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Nutritional Anthropology's Bible:
Genetically Modified Foods (GMF’s)
of what we eat is already genetically modified, by hundreds, sometimes
thousands, of years of hybridization and cross breeding, and it has
rarely been an improvement from a nutritional point of view. For
example, farm animal meat is worse than the meat of the wild creatures
from which they are descended and high glycemic carrots would be
unrecognizable to a Roman, who only ate the carrot-tops anyway.
swathes of our food supply have already been genetically modified in the
wrong direction. Now, genetic engineering speeds up the process
thousands of times.
engineering also introduces genes from species that have nothing to do
with each other, like fish genes going into tomatoes. Furthermore,
anyone who works with genes knows that they are multipurpose. For
example, in humans the gene for fair hair also controls for introverted
personality. What could be a more unexpected side effect?
scientists are playing with an immensely powerful tool, the
ramifications of which are only partly understood in the best of times.
worrying aspect is this. Genetic modification is driven by
agro-industry. Their motives are driven by money. They want to create
products that have an advantage over their rivals. Their products have
to be patentable so that they can be sure to get the development costs
back and make a decent profit.
agro-industrialist is interested in organic foods. There is nothing to
patent and even less to sell! Genetically Modified Foods are all to do
with convenience of production (like extended shelf life, or herbicide
resistance) and nothing to do with nutrient value.
example, when they genetically modify a potato to be pest resistant what
do they do? They give it genes that cause it to make insecticides! This
is so the farmer can save on pesticides, and even claim that he has used
a lot less in the cultivation. For all we know, consumer could be eating
more pesticides than if they had been sprayed on.
and the industry hasten to reassure the public that GMF’s are safe.
But that is not the point! Volcanic ash might be safe to eat, but is it
food? Of course not, and that is why GMF should be opposed. Already our
current food supply is too far removed from our naturally adapted
profile. Genetic modification is taking it even further away.
question is a very fundamental one. The Natural Eater should have
nothing to do with genetically engineered products. We are organic
creatures that have grown up in harmony with a particular pattern of
naturally occurring vegetation and fauna. We are certainly not robots
designed to run on the artificial creations of the bio-tech lab.
the meantime, how do you know if you are consuming Genetically Modified
Food? The scandal is that mostly you can’t find out. The current FDA
policy states that there is no need for special labeling.
European Union (EU) is introducing a system of labeling for genetically
engineered products. Meanwhile unmarked American GMF’s, like soy bean
products, tomato paste and corn (maize) products have been slipping in
unremarked into the EU market.
their credit, the Europeans, and particularly the British have been
scandalized by this infiltration of their food supply by the
“Frankenstein creations” of Agro-Industry. Encouragingly, the outcry
has been so great that major supermarkets and fast food chains are
hastening to declare themselves GMF-free zones. Their purchasing
departments scour the world to locate non-GMF suppliers. The pressure is
so great that many large suppliers in the United States are scrambling
to retrieve lost markets by paying a premium to farmers for guaranteed
decline in the quality of bread since the invention of the steel roller
mill in the 1870’s, and more particularly since World War II, is one
of the saddest episodes in mass nutrition. Bread should be made from
fresh, rough-ground whole wheat (or rye) flour, yeast and
the supermarket shelves groan with a vast variety of breads. Almost
without exception they are bad for your health. Until things improve,
you can safely ignore these shelves. What is wrong with this bread?
first problem came with the spread of the steel roller mill at the end
of the last century. Grains milled with these machines are turned into a
much finer flour with the texture of talcum powder. What is the
advantage of that? For the manufacturer it leads to a fluffier and more
predictable baking bread. Unfortunately, the process also breaks open
the starch granules. This gives the bread a much higher
glycemic index. Result? Modern bread, although cheaper and fluffier
than ever before, is a Trojan horse silently undermining your health.
Remember the “hyperinsulinemia iceberg” in Chapter Five? Every time
you eat bread today remember the Titanic!
most of the goodness in bread is in the bran and wheat-germ. The trouble
for bread manufacturers is that these nutrients make bread unpredictable
and variable in quality. So they take them out and throw them away!
Nowadays, governments have realized that this impoverishes the food
supply of the people, so they ordain that certain minerals and vitamins
be added to the white flour.
problem is that there are thousands of different complex molecules in
the discarded material. Not only is the government unable to specify
more than a tiny fraction, these compounds need to be present together for them to be effective nutritionally. Just with this
action alone the bread has been transformed from the staff of life, an
important food since biblical times, into an empty, and bad
the sorry story does not end there. When you read the small print you
will see that there are all sorts of other additives. Some are there to
make the bread tasty. So you find that sweeteners have been added like
corn syrup, malto-dextrin, even honey. And these are all bad
additives are there as ‘improvers’. What they do is improve shelf
life. How do you improve shelf life? You stop bugs, bacteria and
funguses from breeding in the bread. So bread often contains
preservatives to kill bugs, bacteria and funguses.
about whole-wheat bread? Surely that is all right? Almost certainly not.
When you read the fine print you will very often see that in addition to
the wholemeal flour, there is still the familiar “enriched” wheat
flour. That is, the denatured white flour discussed above. And of course
there are still the bad
carbohydrates, fungicides and pesticides.
do the manufacturers go to all this trouble? Surely it would be easier
simply to take the whole grain, grind it up, throw in some yeast and
bake it like generations of our forefathers?
a matter of fact, no! True whole-wheat bread is actually quite hard to
make. It requires several hours for the dough to rise. The results are
variable. The baking process also gives unpredictable results. It needs
constant human attention to steer the process to a successful
conclusion. None of these characteristics endears itself to a
manufacturer who needs to have the throughput, predictability and
mechanization of the production line.
is why the nature of bread has changed so dramatically since World War
II. Year by year the manufacturers have been tuning their process,
denaturing and adulterating the ingredients, to give higher and higher
productivity, less and less waste, more competitive pricing and tastier
is another factor: until recent times people ground their own flour
immediately before baking the bread and consuming it. Part of the
equipment of the Roman legionary was a hand mill. Why was this
necessary? If you grind wheat into flour it only keeps for a day or two.
The released oils that are essential fatty acids and they go rancid in a
is a very inconvenient property of fresh flour. So today, millers take
great care to treat the flour so as to eliminate or de-activate these
fragile fatty acids. Result? Yet more nutrients are lost.
these multiple reasons, bread, although it still bears the same name, is
simply not the same product known to our forebears in antiquity.
is to be done? As a Natural Eater you will be using bread frugally
anyway. And when you do use it, go for the truly whole-grain bread, made
only from stone ground whole-grains, yeast, and maybe a pinch of salt.
If possible it will be ‘whole kernel’, with a high percentage (up to
50%) of the bulk being literally whole grains. not ground into flour.
like this can still be found in supermarkets, often at the delicatessen
counter. More often it is to be found in Health Food stores (but still
read the small print), speciality bakers and outlets which carry
imported German ‘whole kernel rye bread’. Be prepared to find that
this kind of bread is much heavier and chewy.
is a salutary lesson that food adulteration has a long and dishonorable
history. We can be sure that, from the first days that food was
processed 10,000 years ago, there would be someone else who found profit
in padding it out with cheap substitutes. Governments of all complexions
have passed laws to protect the consumer as much as possible. For
example the Germans still have a 16th Century food law controlling the
ingredients for ‘vollkorn brot’, basic whole rye or wheat bread. It
contains whole flour, yeast, salt and that’s it.
lot of confusion surrounds the use of caffeine. It is present in modest
quantities in most of vegetation. Human biochemistry copes perfectly
with these low doses of caffeine It is only in certain plants that the
concentrations reach mind-altering proportions.
that reason, caffeine has been investigated for many years. In
relatively small quantities (100 mg/day) it can give increased mental
performance and improve mood. At this dosage, the drawbacks to caffeine
use are minimal. Increasing the dosage doesn’t bring increased benefit
and some unpleasant symptoms start to appear. Caffeine doesn’t display
the phenomenon of tolerance, so ever-increasing doses are not required
to achieve the same effect. On the other hand, some people suffer
unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it.
the Natural Eating point of view, caffeine does display one drawback in
some people, the raising of insulin levels. For this reason its
consumption should be restricted.
is frequently a lot of confusion about the quantity of caffeine in
various commonly consumed drinks. This table helps to get the position
into perspective. It can be seen that ground coffee is heavily
caffeinated, instant coffee, tea and the colas moderately so, and cocoa
only very lightly.
Dietary Supplements (vitamins, minerals and other micro-nutrients)
people think that it is a good idea to take supplements, particularly if
they have a medical condition. But this is a very narrow way of looking
at nutrition. As explained in Chapter Eight, there are literally
thousands of compounds that are important to the harmonious functioning
of the body, and they all need to be working together. It is totally
unrealistic to think that we can compensate for dietary errors by
cherry-picking this or that supplement.
as you will have seen in Chapter Four, dosing up on one compound can
have all kinds of unforeseen and detrimental ramifications. For example,
taking calcium is quite useless in isolation. Your body has its own
ideas about whether or not it wants to absorb the calcium from the gut,
and further ideas about where to put the calcium if it is absorbed.
errors can cause your body to lay calcium down in places where it causes
mischief. It crystallizes out in the kidneys as kidney stones, it clogs
up the arteries as plaque and it precipitates out as painful spurs in
the joints. All this because your hormones are giving the wrong
instructions. Hormones do that all the time when they are upset by
incorrect dietary practices, like eating too much protein, bad
carbohydrate, or bad fat.
Moral? You can’t micro-manage – or double-guess – the complex
chemical reactions going on in the body.
central tenet of the Natural Eating concept is that all the nutrients
that humans need can be, and should be, found in the foods that they
eat, provided that they eat the right kinds of foods in the right
is the ideal. However there is a small difficulty. In today’s world we
are all obliged to eat foods that are produced by agro-industrial
methods. Plants don’t always need exactly the same minerals in their
feed as humans do. A hydroponically
grown lettuce, for example will be perfectly healthy. It has been grown
using nutrients that are essential to lettuces.
No-one takes responsibility for ensuring that the lettuce is also
being fed with the nutrients necessary for humans.
is an extreme case. But ordinary soils too can be deficient, either by
intensive farming or just because they are made that way. With the
current state of farming and legislation, the consumer is not told
whether the plant food he is eating has its full complement of
micro-nutrients. Does it matter? For the average Westerner, that is not
the first priority. Because he has such a low consumption of plant food
in general, he is terribly deficient in a vast range of micro-nutrients.
Indeed, it is quipped that our populations suffer from ‘affluenza’,
malnutrition in the midst of plenty.
Take just one example, the immune system.
although needed in minute quantities, form an indispensable link in a
chain of chemical reactions supporting the immune system. And our immune
systems are vitally important in keeping us alive. Our bodies are a
daily battleground between our immune system and a vast array of enemies
that want to overrun it.
enemies are bacteria, viruses and other external parasites. More
insidiously, there also is an enemy within. We know that cells are going
cancerous in their thousands every minute, and that rogue cells and
toxic products are being created the whole time from sunlight, from what
we eat, even from parasitical genes in our DNA. Our immune system never
sleeps and is ever vigilant. It tirelessly patrols our bodies seeking
out and destroying enemy agents.
least, ideally it is. The trouble with the way we eat today is that the
foot patrols are sluggish from malnourishment. To be alert and vigorous,
they need feeding with a liberal supply of micronutrients and
antioxidants. Yes, you know the answer… The micronutrient-dense plant
about the Natural Eater who is already consuming colored plant material
in large quantities? What is the likelihood that he is suffering any
deficiencies? The answer is, “unlikely.” With the remarkable modern
network of food supply and distribution, we are receiving fruits, salads
and vegetables cultivated on a huge variety of agricultural territories
all around the world. Vary the food types and vary their origins and you
will surely avoid any particular deficiency.
so, many people like the reassurance of understanding the
micro-nutrients most at risk of deficiency. Even the best eating pattern
in today’s world can only be as good as the products that are made
available. It is legitimate, where all else fails, and however imperfect
that might be, to make good possible shortfalls with supplements. , The
list of at-risk micronutrients is very short . The nature of these
vitamins and minerals and their sub-RDA
top-up dosage is discussed at greater length in the Natural Eating
say straight up front that the organic food movement is a worthy one and
deserves every support and encouragement. It is certainly in the health
interests of all consumers to roll back the excesses of agro-industrial
production methods. The wanton use of pesticides and chemicals of all
kinds serves only one purpose: the production of quantity
without regard to nutritional quality, pollution or long term population
health. The violence that is done to the environment is very worrying,
and in the long run unsustainable. Beautiful landscape is reduced to a
moonscape in the interests of mechanical efficiency. Agro-industry is in
a never-ending arms race with insects that become resistant, a plant
gene pool that is ever more effete and soils that are exhausted and
a time when farmers are now being paid to
not grow crops, a major change in direction is possible. We now have
the luxury of being able to backtrack. To trade off lower yields for a
gentler farming regime. We can use all the arts of organic farming to
get a reasonable return out of a farming process that works in harmony
with the environment and still feed us all. For this to happen,
consumers will have to change too. In particular, be prepared to pay a
little more. Buy organic and
eschew the technicolor perfection of supermarket produce.
to answer the question! What are the priorities? Is eating organic the
main priority when seeking good nutrition? Not necessarily! Just think,
does a smoker worry if his tobacco is organic.
Of course not. The main problem is the tobacco itself.
are many foods that are just as dangerous whether or not they are
organic. Thus organic sugar, organic bread, organic butter, and organic
pork are all just as bad as the regular sort.
have to look beyond the simple label ‘organic’ to find a deeper
truth. One of the greatest dietary errors in the West is the low
consumption of plant food. The adverse health consequences are grave and
measurable. The adverse health consequences of eating agro-industrial
foods are much smaller. Therefore, the highest priority is to eat more
plant food from whatever source. Eating ‘organic’ is good, but a
second order of priority.
beings have a sweet tooth. This betrays our origins as a frugivore.
We still retain the programming to seek out our ancient naturally
adapted food, fruits. Yet this is a double edged sword (or a blunt
instrument). Our instincts are undiscriminating. Sweetness per se is all
we seek. The genius of food technology today has removed the link
between sweetness and wholesome food.
ingenuity has developed sources of sweetness that have absolutely no
place in our genetic programming. Most notably this is from sugar cane
and sugar beet. Sugar cane originated in Southeast Asia and was known to
the Indian civilization several thousand years ago. At that time the
cane was chewed whole.
the Great, in his conquest of the Ganges area during the 3rd
Century BC, reported the existence of a “stiff grass yielding a kind
of honey.” This was the first contact of Western civilizations with
primitive sugar cane. Even so, it was not until the long voyages of
European exploration that crude sugar refining was invented and sugar
itself became a trading commodity.
the aristocracy could afford it. Famously, Elizabeth I received presents
of loaf sugar from the king of Morocco. Famously too, Elizabeth suffered
excruciatingly from a mouthful of rotten teeth.
was not until the development of sugar plantations in tropical America
during the 18th Century that sugar became commonly available.
(Remember the graph of sugar consumption in Chapter Four?)
for beet sugar, this is an even more recent development. Germany was cut
off from the lucrative sugar trade dominated by Spanish, Portuguese and
British interests. Their scientists devised methods of extracting sugar
from beets. They succeeded very well, and today over half the world’s
sugar production comes from sugar beet.
are very recent developments, really just in the last two centuries. And
there is a problem. This type of sugar ‘common sugar’ is known as
sucrose. As explained in
Chapter Four, not only are we consuming large quantities of this sugar,
our body bio-chemistry is ill adapted to it. It is making us sick.
sugar is a disaccharide, which
means that its molecule has two components. In sucrose one molecule is
glucose and the other is fructose. Glucose is the harmful one. It gets
digested directly into the bloodstream very fast, causing those
dangerous insulin peaks.
(the sweet tasting element in most fruit) has to go to the liver first
to be converted to glucose. As a result, it enters the bloodstream
slowly and at a controlled rate. Insulin is secreted in normal
quantities. Fructose is the harmless one, it is the sugar to which we
are naturally adapted.
taken alone has a low glycemic index (G.I.) of 20. Sugar, having a 50%
glucose component, has a dangerously high G.I. of 65. Most fruits
therefore have a low G.I. But be wary. Check the schedules in Appendix
1. We do not eat a single fruit today that would be recognized by our
African Pleistocene ancestors. All the fruits that we eat today have
been cultivated and developed from primitive stocks from almost
everywhere in the world except the East African savannah. Furthermore,
many fruits, such as the melon and the grape have been bred down the
millennia to increase their sweetness. No one was paying attention at
the time as to whether this sweetness came from sucrose or fructose.
fructose a free-lunch? Not entirely. Even the large daily ration of 2
pounds. of fruit does not contain more than a couple of tablespoons of
fructose, whereas the average daily consumption of sugar in the US is
1/2 pound. If we were to make a simple substitution of fructose for
sugar in the average Western diet there would be other drawbacks.
fructose is still empty calories, fattening and no nutrients. Secondly,
high fructose levels raise triglycerides and cholesterol levels.
Finally, fructose in abnormal quantities can cause gastro-intestinal
is there a place for fructose in the Natural Eating Pattern? Yes, it can
still serve as a sweetener in the occasional dessert, such as the
chocolate gateau Gratin au fraises recipe given in Chapter Twelve.
Otherwise go very easy on it.
don’t be misled either by ‘high fructose corn syrup’.
It is still at least 50% glucose and has just the same bad G.I. as sugar
itself. As for the other sugar aliases, malto-dextrin, dextrose, malt,
maltose and indeed glucose itself, they are all bad sugars.
about other ‘natural’ sweeteners like honey and maple syrup? After
all honey holds a venerable position in civilized cuisine down the
centuries. It is true that the art of bee-keeping was developed during
classical times, but the amounts of honey available were always modest
and were restricted to the upper classes. Regrettably, honey and maple
syrup are mostly sucrose too, and are just as bad for health. Honey is
fine for bees’ bio-chemistry, not so good for human’s.
what about artificial sweeteners?
a purist point of view, Aspartame, saccharine and the like, never formed
part of the Pleistocene diet. Nevertheless, they have been exhaustively
tested. If sugar had been obliged to pass the same regulations as
artificial sweeteners, it would have been banned as a dangerous
substance. Recent studies suggest that up to 150,000 premature deaths a
year in America can be attributed to the consumption of sugar!
imagine the outcry if just one
death could be attributed to the use of an artificial sweetener. In
a world where we sometimes have to choose the lesser of two evils then,
as a first step, substituting Aspartame (say) for sugar, is very
definitely a move in the right direction.
is another class of bulk artificial sweeteners, the ‘sugar alcohols’
such as sorbitol, maltitol and the like. They have very low glycemic
indexes, but like fructose, should not be abused either. They are less
sweet and have a very pronounced laxative effect. The authorities still
haven’t got consensus on their safe and appropriate utilization.
is a species that is designed to live on the fringes of the tropical
rain forests. For a thousands of generations our ancestors browsed for
their food. That is, they lived off the land eating what was available
in the environment around them.
you live like this, a large territory is required to be sure of always
having enough to eat, some 8 sq. miles per person. Today, even an empty
country like the United States has a density of
80 people per square mile. Western Europe is even more densely
populated, with over 300 people per square mile.
we are well beyond the point of no return. There is no going back to our
Pleistocene foraging patterns. The hard truth is that we can only feed
our populations by farming methods. And as the populations increase, so
farming methods get more intensive.
this matter? Many people get worried particularly about the use of
our food chain relies heavily on the use of agro-chemicals. That is the
penalty of having a population that far exceeds our naturally adapted
often ask “Won’t I be eating a lot of pesticides by consuming more
fruit and vegetables?” The reality is that pesticides get into
everything we eat – a bread, cereals, meat, fish, milk and, yes,
fruits and vegetables.
good news is that the body has ways of eliminating most of these
pollutants, on condition that the organs of elimination – chiefly, the
liver, kidneys and intestine are not overloaded by poor eating habits.
may come as a surprise to know that pesticides are naturally present in
all vegetation. Many insects enjoy eating plants, and the plants on the
whole don’t like it. Over the eons during which plants and insects
have coexisted, plants have developed a battery of insect poisons, or
‘pesticides’. Many modern pesticides are developed from these
natural plant pesticides.
good news is that the human body is well adapted to coping with many
plant pesticides. Human beings have evolved over long periods of time as
plant eaters to the point where our body chemistry has got very good at
dealing with pesticides.
too, that foodstuffs are regularly tested by the regulatory authorities
for pesticides. In the large majority of cases no measurable quantity is
detected. In a minority of samples there are measurable quantities but,
in view of the wide safety factors built into the benchmarks, still
within the safe limits.
can the ordinary consumer do to limit his exposure? Note that the
alleged ill effects of consuming pesticides in food are still largely
speculative. On the other hand, the ill effects of eating foods polluted
by bacteria are proven, and cases of food poisoning occur all the time.
up bacteria is a much more important priority than going after
pesticides. How do you do that? By washing the produce in soapy water.
There are proprietary fruit and vegetable ‘surfactants’ sold in good
supermarkets and health food stores. Even ordinary washing-up liquid
is effective. Either way, give the produce a good rinse afterwards.
only 1% of the fruit or vegetables are likely to have any trace of
pesticide anyway. What you will be washing off is bacteria and the wax
coating that is put on to preserve freshness.
more problematic is meat. You shouldn’t be eating much of it, but if
you do, cut off the visible fat. That can reduce the pesticide content
by up to two thirds, and it does your fat-intake profile some good into the
is the latent contamination from bacteria like E-coli and salmonella.
These can’t be washed off. Thorough cooking is the answer. If you are
eating cold meats like ham and meat pâté, then you are really
vulnerable. First take care not to cross contaminate from raw meat, and
secondly, cross your fingers that the food manufacture had high
standards of cleanliness.
to pesticides. Think of this, if your cat has a flea collar, or you use
insecticide sprays in the home, then you are probably exposed to more
pesticide than you are ever likely to get in your diet. It is too easy
to get anxious about insecticide in the food supply whilst remaining
quite insouciant about zapping that bluebottle with an aerosol.
bottom line? We are designed as plant eating creatures. You will
certainly do yourself a big favor by eating naturally. Consume large
quantities of fruits, vegetables and salads. Get that right and the body
will take care of the rest.
Salt (Sodium Chloride)
we all eat it to excess, and it matters. Don’t allow your critical
faculties to be dulled by the conflicting messages over the salt/blood
pressure connection. Does high salt consumption increase blood pressure?
It all depends who you listen to. Some people are salt sensitive, and
their blood pressure shows a clear increase with increased salt
consumption. Others do not show this relationship.
this is not the point. As described in Chapter Three, our naturally
adapted diet was low in salt and particularly the salt/potassium ratio
was low. Today, that situation is reversed and the health consequences
are multiple. Blood pressure is only one factor that can be affected.
sodium levels affect calcium metabolism. Over-consumption of salt drains
calcium out of the bones. This is just one more example of how today’s
dietary practices are greasing the slippery slope towards osteoporosis.
salt scars arteries. We tend to think of our arteries as being a bit
like inert plastic piping. In reality they are living tissue, they react
to what is passing through them. High salt levels irritate and scar the
arteries – one more factor in the development of atherosclerosis.
the body is constantly having to battle the imbalance in the
salt/potassium ratio. The kidneys are put under stress and in the worst
outcome they fail altogether.
there any relief from this scenario? Yes there is, the high consumption
of fruits can mitigate markedly these effects. You don’t have to drive
salt out of your life altogether. A vast improvement can be achieved by
reducing salt somewhat and increasing plant food greatly.
biggest enemy is salt in processed food. It was brought home to me
forcefully when, many years ago, I was involved with a salt project in
the Hauts Plateaux of North Africa. The factory was to extract salt from
a deep underground stratum by injecting steam down one borehole and
recovering brine from an adjacent bore-hole. 30,000 tons per year were
planned to be extracted. This seemed to me an enormous quantity and I
assumed the salt would be used as feedstock for the manufacture of some
other bulk chemical.
of it! Imagine my astonishment when I was told that all this salt,
30,000 tons per year, were to be shipped to a pea canning factory. It
was a powerful lesson. Almost every processed product has a strong dose
do manufacturers use all this salt? Regrettably the consumer is partly
to blame, he likes the taste. There is a more sinister reason too. It is
well known that salted nibbles are supplied in bars they make the
customers thirsty so that they drink more. What is happening? Your
kidneys have to get rid of this excess salt, so they draw fluid out of
the body to do it.
Greeks bearing gifts”. The free nibble is the bar owner’s invitation
to disrupt your salt/potassium ratio and put your body under dehydration
stress. This lesson has not been lost on the soft drink manufacturers
either. Almost every soft drink contains its gratuitous quota of salt. A
can of Sprite has over 50 mg of salt.
has other tasty properties too. For example it helps processed foods
retain water. Salt is used for bulking.
Ham manufacturers save on pork by injecting it with water – up to 20%
of the weight. The trouble is this water has an irritating tendency to
leak out. By injecting the ham with salt the water stays in place.
Imagine the satisfaction of the manufacturers. They succeed in selling
you a product that is 20% injected water and you don’t even mind
because it has nice salty taste too!
are just some examples of how salt is used in processed foods.
Everything to do with profitable sales and nothing to do with the
nutritional health of the consumer.
savvy when looking for the salt taste. How many of you enjoy the salty
taste of cornflakes? Most people don’t realize that cornflakes have
more salt than sea-water! Or that salted peanuts have less salt than
cornflakes. The salt in cornflakes and many other processed products is
gratuitous. You can’t taste it but, unnoticed, it is adding
significantly to your salt imbalances. Look out for the sodium
on the food labels. Avoid
salt added to the outside of the food is much more noticeable than if it
is processed into the food. Get the most taste for the least salt, add
the salt (if you have to) onto the food just before you eat it.
salt substitutes any better than salt itself? Most salt substitutes are
based on potassium chloride. (Salt is sodium chloride.) Potassium and
sodium are very similar metals and their salts have similar properties,
and that includes taste.
in the body their action is rather different. Potassium, which is
plentiful in fruits, is an important ‘antidote’ to salt.
short answer is that a salt substitute has the potential to be an
improvement on table salt. However, there is a catch. If potassium is
consumed in the same vast quantities that people absorb table salt, then
there are big draw-backs. Potassium chloride in mega-doses also damages
kidneys and other organs.
message is, reduce salt of all kinds. With that proviso, the use of
modest amounts of salt substitute is fine.
Nutritional Profile of the Natural Eating Pattern
up till now, we have mentioned little about how the nutritional content
of the Natural Eating Pattern measures against conventional orthodox
wisdom. This is deliberate. Our Pleistocene ancestors managed very well
for over a million years and they didn’t give the question a single
of it, every one of us alive today is descended from succeeding
generations of fathers and mothers in an unbroken chain, who
successfully conceived, raised and brought to puberty at least one
offspring. Not one of them failed! Every one of our ancestors back into
the dawn of time, was healthy and strong enough to do that. And they
never counted calcium, calories or cholesterol.
we do live in an age when we are aware of such things, so it is
unrealistic to think that this question should not be addressed.
of typical days have been analyzed for nutritional content as part of
the Natural Eating Pattern. These analyses estimated the daily content
of the usual macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrate etc…) and
the daily content of a broad range of micronutrients and other active
microcompounds. The results are uniformly remarkable. On all measures,
the diet furnishes supremely healthy amounts of good nutrients.
Moreover, these come in the right combinations and proportions. Harmful
constituents are attenuated to healthy levels.
is reassuring, but not surprising, to know that eating naturally provides all the
nutrients recommended by conventional calculations.
this connection it is pertinent to explore certain features of
‘conventional’ calculations and to point up their limitations:
Allowances (RDA’s) for many nutrients have been established by most
national authorities. In the United States they are now known as
Recommended Nutritional Intakes (R.N.I.). They have their limitations, for example:
The RDA for
Vitamin C is 60 mg/day. This is the minimum to stop you getting scurvy. For optimum health you probably need at
least 5 times as much, or 300 mg.
Calcium is set
too high, simply because of our other dietary errors, such as overeating
protein. However, thinking that just boosting calcium intake will fix
the problem is just a delusion. When the body is acting like a leaky
sieve, no amount of calcium intake will compensate for a
dysfunctional calcium metabolism.
RDA’s are set
as ‘one size fits all’. That is, the quantity that will cover every
citizen (in the U.S. 97% of all citizens), whether male or female,
whatever weight or size, whatever age and whatever their genetic
inheritance or real need. A figure is then decided for the most extreme
case and then this figure is multiplied by a safety factor. For the
average person, the RDA can be as much as three times what they really
need. This is completely at odds with the idea that micronutrients
interact with each other in quite unpredictable ways. With some notable
exceptions like vitamin C and calcium above, they can be way off because
we don’t understand, let alone control, all the ramifications of a
complete nutrient intake.
RDA’s have not
been established for many micro-nutrients such as selenium, boron and
vanadium, to say nothing of the tens of thousands of phytochemicals such
as bioflavonoids, terpenes, phenols and carotenoids (see Chapter Eight).
The only way to be sure of getting these micronutrients in the right
proportions and combinations is to eat the natural
foodstuff in which they are packaged.
the regulatory authorities are slowly coming to the view that it is
possible to have too much of a good thing. Remember again those
‘networks’ in Chapter Four? Too much copper can deplete zinc for
example? Even this seemingly trivial question can have serious
have shown that young men become more violent if they have unbalanced
copper/zinc ratios. Yet one more example of the law of unintended
authorities have become conscious of this danger, that more of a good
thing does not necessarily mean better. Bodies like the Institute of
Medicine (IOM), have a committee wrestling with setting safe maximum
intakes for key nutrients.
you do not have to wait on their ponderous deliberations. Just eat
naturally and the quantities will just work out fine.
Lifespan in Historical Times
is a prevalent illusion that we live longer and better than people in
historical times. This is perhaps driven by our images of life in the
fetid cities so graphically described by Charles Dickens and Victor
Hugo. Sure, in those days, and in those places, life was indeed “mean,
nasty, brutish and short” for many people. But that is hardly a
standard by which we should judge our prosperous and pampered lives
today. The reality is that rural Americans have much the same life
expectancy at 15 as did their great grandparents 150 years ago.
about the prosperous and pampered societies further back in time? It is
a central thesis of this book that neither the lifestyle of ancient
agricultural civilizations nor those of Medieval and Victorian Europe
are a good model for us today. Nevertheless, it helps to cast the
spotlight on a number of issues.
the farming revolution 10,000 years ago, for the first time in the
history of the human race, people were living in close proximity with
each other and they were dependent on farming. For the first time, human
populations were exposed to the hazards of crop failure, new diseases
– particularly new diseases – and disastrous floods and plagues.
were born at more frequent intervals, but more babies died in infancy.
This drags down the averages. After a natural disaster whole populations
would be wiped out. The technology of warfare became ever more
murderous. But how are we to put on a statistically sound basis a true
estimate of longevity? The answer is that we cannot.
get another bearing on the question, we can look at what the ancient
peoples themselves thought of their life expectancy.
a quick look at the writings of the ancient Greek, Homer. Based on
Homer’s directions in the Iliad, the archeologist Schlieman discovered
the site of Homer’s 3,000 year old Troy in 1870. It was a dramatic
vindication of the historical basis of Homer’s stories about Odysseus.
Homer relates how Odysseus’ wife Penelope remained faithful even
though he was absent for twenty years. The remarkable, but little
commented feature is that Penelope was besieged by ardent suitors for
the twenty years of Odysseus’ absence. Some of the suitors were the
same age as her son Telemachus.
other words, in ancient Greece, 3,000 years ago, a 40-plus woman was
such a marriageable attraction that she was pursued by men half her
about the same time, three thousand years ago, the writer of Psalm 90
was saying “the days of our years are three score years and ten; and
if by reason of strength they be four score years, yet is their strength
labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off and we fly away.”
other words, 3,000 years ago, in the biblical late Bronze Age, it was
thought normal to live to at least 70 years old, and with a bit of good
health to 80.
we can look at the words of Aristotle living in ancient Greece over
2,300 years ago. He recommended that men wait until they are 35 years
old before even getting married. The Greeks in general thought that a
man reached his peak at the age of 40. These are hardly the strategies
of people expecting a short life or a decrepit old age.
again at some of Alexander the Great’s generals. Antigonus
Monophthalmos was a battling veteran who, encouraging his troops from
his war-horse, finally succumbed to a hail of javelins at the Battle of
Ipsus. He was 81 years old. His opponent, Lysimichos was later killed at
the Battle of Coropedium at the age of 79. His ally Selfcos Nicator
survived all battles only to be assassinated at the age of 78.
is the other side of the coin, old men with a youth’s vigor. Old men
who could lead their troops into battle, wielding the heavy armament of
course, this is all just circumstantial evidence. Yet it is surely no
coincidence that the ancient Greek diet is still represented, 23
centuries later, by the much studied, and healthful, Cretan diet
discussed in Chapter Three.
Many plants, like tomatoes and lettuces are grown intensively
without any soil at all. Their roots just hang in water laced with
the necessary nutrients for that plant. This is known as hydroponic
RDA. Recommended Daily Amount.
Fruit eating creature. Also known as ‘fructivore’.
High fructose corn syrup is a very common ingredient in processed
foods, soft drinks etc. as can be readily seen on the ingredient
lists. Just read ‘sugar’ when you see ‘high fructose corn
Yes – washing up liquid is a food grade soap. We are eating it all
the time in the traces left on our plates.
‘Sodium’ includes both salt (sodium chloride) and other, rarer,
sodium salts such as sodium bicarbonate. The use of the term sodium
is a food processors’ ploy to make the salt content seem less than
it really is. You must multiply the sodium figure by 3 to get the
true weight of salt.
Walsh et al; Copper and Zinc Levels Influence Behavior; Physiology
& Behavior; 1997; 1(8)
King James version.