I already shared in several posts that we invented a lot of fake stories. Stories, which are made up by humans and have no meaning at all outside our society. We need them, though. But we should understand why we invented them and how stories harm us if we don’t understand their meaning. Religion is one of the biggest lies. Climate change is a hot topic past few years. The question of how to respond to pandemic polarized society a lot.
In this post, I want to talk about food. All my previous posts covered topics that we all talk about a lot. Many people have opinions based on their beliefs for which they fight in discussions. That is not happening around food; at least not that much. Most of the time, we take our diet for granted. But don’t be fooled. The food topic is spicy as well.
The main issue is that it’s tough to make sense of it and find out what is good for us. Let’s explore the basics.
Photosynthesis is an essential process for life on our planet. It converts light energy from Sun to chemical energy that transforms carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and carbohydrates molecules. Oxygen with carbohydrates is then used as a source of energy for animals.
I already shared in the post about climate change, and I share it again: the first law of thermodynamics says, “energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it can only be transformed or transferred from one form to another.” The transfer of energy from the Sun to our body is one excellent example. Eating is a process to gain energy and live. The primary purpose of food is to keep us alive.
Every animal has different specific needs. What exactly we, humans, need? First of all, it’s already mentioned carbohydrates or also, the synonym, saccharide. Saccharide comes from the Greek word σάκχαρον, which means “sugar.” That’s why carbohydrates are mostly sugars but also starch, cellulose, or fiber.
Sugars are our primary source of energy, at least for immediate activity. It’s good to have a snack with a lot of good sugar before the challenging hike, for example. We don’t necessarily need carbohydrates, though, as our body can make some. But that means our body needs some other energy source. That’s fat. Fat is another essential source of energy, just for later use.
We cannot live just thanks to energy. We also need protein or vitamins. Protein is a provider of nine essential amino acids whose ingestion is vital to build and repair body tissues. Vitamins are crucial micronutrients for metabolism.
To sum it up, we need a divert menu. Vitamins to make our machine working correctly. Protein to repair what we damage (by eating the wrong food, by working hard, by getting old). And mostly fat and (all kinds of good) carbs for energy (otherwise we would be tired and weak).
Now, let’s examine briefly how our diet was changing overtime during the human era.
Every living organism can change its diet. The problem is when the diet is very narrow. For example, koalas eat the leaves of the eucalyptus tree exclusively. If those trees vanish over a short period, koalas will not have enough time to adapt their diet, and they will die out. The animals with the best chance of survival are those who can eat a wide variety of food like we humans do.
Before the human era, which started roughly 12000 years ago, we lived as hunter-gatherers. We ate what was available, and even if it sounds surprising, our diet was very rich compared to what happened next. Humans domesticated and started to farm. It provided a huge surplus; many more people could be fed, but with a less diverse menu.
What was on the menu? Mostly carbohydrate (and gluten) from cereal grains and dairy products. Both were not common before, and our bodies were not used to them. Even today, many people have an intolerance against gluten or dairy products or both. Anyway, our metabolism can cope with it, and it is just a matter of time to get used to it.
Why our ancestors didn’t grow more vegetables? Well, they did. The problem is, vegetables don’t grow all year-round. But thanks to fermentation, it was easy to store cereals and dairy products and alcohol, such as beer or wine, for later use. In the end, we have issues with storing vegetables even today. We can buy tomatoes during winter, but it’s not tasty—it’s just a chemical red ball full of water almost without any nutrients.
This situation stayed the same with us for a very long time till the 18th century. Then, the Industrial Revolution came with canned and processed food. A lot of unhealthy food. As described above, carbohydrates are our primary source of energy, but not all carbs are good. The right ratio is 5:1—or in other words at least one gram of fiber for every five grams of carbohydrate (fiber with probiotics is crucial for our microbiome). Fiber with water is gaining in volume and causes a feeling of satiety. Industrialization brought food with a much worse ratio of fiber to sugar or even carbs in total to other food components—bad food without the natural stop causing overeating. Fiber is also helpful to slow down burning carbohydrates into simple sugars.
Before anyone could notice both agriculture and industrial revolutions worsen our menu and increased how many people can be fed, there was no way back. The next milestone of making inadequate food habits was during World War II. A lot of canned food was needed at the front. Women at home had to, besides taking care of kids, also work at factories instead of their men; therefore, they required dinner, which is very easy to cook—again processed canned food.
Processed food was even more crucial for survival. Some smart people found a hole in the market and invented fast food. TVs in every living room aired advertisements for new types of restaurants focusing on fast processed food. Even when war was over and people could go back to kitchens to cook again healthy food, new habits, capitalism, advertisements, or being in turned the food market into madness.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) introduced the food pyramid in 1992 called “Food Guide Pyramid” or also “Eating Right Pyramid.” At the bottom, there was a lot of processed food (bread, cereal, pasta, and so on) and other carbohydrates. Sugars were the recommended base for each of your meals! Do you remember what happened then?
Cholesterol. I remember as a kid seeing advertisements for butter without fat preventing cholesterol issues like heart attacks. The problem is that the issue was not fat; fat is a vital component in our diet, as you already know, but the wrong food with a lot of bad cholesterol and almost no good cholesterol.
Sadly, even today, some people learn what to eat based on this pyramid. In 2011, USDA replaced the pyramid with MyPlate—plate divided into four sections: approximately 40% vegetables, 30% grains, 20% protein, and 10% fruits. MyPlate makes much more sense, and let’s hope this recommendation is picked up by everyone soon.
Ideally, here I would stop this post because we know what to eat, finally. Unfortunately, we like to have our beliefs. We believed in gods, then one God, and now we seek for ideologies in every field. For example, also climate change is religion these days. And the food industry is no exception. The only difference is we all eat, and therefore food has more ideologies to pick up from.
Some people believe the only right way is to go way back to our roots and eat only raw food. Others are not that radical and believe in a paleo or low-carb diet. Some people love animals and therefore prefer a vegetarian diet. Some love them even more; those are vegans. Pescetarianists are like vegetarians but hate animals in the sea. On the other hand, some people love animals only on the plate. We should not forget about people who don’t give a shit and want to keep eating what they are used to.
Of course, those beliefs are not compatible. It requires a significant tolerance, which we lack. Everyone believes in their vision of what is best for everyone for all kinds of reasons. We hate each other for eating something we don’t accept. Vegans despise meat-eaters, and because of that, many meat-eaters don’t even enter a vegan restaurant. They don’t consider it as an option because they would see it as humiliating themselves.
But remember this: neither of those ideologies is the right one. Every persuasion lives only in our heads. As I stated above, we are life form transforming energy. Food is our energy input, which is used for our body to operate. We need a diverse menu to stay healthy. That means to keep our body in shape so that we can enjoy this life. There are plenty of options, and each of us can prefer something else. That’s perfectly fine.
The best what everyone can do is to listen to their own body and own plate. Your body is the best holy grail for your religion. In the end, our thoughts are not coming from thin air. Thoughts and feelings are part of our bodies, and our bodies allow us to live. Whom else should we listen to?
The book It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig Urban is mostly about the paleo diet, but I would recommend the cleansing 30-day challenge described in the book to everyone. It’s about eating only vegetables, fruits, meat, and eggs for the whole month. The authors believe that your body is cleaned after this period, and then you can experiment with food and explore for yourself what food makes you feel good and what doesn’t.
The reasoning is this: we all are used to the food we are regularly eating. Our bodies are amazing machines. We can eat whatever we find, both literally and figuratively. But then we need to face the consequences. Our body will be used up sooner, and we either die sooner, or we will need a lot of medications (and we will live many years in pain).
Every change is hard. Once we switch to another diet, our body has to adapt. It takes some time. Even if we switch to something more suitable for our needs, it can feel like it’s going in the wrong direction. Therefore the challenge is for one month. To make sure we get into a phase in which we can feel good. Don’t give up.
I know It’s tough. It took me a lot of time before I actually managed to do this challenge for a month. I think even half the challenge worth doing (for example, at some point, I followed it at home, but not entirely over lunch at work), just it takes more time. But then I was able to observe what is right for me. I learned that gluten is fine, but dairy products, mostly milk and yogurt, are not. I also detected how pasta is horrible food. I could not understand that before.
Of course, even if something is not suitable for our body, like sweets, it doesn’t mean we should avoid it altogether. I like french-way: eating everything but being aware and avoid too many wrong foods in a row. Even I enjoy yogurt from time to time; it’s delicious. In the end, food is also enjoyment. The challenge is about learning to feel what is right. Once we learn to listen to our bodies, we don’t even need to think about it.
Cultural life evolves faster than genes can adapt. I think in thousands of years, if we are still around and we keep our current diet, our genes will adapt to it. But that’s irrelevant for us today. It’s faster to change our behavior.
In the end, it’s our behavior that has changed drastically since the beginning of the human era. The latest change leads us to another pandemic. A pandemic of obese people because we added harmful sugars and salt and other improvements without natural stops (right food triggers we are saturated in time) to our diet. Besides that, we eat bad meat and less healthy vegetables. We believe obesity is acceptable because it’s everywhere around us.
But it’s not acceptable. It’s not an ideal situation. Obese people are not healthy, too much fat means chronic inflammation, illnesses and weak immunity (which makes you even more vulnerable in time of pandemic). I think many people now see this, but it’s not enough. And unfortunately, good food is more expensive. It’s much cheaper to produce pasta than healthy vegetables. Cans are for the poor. Some students buy cans for dogs to have cheap meat.
And so many people have a poor diet leading to obesity. People willing to do something about it often find diets that recommend eating less, or not at all, doing a lot of exercises, and so on. But I’m afraid that’s not right. On the contrary, some people need to eat more to lose weight, but they need to abandon their diet and open space for more veggies.
I liked one joke about diets (maybe it was a serious post, it doesn’t matter): it compared all kinds of diets and how every “ideology” believes in something else. But in the end, all experts can agree on one thing: eat more vegetables!
Note that good food is not the only thing to keep our body correctly working. It’s just part of a healthy lifestyle. Eating properly but smoking, drinking a lot of alcohol, or avoiding exercise will not help much. Our psyche is also fundamental, so living in constant stress, for example, is not an ideal situation.
Climate Change Side Note
Many people change their diet based on ideology, as I wrote above. Climate change is one of many reasons. Some climate change activists prefer vegetarianism or even veganism not to eat meat and save our planet. If you are one of such people and it works for you well, then great. But the issue is when such religion is forced on other people.
Meat is a choice, and it should stay that way.
If you read up to this point, you already know about many issues in our diet, but meat is the least what should we be concerned about. Definitely, we don’t behave to animals well on many farms and mostly factories, and it should be improved. But that also means we need more space and be less ecological. And not just for animal products but also vegetables.
Healthy good food is expensive; financially, timewise, or even from an ecological point of view. But it’s worth it. It’s better to invest our money, time, and planet in our food than in something else, such as useless or unnecessary gadgets. We can survive without such gadgets but not without healthy food.
On the contrary, I would recommend meat if possible. Of course not too much, like twice or more every day. Every second day, on average, is fine. Veggies and meat is probably the best diet for most people. Expensive but healthy. Excluding meat is too challenging to keep all necessary nutrients, at least for now. My wife needs to be close to low-carb and doesn’t like meat. It’s hard-core.
What I hope to see, considering climate change, is to have plant-based or grown meat. Also, vertical farms in the middle of cities to produce quality vegetables just a few meters away from you will be amazing. We could also consider using insects; they are full of nutrients! And many more inventions are ahead of us which will improve ecological impact.
Really, instead of changing diet because of climate change, let’s rather discuss genetically modified food. GM food can solve many issues. Food could have more nutrients with fewer requirements. We can try to stick to selective breeding, but that’s slow. Genetic modification can take us there much faster. Unfortunately, European Union basically banned such research…