Preface: I was feeling a bit feisty about this topic while I wrote it. It's a topic I feel very passionate about so, please, try not to take too much offense to my ramblings. As always, this blog is more about my personal opinions and findings as Nutritional Therapist than it is about factual lab studies and research.
Let me just say that the past few weeks have been pretty amazing. I went to my first workshop weekend with the Nutritional Therapy Association and got to spend three whole days geeking out with 20 other soon-to-be NTP’s and our teachers. Simply put, it was heaven on earth and I came back feeling tired but rejuvenated and ready to rock it with my clients. Then immediately after I took a 5-day trip to Denver with some girlfriends and feel creatively jazzed after experiencing a new city, new food and great conversations. I am a firm believer that sometimes you need to step outside work to be inspired inside work and find that my creativity and enjoyment increase exponentially when I experiencing the world with new eyes. Now, I get that a weekend spent learning about chemistry and biology may not sound like everyone’s idea of a good time (nerd alert), but to me, learning about the human body and how food directly impacts all of it’s processes and functions, is quite fascinating and that’s what I want to talk about today.
We are currently facing epidemic-sized proportions of chronic diseases that previously existed in small quantities, or not at all, and this is only expected to worsen as the years go on. Problems like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, auto-immunity, hormonal imbalance, gut dysfunction, yeast overgrowth and thyroid conditions are not normal baselines for our bodies to be operating at. In fact, these “diseases” are nearly non-existent in traditional societies where we see diets that are low in sugar, processed ingredients and industrial oils and high in healthy fats and fat soluble vitamins from animal sources, vegetables and fruits and properly prepared foods like soaked nuts and fermented dairy. Regardless of the location where these people are found or exact foods that they eat, the theme remains the same:
Rid people of modern foods, rid people of modern diseases.
So that being said, I want to talk about traditional diets and general principals for good eating.
A lot of people are confused by ancestral diets such as Paleo or Primal, citing the fact that there is no way to eat exactly like our ancestors (have you ever foraged for almond flour cookies?) and that they died young anyway, so why would we want to replicate their lifestyle? What I think is important to understand here is that A. ancestral diets are based on principals of a Paleolithic lifestyle and B. merely look to a time when our ancestors were not, in fact, dying from the chronic diseases and conditions that plague us today. With this in mind, it’s easy to understand that proponents of the diets are not actually asking us to hunt and gather every meal or give up modern conveniences like grocery stores, but rather to implement sound, traditional building blocks that have been synonymous with good health and vitality for thousands of years. While it seems a bit basic, consider that things like artificial sugars, genetically modified foods and dietary fat replacements have been around in industrialized foods for less than a century – on the contrary, vegetables, meat and fermented dairy have been holding strong in the running for centuries upon centuries. Truly, think for a minute about which foods are going to give off accurate information based on long term studies. It is impossible to understand the long term effects of modern synthetic foods when they haven’t been a part of our mainstream diet for the time of an entire average lifespan. Regardless, so far, the anecdotal evidence that IS manifesting isn’t looking pretty. I personally don’t think it takes a scientist (especially one funded by Big Food or backed by a subsidiary company of Monsanto) to conclude that we are sicker, fatter and sadder than ever before in human history and we are further than we ever have been from a traditional lifestyle that includes a diet rich in real food and a life rich in organic movement. Coincidence? Not likely.
So, perhaps you’re wondering at this point what the principals of a traditional, real-foods diet are? While there are quite a few nuances depending on the circle you enter, the basics include eating a diet that is based on nutrient-dense, properly-prepared, real foods and adopting sustainable practices from an environmental perspective that allow for the continuation and survival of the human species long term. Overall, a traditional lens encourages us to live WITH the earth and all it offers us rather than AGAINST it so that we may affect our lives, health and human experience in a positive manner.
Some of the foods you will see encouraged in a real-foods, ancestral-based diet include:
· Animal proteins like grass-fed, pasture-raised meats and eggs
· Organic vegetables, including roots and tubers
· Organic fruits
· Soaked and sprouted nuts, seeds, legumes and grains
· Raw and fermented dairy
· Healthy fats and oils such as coconut, cod liver, olive and butter
· Fermented or cultured food and drink like sauerkraut and kombucha
· Small quantities of alcohol from organic sources
Obviously, this list is not extensive, but it should give you a rough idea of the foundational aspects that make up a traditional diet. What we should be considering, is using these guidelines to find out what works for our bio-individual needs and then devising a sustainable “diet” from there based around our life at that point. Some people may look at this as restrictive, but I tend to find that a life without disease and chronic pain is much more free than a life with Oreo cookies and Big Macs. That’s all for today. See you next time!
Much love (and spice),