ad astra per alia porci

Modern diet, primitive body
April 17, 2007, 1:46 pm
Filed under: training and nutrition

Reading various books on diet and nutrition has led me to draw certain observations and truisms regarding our diet. Modern diet, as epitomised by the ubiquitous fast food meal, is heavy skewed towards a diet rich in trans fat, protein and excess carbohydrates with a distinct lack of fiber and nutrients and is detrimental to human health since it does not meet the requirements of the human body which is largely made for a diet that our primitive cavemen ancestors had. While modern culture and cuisine has evolved greatly over the years, the genetic dispositions of our body with regards to its nutritional needs and habits have not changed much.

This fact sheds some light on many quirks of our eating behaviour. Prehistoric men were hunter-gatherers and foragers; they ate what they could find and meat, fat and organs from animals were luxuries. Whenever they can get their hands on quality protein and innards, they ate it for its nutritional value. In a way, they are psychologically tuned to like fats and protein, which was a positive trait for survival since fat and protein were rare commodities then. Today, while we can easily obtain protein and fat, our prehistoric psychological  disposition has not changed fundamentally. We love fatty, oily foods and meats of all kinds; now that it is made so easily available, our prehistoric brain tells us to gorge. Hence the increase in obesity levels the world over.

It does not help that the quality of food that we have in this modern age has greatly deteriorated. Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a fascinating book that illuminates aspects of our food culture. Pollan traces the source of all food to corn. Industrial corn is produced in large quantities which in turn is used to make a whole variety of food products that are not necessarily good for human health. Beef nowadays are largely from corn-fed cows, which are essentially sick cows since cows are not made to consume corn. Cows eat grass and yet most of our beef comes from corn-fed cows. Simple logic: eat sick animals and you will get sick yourself. Corn-fed cows produce meat that are much fattier and less nutritious than grain-fed cows. Same goes for chicken; chicken meat these days come from corn-fed chickens that are kept in steel cages. Real chickens run around looking for grubs in the ground. Essentially, most of our food has passed through many stages of processing and alteration that it is no longer healthy for us. All kinds of chemicals are in our food.

These findings and readings led me to the conclusion that in order to have a healthy diet, one needs to eat food that lies at the bottom of the industrial production chain. Think of cereal for example, the all-American healthy breakfast. Sugary, processed cereals are not half as healthy as whole grains, muesli, bran and berries mixed together. Luncheon meat is filled with salt and the unwanted parts of pigs; eat proper fresh pork bought from the wet market instead. Basically, eating like how our ancestors did does wonders to our body, since our bodies have barely evolved in terms of its nutritional needs and habits.

Also, curb the desire for oily, fatty and protein-rich food. Note that I am not advocating total rejection of these kind of foods; I am suggesting moderation. And Grandma was right, eat more veggies and skip the dessert. You will be much healthier that way.


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