OK, so the title of this post is a little misleading. I do eat processed foods. It’s nearly impossible not to, living in the U.S. today. I get busy and travel just like everyone else, and it is exceedingly difficult to find whole foods in pretty much any fast food joint, airport or diner.
So, until I work out a better infrastructure for myself, through which I can make whole foods available to me at all times, whether stuck at a meeting or on the road, I am going to eat some processed foods.
But why, you may ask, do I try to avoid processed foods to begin with?
This is a big question to tackle in one blog post, and I will work toward answering this question over the course of many posts.
But here’s some quicky reasoning:
We humans have eaten essentially the same foods for millenia. The specific foods varied depending on who you were: the Eskimos ate fish, the Masai milk and cows’ blood. But the diet always remained the same. And it was all just the same few things: nuts, berries, wild meat, grazing cattle, wild fish, fruit from trees, wild greens. Whichever of these few things were available to you, you ate.
There is one thing we can be sure of; our bodies thrive on these foods. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be here today. Humans who couldn’t thrive on these foods passed away, and those who could passed on ther genes. To us.
But then we went and changed our food. First by introducing agriculture 10,000 years ago. This wreaked havoc on the public health, but enough of us survived to propagate the species: a species of humans who could tolerate a diet produced by agriculture.
Today we’re changing our food again. In the mid-nineteenth century, we started eating refined carbohydrates, stripped of ther fiber and most nutrients. We today eat 5 times the sugar we ate a century ago. And coincident with these changes was the appearance and rapid spread of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, gall bladders, hemorrhoids, tooth decay, ulcers, appendicitis.
These ailments were virtually nonexistent among populations that resisted refined carbohydrates (e.g., the Eskimos and Masai)–until, that is, they gave in and started eating refined carbohydrates.
You do the math.
I certainly cannot guarantee that refined carbohydrates are the primary cause of all of the so-called “diseases of civilization” listed above. But the historical, and even medical, evidence of this is striking.
Mess with your food, and there is simply no way to know what will happen. Eat what we’ve eaten for millenia, and you have a pretty darned good idea.
I certainly don’t oppose progress, or change. But when dietary shifts like the refiining of carbohydrates occur at exactly the same time as the vast profusion of chronic and very serious diseases, you have to wonder. Pending further medical evidence, I’d rather stick with the diets of people who don’t get diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Even if that diet is plain old cow’s milk or fish.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a doctor. But please explore this idea before you reject it. At the least, give a run through Michael Pollan’s quick and eminently readable In Defense of Food and, if you have several days of free time, and really want to blow your mind, read Gary Taubes’ more thorough and more scientific Good Calories, Bad Calories, which is not the faddy diet book it sounds like.