YOU on a [human] DIET
In parts one and two, we talked about what the wild versions of our pet dogs and cats would eat naturally, and thus stay healthy. We also showed how gorillas get healthier when given the diet that they would find in nature.
Shouldn’t we, mankind, also eat a diet as close to our natural diet as possible? But what is the natural human diet? What is the best diet for YOU? Your species-specific diet, of course, and your specific species is Homo sapiens.
We Homo sapiens have been around for a long time, and we are adapted best to a diet that’s been around just as long.
The following foods are foods that most of us are well adapted to, simply because humans have been exposed to them, have eaten them, and have adapted to them for thousands of years.
• Protein – Meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and shellfish.
• Vegetables – Leaves, roots, stalks, tubers, and things like tomatoes and squash, etc.
• Fats – Fat from animals, foods like avocado and coconut, plus whole nuts and seeds.
• Fruits – By fruits I mean the sweet fruits, such as berries, stone fruits, etc., not the ones that are technically fruits but are eaten more like vegetables (think tomato). I don’t want to debate fruit vs. vegetable, because that’s not really the point. …but keep your tomato out of my fruit salad!
Many smart people have pointed out that today’s foods are not the same as yesterday’s. Today’s fruit is bigger and sweeter, carrots are longer and more tender, and our meat isn’t even the same animal, nor is it fed what it should be eating.
This is all true, but whether the individual food is unchanged, has disappeared, or has morphed into something almost unrecognizable, much of its underlying characteristics are still there. Plus, it’s really the best we can do with what we have. We can’t let perfection be the enemy of our progress.
Besides, we’re not trying to live in the past; we look to the past for clues about optimal diet and health.
“You cannot assume that because we never consumed a food that we aren’t adapted to it.” – Mat Lalonde, Phd
I don’t use Mat Lalonde’s quote because I want you to eat these newer foods, but because I want to be honest with you. There are people who can eat what many paleo dieters refer to as ‘Neolithic’ foods and do just fine. …or think they do just fine, but that’s another rant, entirely.
To tell you that you aren’t adapted to eat newer foods, just because ancient man didn’t have access to them, would be incorrect. Dairy is a good example; many people are fully able to digest dairy, but many others are lactose intolerant or intolerant to casein (a milk protein). Dairy is a relatively new food to us, because it takes herding, shelter, and domesticated animals to produce enough milk to use as food.
Dairy is one relatively modern food that isn’t all that bad. In fact, it can be very good, as long as you aren’t one of the unlucky people to have intolerances to it.
The potato is another interesting food that most of us have adapted to very well, despite the newness. While the sweet potato has been around forever, white potatoes are recent in the grand scheme of things. Yet because white potatoes are mostly starch (something that healthy people can tolerate well) and low in toxins, most people handle them just fine.
In the case of the potato, it’s what we do to them that’s more the problem than the food itself, and the sweet potato isn’t the magical tuber that health fanatics make it out to be; If the world switched to Fully Loaded Sweet Potato Skins and ate baskets of sweet potato fries every day, they would become just as demonized as the white potato, and we’d be just as fat and sick.
Ancient diets, reimagined
Recently, we’ve seen some popular diets based on what our ancient ancestors ate. More likely, what we assume they ate; it’s hard to know. Hey, judging by my local Renaissance Faire, knights and princesses were eating turkey legs, ice cream, and light beer back in the day. Going back further, to biblical times or the times of the ‘caveman’ is even more problematic!
Paleo Diet – This diet looks to how our ancient, ancient, ancient ancestors might have eaten, and takes dietary cues from their history. We don’t need to eat what they ate to have success. We look at how they ate for clues on to what to eat to thrive, instead of just survive. Most Paleo diets start off pretty strict and allow you to reintroduce some foods to test how you feel. Things like veggies, meat, fruit, and eggs are in, while things like grains, legumes, sugars, and dairy tend to be out!
Primal –This version of the Paleo Diet was popularized by Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint, although in some ways it’s a tomato vs tomahto thing compared to Paleo. Mark’s version is more approachable to many, primarily because it doesn’t start off quite as strict. It’s also known for being more cool with some dairy. …assuming it’s not a problem.
Biblically based diets – The Maker’s Diet and What Would Jesus Eat are attempts to eat more like our biblical ancestors, which meant fewer grains and legumes and more vegetables, meat, fish, and fruit.
The 30 Days of Real Food shares a lot in common with some of these diets. Ours starts with the premise that people who eat closer to how humans are meant to eat, tend to do better, just like our pets and zoo animals do on their natural diets.
Hi, you must be new around here…
It’s not that old is good and new is bad; the line between old and new blurs, anyway. Chili peppers are very old to the planet, but new to the Old World, since they came from the New World. That’s confusing, but in this case, what’s old is new!
Tomatoes are an even stranger story, since they have been around for a long time, but have only been eaten in large quantities since the days when Columbus took them back to Europe, they became popular, and were later re-introduced as a food to America! Even though tomatoes are ‘old,’ they might be new to you (intolerance to tomatoes is actually fairly common).
The foods below are just some of the foods that are most likely to have negative effects on our health. Most of them are newer to us, but like dairy and tomatoes show, it’s not always time that makes it good or bad.
• Grains & legumes – Grains and legumes have been around for a pretty long time, but that doesn’t mean we are adapted to them yet (if ever). It’s only been a few thousand years since grains and legumes have been eaten in any significant quantities. You might think corn grew wild in those big yellow ears, but years ago, they were small, starchy kernels, and not sweet at all.
Grains also make tasty foods, I must admit, plus they are very cheap, making them very attractive to the budget conscious. Unfortunately, they have some less than healthful properties that can outweigh the savings. Grains and legumes are seeds of a plant, and are equipped with the protection necessary to survive to sprout and carry on the family tree; lectins, phytates, and enzyme inhibitors are all there to keep the little seed from being digested, and as a result, they can cause gut irritation and even bind to nutrients so you don’t absorb them.
In addition, many popular grains, like wheat, rye, and spelt, contain a protein called gluten, which can dramatically affect the health of people who are intolerant or have Celiac disease.
Traditionally, most grains and legumes were soaked, sprouted, and/or fermented before being cooked and eaten. These traditional processes removed many of the toxins that are present and tend to cause gut irritation and nutrient deficiencies.
In recent centuries, modern tools and machinery have allowed us to eat very large quantities of grains and legumes, as prices are kept artificially low by government subsidies.
Grains and legumes might be cheap calories, but from a nutrition density standpoint, they are also a poor choice. Calorie per calorie, meat, veggies, and fruit win the nutrition battle, hands down.
• Vegetable oils – Vegetable oils are typically high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, which is a fat that causes many health issues when eaten in large amounts. Polyunsatured fats are highly unstable, and oxidize quickly and easily, which many people believe leads to inflammation, particularly when consumed outside of natural sources, such as whole nuts and seeds and animal products.
For most people, there’s not immediately noticeable effect of consuming vegetable oils, but trust us that the damage is being done when you don’t minimize or avoid these oils.
• Dairy – We talked about dairy a bit earlier. Many people do fine with dairy, but a significant number of people have issues with dairy. Reports of acne, runny nose, and watery eyes are fairly common, as are the more obvious effects of lactose intolerance – gas!
We are an adaptive species
We’re not exactly the same as we were thousands of years ago, but we also haven’t changed all that much in the grand scheme of things. We vary in our abilities to handle certain foods based on where our ancestors came from and what they ate for generations. Even with those differences, our primary sources of nutrition will tend to be very similar, even if some of us can thrive on variations in ingredients, amounts, and ratios.
Good decisions, bad decisions
If there’s a major downside to being human, it’s our consciousness. I’m not trying to be deep or especially profound, but this is becoming a problem.
As people, we think. We’re self-aware. We make decisions. And we make bad ones, quite often.
You see, just because we are self-aware, doesn’t make us aware of when our instincts are leading us astray – something they can often do.
We live in a modern world that’s so far removed from our natural, ancestral environment that our instincts are confused. Our instincts were designed to keep us alive in a world where beasts and monsters are around every corner, and food is hard to hunt and kill OR time consuming to gather.
In our instinctive world, it pays off to have a thin[nish] layer of fat on your body, just in case you can’t find shelter tonight or food for breakfast when you wake up. Today, though, modern food what it is, it’s hard to stop at just a thin layer of fat on our bodies. Not that we ever need that thin layer today, anyway, right?
Yes, in the past, the prospect of starvation was always looming over us, and our instincts prepared us for the worst. In a modern world where the worst case scenario tends to be oversleeping and leaving the house hungry, our instincts are a little too powerful. In fact, when truly bad things are unlikely to happen, and modern industrialized foods are cheap and plentiful, we get fat and sick, instead.
Survive, yes. Thrive, no.
The Real Food Reset, coming soon…
This is an excerpt from our forthcoming book, The Real Food Reset. We hope you enjoyed part three of the chapter we’ve named “The downside to being human.”
If you missed part one, it’s here.
If you missed part two, it’s here.
If you’d like to read the program that started it all, check out The 30 Days of Real Food, available free here on eatmovelive52.com.
Thank you for reading, and we’ll see you back here in a few days for the announcement of the book!
Roland & Galya Denzel