Sunday, January 16, 2011


What you eat and why you eat it often sparks more than a little controversy. Some of this is easy enough to dismiss -- the Blood-Type Diet or the Astrological Diet or the Nothing-But-Brown-Rice Diet -- because there is no science connected to these. Some diets claim to be scientific, but the "science" is junk, starts from a faulty premise and goes downhill from there. 

We like quick and easy fixes, we Americans, and a new diet book almost always finds an audience.  Don't want to give up the foods you love? Here, here's a diet that lets you keep them and still get thin! 

Right. TANSTAAFL. And getting a healthy one ain't easy, either. 

Here are some things I believe, based on my own research over the years:

Most people want to live long and healthy lives, and what you put into your mouth can affect both your quality of life and your longevity. Some things are better for you than others. The main argument comes in what those things are. More on that in a bit. 

We are opportunistic omnivores -- we eat whatever we come across because that's how we are built. We have grinders and canines in the dental array, that tells you something.

Back in the day, there was feast or famine, and that's how it was. 

If the other great apes are any indication, we are grazers, and the notion of three meals a day is a recent sociological construct with no basis in biology. 

We are tropical, diurnal creatures. Our natural environment was a place where it didn't get cold, and where what we needed to eat was found within walking distance. (I define "natural environment" here as one where, if tossed naked, we would have the best chances of survival without shelter or clothing or tools. This would not be the top of Mount Everest.)

Our bodies are designed for walking on loam, under and around trees. We climb better than we run, and we can walk a long way. The further away we get from the tropics, the harder our genetic evolution has to work to keep us alive, and it isn't enough without warm clothes and heated shelter once we get into deep snow country. 

That said, we come to what I now think makes dietary sense: We should be eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, twigs, and roots, and less meat, and less processed food.  And you know what processed food is -- anything that comes in a box or bag and will keep on a shelf. 

White -- flour, sugar, rice -- isn't the ideal color for such things as bread or cereal.

I mean, that bacon-wrapped sirloin steak and baked potato slathered in butter and sour cream tastes a lot better than an apple and a big salad, boy, howdy! but they are in no way better for you physically. Western civilization has a slew of ailments and illnesses brought on by eating too much fat and sugar. We are overweight, our arteries are plugged, and affluence is not only not a protection but sometimes the biggest problem. You don't hear about poor people in third world countries having gout or kidney stones or heart attacks at the levels we have here in the U.S. Yeah, they have other stuff that takes them out, but a lot of what kills us could be prevented, and relatively easily. 

Put down that Big Mac, Junior, and eat a pear!

I just finished reading The China Study, a book on nutrition, written by T. Colin Campbell and his son, and the conclusion Campbell -- a long-time nutritional scientist -- reaches is that we'd be a whole lot healthier across the board if we were vegans. He allows that a little animal protein in necessary -- there's that B12 thing -- but that meat or fowl or fish should be a small part of our overall diet.

The book has its flaws. He makes leaps that I don't see as warranted, with insufficient evidence to back them up. This is the major criticism offered by folks who know more about such things than do I, but even the most compelling of these critiques allows as how he's not so much completely on the wrong track as incomplete. 

With all the vested interests telling us it is okay to eat whatever it is they are selling, it's hard to tell what is true. But for me, I've come round to the conclusion that I've been porking down too much stuff that is doing me more harm than good, so I'm working on trying to do better. Just cutting way down on sugar has resulted in me losing ten pounds of body fat in a couple months, and feeling healthier. My next blood test in another month or so will reveal if how I feel is reflected in the numbers; I suspect that it will be -- I'll keep you posted. 

No, I'm not becoming a vegan or even a vegetarian; I am, however, going to try to be mindful of what I eat. 

Something you might want to consider.

1 comment:

Kevin Bond said...


With high cholesterol my doc keeps telling me less carbs, less meats, more fruit, more veggies, and more exercise. Its difficult to change a lifetime of bad eating habits, but being better will be worth it.