actually cause problems.
One of the substances that is low in the standard american diet is histamine. High histamine foods are things like sardines, sausages and a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. That is because of the action of bacteria on these foods. Ever wonder why there is no sardine mcmuffin? Our fast foods and processed foods have selectively eliminated a lot of the substance that can cause reactions in people. Likewise for the peanut mcflurry.
Another substance low in our standard diet is whole grains. Whole grains are a problem because they have the protective shell of the grain still on them. This protective shell is made by the plant so that the seed inside can survive the attack of bugs and mold and fungus and bacteria. These chemicals that the grain uses to protect the seed inside can do damage to your digestive tract if you are vulnerable to a reaction with these chemicals. Yes in stripping the shell of this grain off we loose some vitamins. But we also make it much more digestible. White rice is much more digestible than brown rice. White flour is much more digestible than whole wheat flour. In this sense white flour and white rice are better foods.
Human beings are always looking for the most efficient calories they can obtain. The ideal food for the body, from an energy perspective, is sugar. All foods need to be converted to sugar for the body to use them as energy. For the body, the closer a food is to sugar the more we like it. The standard american diet is high in readily accessible sugar. And this sugar is obtained without having to expose ourselves to high histamine foods. For those people that are very allergic this is a big advantage in the standard american diet.
Vegetables can be bad for you too. Vegetables spend time trying not to die. They prefer not to get eaten. A vegetable has no interest in the relationship with you where the vegetable gets eaten. Vegetables also don't want to be eaten by bugs, rodents, other enemies. If we think of vegetables as plants then an important fact to understand is that most plants are toxic and will make you sick as an adult or potentially be lethal to a child. The amounts of plants that you can eat is extremely small compared to all the plants there are. When you think of those high maintenence friends that can't eat anything, even plants, try and remember that you can't eat most plants also.
Everyone will have a reaction to some members of the plant family. Most people will have a reaction to one of the plants considered edible. This is one of the reasons that children don't like vegetables and one of the reasons that pregnant women aren't especially fond of them either. Children are trying to protect their developing nervous systems from these toxic plants we call vegetables, and women are trying to protect their developing child.
Take carrots for example. We all know they must be good for you. However carrots are actually high in salicilates. Salicilates are one of the chemicals that plants use to poison insects. Tomatos are one of the foods highest in salicilates, even though they are supposed to be good for you. In people that have this allergy there are a lot of symptoms that can occur with these foods. Even though they are supposed to be natural and good for you.
Then there are other foods that are supposed to be good for you which are high in a chemical called oxylates. One of the highest in oxylates is spinich. Yes that good for you, dark leafy green your supposed to be eating. In fact all dark green vegetables are high in oxylates. Nature tells us not to eat them by making them bitter. That means that people are damaging their bodies by taking raw kale and mixing it in with sugar (also known as fruit) to cover the taste.
You know what the standard american diet is low in with all of its processed foods, white flour and sugar. It is low in oxylates, low in salicilates, low in histamine. In this sense a frozen, cooked and boiled diet is much better for you if you have any food sensitivities or allergies.
These poisonous plants is why everyone died 1000 years ago. If a natural, whole food, raw and un processed diet was so good for you why didn't those people live to 85 years old rather than 25 years old. If we look at american indians that lived to 15 years old their life expectancy was only about double that or 30 years old. Not only that but their body showed severe signs of degeneration in the joints and skeleton. The average 15 year old today can expect to live to 90 year old.
So this brings up the question again. Why are people living three times as long on the standard american diet? If a whole food, natural diet is so good for you wouldn't ancient people have lived longer? How about berries? Isn't that just nature's version of a healthy fast food? You have to remember that berries want to do one thing. They want to travel through your system as quickly as possible so that their seeds don't get destroyed by your digestive tract. So they make themselfves very enticing to suck you in, but they actually have a lot of chemicals in them designed to upset your digestive tract. Of course the range of reactions to berry poisons will varry. Some people won't be affected at all and others will get very sick. Berries are well known to be one of the most allergic foods.
I don't want people eating toxic chemicals that make them sick, either made from nature or man made. It seems that cooking goes back somewhere between 250 thousand years and 1.7 million years. That is enough time that your body is expecting properly cooked food. That does not include a kale and pinapple smoothy. Yes some people will tollerate that mix of chemicals the same way that people tollerate a mcdonalds big mac. But if you are one of the people whose system is not designed to tollerate these natural chemicals you may do worse on a natural, raw or unprocessed diet then some people do on a fast food diet.
One of the major variables people leave out is cooking. Our systems have been designed for cooked foods. Not for raw foods and certinely not for grasses and raw foods. It is very simple to look to nature to teach us. Animals that eat grass have 4 stomachs. You have one. A cow's intestine is 22 feet long. A tiger's is 4 feet long. And your's is 7 feet long. You are much more like a tiger than a cow. Even more interesting to me is that recent research shows that our meat eating ways may have only added 20% of the calories we needed to become so amazing.
It is possible that the rest of the calories came from tubers. Sweet potatoes, yams, potato, taro and other roots that live in the ground. Tubers are underground and therefore need a lot less defense from preditors, menaning they don't have defenses against you. Additionally since we are the only mammal that makes fire, we are the only ones that can detoxify these foods and make them edible.
For us to think about how to cook the food we really need to figure out what and how people were cooking a thousand years ago. Not only 1000 years ago but hundreds of hundreds of thousands of years ago. People used to think that people had no way to cook foods in containers. Recently I saw a discussion of how foods could have been boiled in animal skins over a fire. Water will boil below the point at which its container would catch fire. It is possible that that vast majority of our food was either boiled or burned. Boiling of food may have even been done by neandertals. In consuming a raw or unprocessed diet we may be creating illness.