Thursday, June 7, 2012

How to be Physically Heroic - Part 5 - The Diet For Smart People

Eat the way your body evolved to eat, foods made by nature, not man: this is only the beginning of true health.

The next step is: how did our ancestors eat those things? This is crucial because. for example: various peoples have eaten whole grains for thousands of years, even hunters and gatherers ate grains, but no one ever ate whole grains that had not been sprouted or fermented. None of our ancestors before 100 years ago ate grains the way we do now. None of our ancestors before 100 years ago ate dairy the way we do now, they usually drank their milk sour, fermented or as curds and whey. They also didn't have pesticides on their fruits and vegetables or industrially raised meats. They also ate the whole animal. We think we are so evolved because we don't eat livers, feet and eyeballs anymore but the truth is: these are some of the most nutritious and important foods in existence. They are better for you than vegetables. Yay.

Though our ancestors had shorter lives due to infectious diseases and the hardships of life, they did not suffer from the things that kill us now--degenerative diseases, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, our bodies just starting to suck, etc.

The most astounding book on this subject is Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price. It's 700 pages long but reading it is hardly necessary because of all the photographs. Just borrow it from the library and look at the pictures and the captions. Go here to see a few of them:

Weston A. Price was a dentist who thought that crooked teeth (and cleft palates) were not caused by genes. He thought they were nutrition deficiencies. He didn't think that the road to perfect health began with studying sick people and finding cures for their ailments. He thought the road to health began by finding the healthiest people in the world and noting what they did to be so healthy. He set out to answer the question: what health is possible for the human being?

He spent a decade (in the 1930's) traveling the world looking for the healthiest people. He judged this by their teeth, he was a dentist after all. He found tribes of native peoples living everywhere from the Andes to the Swiss Alps to tropical islands who had perfectly straight, white teeth and no cavities (or 1 cavity out of every 500-1000 teeth).  None of these people ever brushed their teeth.

He noted noted that when any natives started eating a Western diet (natives of a similar race to the one he had just studied but who lived closer to Western civilization and whose diet had changed accordingly), they would retain their straight teeth but get cavities. The children born to parents on this diet would have both crooked teeth and cavities. Crooked teeth were caused by a malformed dental arch due to the diet of the parents, not by genes as he shows in photograph after photograph.

Children with crooked teeth showed marked behavioral differences as well as other health problems like narrowed hips (making child rearing more difficult) and decreased fertility.

If you are like me and you love to read things yourself (as opposed to reading a blog about what someone else read and thought), read his book! It's fantastic. But it is not as important as the 700 page book written by Sally Fallon, the woman who runs the Weston A. Price foundation, Nourishing Traditions. This book has all the same information along with all the most current and up-to-date info and recipes!

The Weston A. Price diet is very impressive as they do a ton of research and are always expanding their knowledge. They also involve people in their research. I have received emails asking what I feed my baby and how his health is and if I would like to participate in a study that would require me to eat pork and get my blood tested four times a day. Unlike most studies that are funded by the people selling the product (studies on wine are usually funded by people who sell wine, studies on chocolate are funded by people who sell chocolate, and everything else is funded by Monsanto and Coca Cola), this group is purely people passionate about health who just want to know what they should be eating and how they should be eating it.

The WAPF the magazine publishes many letters from readers. Most are personal stories attesting to how the WAPF diet changed their lives. Here is mine:

I grew up on a farm eating all whole grains, organic fresh produce and home grown meats. My parents, siblings and myself rarely got sick though I did suffer from acne and insomnia.

In college, I took a course in nutrition. I learned that most health problems are caused by vitamin and mineral deficiencies which left me wondering: could nutrition cure my acne and my insomnia?

I started keeping track of my vitamin and mineral intake. I recorded everything I ate for six months, making sure that I got 100% of everything every day. It was pretty high maintenance but it was also a homework assignment. I started inventing "nutritionally perfect meals", meals that provided 100% of the vitamins and minerals the government said I should be getting every day.

Unfortunately, the nutrition I learned at Wesleyan was from a USDA/FDA approved textbook, meaning it was a Monsanto/Coca Cola/McDonalds approved textbook. I learned things like: Aspartame only gives cancer to rats and MSG rarely hurts anyone, so though my meals were providing me with good nutrition according to my nutrition database, I was eating more processed food than I ever had in my life. I was eating very typical "healthy" American diet high in vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins like deli meat, nonfat dairy and since I was told that fruit was barely better for me than a candy bar, candy bars for treats. I also drank diet sodas.

This time period was the sickest I have been in my life. In fact, the only cold I have ever had was during this time. I remember it acutely as I finally understood those cold medicine commercials that I had never understood previously--runny nose, pounding head, etc.

I quickly returned to the diet on which I had been raised--a diet very similar to the WAPF diet--and though I continued to have B+/A- skin and terrible insomnia, I never got sick.

When I learned of Price's work my diet changed in the following ways: I eat something fermented with every meal, I consume most of my dairy raw and cultured, I drink a large quantity of homemade tonic-beers, similar to kombucha which I also drink but made with fermented ginger, and I eat liver and fish eggs. 

My skin is now glowing movie-star quality skin and my insomnia has disappeared. Other interesting changes include disappearance of sugar cravings which I use to have all the time. After about a month into the WAPF diet I was upset one day and thought, "Ah man, I really need a kombucha." I laughed. "Chocolate, I meant chocolate," I thought. Only the truth was... what I wanted to comfort me in that moment was kombucha. I used to enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the day but now I would rather have a home made ginger tonic. I have always had good energy but I have so much more now it's shocking. I am also happier.

My husband's story:

My husband grew up eating the standard unhealthy American diet. He got sick all the time before he met me and was often sick when we first began dating. We made a lot of jokes at that time about me being a "carrier". I worked with children and would carry those germs straight from the kids to him.

My husband changed his eating habits when we began living together (he started eating like I did) and has only gotten a cold--if you can call it that since it only lasted a day--once. But he continued to suffer from dandruff, eczema and hair loss. We cured his dandruff a year ago by experimenting with eliminating different foods (we found that he cannot tolerate any dairy, even raw, unless it has been cultured).

Since we began eating the WAPF diet he has ceased losing hair but he still has eczema. I will update this post if this changes because I bet that the eczema is on its way out and will just take a little longer. Or perhaps the fermented foods cured his hair loss but he will have to join me in eating liver and fish eggs to cure his eczema. It is also possible that he is just highly sensitive to the chlorine in our water.

On the taste of foods: if you study the science of taste, you will find that any food you can't stand, if you force yourself to eat it once a month for a year, you will come to like and even crave it. Taste is just habit. I don't like liver yet, but I plan to.

I feel it is important for me to note that in order to not drive myself insane, I follow the WAPF diet 80% of the time. The rest of the time I am a delightful dinner guest.

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