Nutritional Anthropology

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The science and art of living the way nature intended

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Nutritional Anthropology: 
Eating in harmony with our genetic programming




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1. Genetically Modified Foods (GMF’s)

Most 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.


Large swathes of our food supply have already been genetically modified in the wrong direction. Now, genetic engineering speeds up the process thousands of times.


Genetic Engineering magnifies the distortions from our ideal food supply.


Genetic 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?


Genetic scientists are playing with an immensely powerful tool, the ramifications of which are only partly understood in the best of times.


The 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.


No 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.


For 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.


Governments 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.


Genetic modification of foods is taking us ever further away from our naturally adapted food supply.


The 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.


In 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.


The 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.


To 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 non-GMF products.


2. Bread

The 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 nothing else!


Today 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?


The 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!


Secondly, 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.


The 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 carbohydrate.



But 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 carbohydrates.


Some 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.


What 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.


Why 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?


As 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.


The bread manufacturer needs to have the throughput, predictability and mechanization of the production line.


That 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 sales.


There 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 short while.


This 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.


For these multiple reasons, bread, although it still bears the same name, is simply not the same product known to our forebears in antiquity.


What 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.


Breads 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.


It 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.


3. Caffeine

A 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.


For 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.


From 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.



Quantity -

for one drink

Caffeine mg

Ground coffee

10 g (2 tsp.)


Instant coffee

5 g (1 tsp.)



1 tea-bag


Coca Cola

12 oz can


Cocoa Powder

10 g (2tsp)


There 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.


4. Dietary Supplements (vitamins, minerals and other micro-nutrients)

Many 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.


Worse, 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.


Dietary 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.


The 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 patterns.


The whole thrust of the Natural Eating message is to discourage people from the prevailing idea that they can rectify dietary errors by ‘taking a pill’.


This 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[1] 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.


That 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.


Consequence? Take just one example, the immune system.


Micro-nutrients, 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.


 Our bodies are a battleground between our immune system and a vast array of enemies.


These 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.


At 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 foods.


What 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.


Even 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[2] top-up dosage is discussed at greater length in the Natural Eating Manual.


5. Organic Foods

Let’s 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 depleted.


In 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.


Now 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.


There 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.


We 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.


6. Sweeteners

Human beings have a sweet tooth. This betrays our origins as a frugivore[3]. 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.


The link between sweetness and wholesome food has been lost.


Human 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.


Alexander 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.


Only 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.


It 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?)


As 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.


These 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.


Common 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.


Fructose (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.


Fructose 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.


Is 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.


First, 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 upsets.


So 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.


Also don’t be misled either by ‘high fructose corn syrup[4]’. 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.


What 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.


Finally what about artificial sweeteners?

From 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!


Just 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.


Substitution of an artificial sweetener for sugar is the lesser of two evils.


There 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.


7. Pesticides

Man 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.


When 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.


Plainly, 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.


Does this matter? Many people get worried particularly about the use of pesticides.


Today 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 population density.


People 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.


The 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.


It 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.

The 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.


Consider 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.


What 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.


Cleaning 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[5] is effective. Either way, give the produce a good rinse afterwards.


Remember, 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.


Much 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 bargain.


Worse, 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.


Back 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.


The 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.


8. Salt (Sodium Chloride)

Yes, 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.


But 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.


High 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.


Excess 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.


Finally, 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.


Is 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.


The 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.


None 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 of salt.


Why 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.


“Fear 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.


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!


These 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.


Be 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[6] on the food labels. Avoid gratuitous salt.


Lesson: 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.


Added salt is much more noticeable than salt processed in.


Are 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.


However, in the body their action is rather different. Potassium, which is plentiful in fruits, is an important ‘antidote’ to salt.


The 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.


The message is, reduce salt of all kinds. With that proviso, the use of modest amounts of salt substitute is fine.


9. Nutritional Profile of the Natural Eating Pattern

Right 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 thought.


Think 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.


Nevertheless, 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.


Dozens 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.


It is reassuring, but not surprising, to know that eating naturally provides all the nutrients recommended by conventional calculations.


Natural Eating provides all the nutrients recommended by conventional norms


In this connection it is pertinent to explore certain features of ‘conventional’ calculations and to point up their limitations:


·   Recommended Daily 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.


Eating naturally is the only sure way of getting the full complement of nutrients that the body needs.


Finally, 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 consequences. Studies[7] have shown that young men become more violent if they have unbalanced copper/zinc ratios. Yet one more example of the law of unintended consequences.


The 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.


But you do not have to wait on their ponderous deliberations. Just eat naturally and the quantities will just work out fine.


10. Lifespan in Historical Times

There 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.


What 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.


After 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.


Babies 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.


To get another bearing on the question, we can look at what the ancient peoples themselves thought of their life expectancy.


First, 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.


In 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 age!.


Around 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[8].”


In 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.


Or 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.


Look 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.


This 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 the period.


Ancient Greeks carried youth into old age.


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.


[1] 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 cultivation.

[2] RDA. Recommended Daily Amount.

[3] Fruit eating creature. Also known as ‘fructivore’.

[4] 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 syrup’.

[5] Yes – washing up liquid is a food grade soap. We are eating it all the time in the traces left on our plates.

[6] ‘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.

[7] Walsh et al; Copper and Zinc Levels Influence Behavior; Physiology & Behavior; 1997; 1(8)


[8] King James version.


Chapter 6

Chapter 8

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