Where Should We Get Our Nutrition Information? (PS: it’s not the internet)
We have a very complicated history with food and what we are told we ‘should’ be eating… Don’t eat eggs they are full of cholesterol (actually eggs are a great source of protein!), butter is bad for your heart use margarine instead (oopsy, margarine causes inflammation, stick to butter), low fat all the way (wait, we need fat!). Figuring out what to eat is complicated enough without throwing in fad diets and well-meaning but unproven advice.
The truth is, illness has drastically risen over the last several decades (around the time that packaged food and TV dinners were in their prime). Persons diagnosed with food allergies has increased by 50% in the last 20 years, IBS now affects 10 – 15% of the population and it is now estimated 1 out of 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime (1 out of 2! That’s 50% of us!). I’m not listing these depressing stats to scare you and encourage you to climb into a hole but I just want to emphasize that we fell off the boat in the last several decades and could use a little boost getting back on.
Eat What Your Great Grandmother Ate – Tradition over Trendy
I believe whole heartedly that the way to move forward is by looking back to when we had it almost right… With our great grandparents. My grandma recently told me that growing up her mother (my great grandmother) fed their entire household from what they produced on the farm. Vegetables and fruit were all grown in the garden, meat was from the animals they raised in the pasture, milk from the cows and wheat for bread they grew in the field. In fact the only things she can recall being purchased in town were a small bag of sugar for special occasions, coffee and tea. This was the era where food allergies/sensitivities were virtually unheard of.
Now, I’m not saying we have to pack up, leave our city dwellings and live off the land but it’s something to keep in mind when making food choices. Did your great grandmother eat that giant bag of potato chips? No, but she most likely made roasted potatoes in butter and herbs. She and the rest of the family ate foods that for many years we were told we shouldn’t like full fat milk, butter and bacon (sulphite and sugar free of course). And some seemingly ‘trendy’ foods like bone broth, fermented foods and sourdough bread that are not actually new but date back thousands of years were abundant in her diet.
The Science Behind Traditional Diets…
The benefits of these whole foods diets based on ancestral roots are documented extensively in the work of Weston E Price who travelled the world to study isolated human communities and found that those who had maintained their traditional diets had beautiful straight teeth free of decay (Dr. Price was a dentist), strong immune systems and healthy bodies. Similar findings were recognized by Dr. Daphne Miller and detailed in her book ‘The Jungle Effect – The Healthiest Diets From Around The World.’ Dr. Miller investigated certain areas of the world that were free from chronic illness common to North America specifically; diabetes, heart disease, mental illness and digestive diseases. She found a common theme in all of these ‘cold spots’; the inhabitants primarily ate the traditional diet of their ancestral homeland.
How to Move Forward by Looking Back…
In my past blog post ‘The Power of Whole Foods’ I discuss how to start transitioning to a more whole foods based diet but perhaps we could take this a step further. Maybe the next time you find yourself googling superfoods and trying to sift through all the conflicting advice, try researching your family lineage for an eating style that your body understands and has evolved to over millions of years. Or if you are able, pick up the phone, call your grandmother and ask her what food was like for her growing up. I’m sure she would be tickled and would love to share some remarkable stories (mine sure was!).
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Daphne Miller, MD. The Jungle Effect – The Healthiest Diets From Around The World – Why They Work and How To Make Them Work For You. New York, HarperCollins Publishers 2009