If you were about to build a house that you wanted to stand for 100 years, would you go to the junkyard and pick up disheveled, broken down materials? No, because there’s no way your structure could withstand the test time using that as a foundation. So why is it as humans we vie to grow old, yet we fuel our bodies with poor building materials? If we want to defy the maladies of old age, we need to feed ourselves top of the line sustenance.
Over the years, health seems to have become more and more complicated. Everyday we’re bombarded by messages of what we should and should not eat, the latest “miracle” foods, and the newest “key” to youthful longevity. The “solutions” seem to be growing, yet we seem to only be getting more sick.
Why is it that despite our increasing innovation, we have to work three times as hard as our grandparents to maintain a fraction of the health? In our modern society we are:
- Spending more on food and nutrition supplements
- Eating more calories
- Consuming less nutrition
- Taking more medication
- Dealing with more illness and ailments
You’d think with our progressive society we’d be in better shape than our ancestors, so how did we get where we are today?
More Food, Less Nutrition
When our ancestors began farming thousands of years ago, they worked to alter their crops to make them more productive, easier to grow and harvest, and more enjoyable to eat – after all, their lives literally depended on the bounty of their land. While the changes were minimal at best to begin, fast forward hundreds of generations later, and the food we eat in modern day barely resembles the original versions. As farmers toiled to create more manageable and delicious crops, they unknowingly started to strip away vital nutrients. So, we now start with food that is significantly less nutrient dense, then that food travels 1500-2000 miles, aging for 5-10 days before it even hits your grocery store shelves. Then you take it home, let it sit another 2-5 days, until the food you are finally consuming is basically dead. How much nutrition is left at this point? Scientists say if you’re lucky, 40% of an already decreased nutrient profile.
Not only are the phytonutrients dramatically decreased in our food, but the flavor is diminished as well. Ever had a juicy tomato straight from the vine mid summer? It’s incredible, especially when compared to the one you buy at your local grocery store. Since the food stocked on store shelves is what we typically fill our diets with, over time we’ve learned to compensate for this lack of flavor by adding various forms of sugar, fat, and oil to boost the taste. Thus, we’re not only receiving fewer nutrients, but we’re eating more empty calories too (empty calories are calories you consume without receiving any vitamins or minerals in addition). With these bland foods being the only option the majority of Americans are exposed to, it’s no wonder health advocates have such a hard time convincing people to eat their vegetables.
Food As Medicine
With modern medicine, our doctors prescribe one drug for one disease. This is simply not true when using food as medicine, or simply as prevention! Your body does not heal selectively. A deficiency in one nutrient can cause many illnesses, thus a mega dose of even one nutrient can cure many illnesses. All the body’s systems are interconnected.
This is not to say that all medical drugs are bad- the beauty of living in a modern world is that we have the resources and innovation to rapidly cure illnesses. However, we live in a society where if a little is good, more must be better- which is precisely the mentality making the pharmaceuticals companies richer, and our population sicker.
Not a single cell in our bodies is made up of drugs, so trying to replace nutrition with manufactured synthetic materials is not going to withstand the test of time. Think about it- the drug companies don’t really want their products to heal you entirely, because then how will they continue to boost their sales? The “best” drugs are the ones that make you FEEL better, yet keep you dependent on them.
But what if instead, you could feel better simply by eating the right foods, and thus become dependent on fruits and vegetables rather than the pills that cost you exponentially more? I’m here to tell you, it’s absolutely possible. “Good health makes a lot of sense, but not a lot of dollars,” – says Dr. Andrew Saul.
At this point you may be thinking, “Well, I’m screwed.” But hold on, there are ways to fight back:
- Buy local produce as often as possible. Stop by your local farmer’s market and talk to the people who grew your food. Most small farmers use organic methods, however, they simply can’t afford the certifications required to label their produce as such.
- Eat in season. If you live in Cincinnati and want fresh strawberries mid- January, guess what? We can’t produce those here in the heart of winter. So, those strawberries you’re picking up at Kroger have traveled halfway across the world to be stocked on your shelves, meanwhile losing their flavor and nutrition as we discussed above. If you strive to eat what’s in season, the chances of the food being sourced closer to home are much higher, in addition to the flavor being much greater.
- Stop restricting, start adding. Instead of trying to diet by focusing on all that you can’t have, focus on all that you can add to your diet. Adding more color, more variety, and more vitamins and minerals to each an every meal will leave you feeling lighter, stronger, more energized, and glowing from the inside out.
- Just Eat Real Food. Get back to the way your great-great grandparents ate. It’s not hard… really, it’s pretty simple. Stop obsessing over all the diet “rules” you see on social media. Eat whole foods as much as possible. If you pick up something at the grocery store and you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize an ingredient, put it down and step away. As Jamie Oliver says, “Real food doesn’t have ingredients. Real food is. ”
What are your thoughts about the evolution of food in our culture? Do you agree that food can be used in medicine? I’d love to chat further- connect with me on Instagram (@ellen_whitney), my blog (http://healthtastesgood.co/), or on Facebook (Ellen Whitney- Chef & Athlete).