The truth is our healthy relatively disease free hunter gatherer ancestors did not spend time quandering over this very basic question while lost somewhere between the aisle of frozen packaged science projects and that of prepackaged artificial everything at their local grocery store. No, instead they walked twenty-thirty miles a day in search of something to hunt while possibly gathering along the way. The concept, not necessarily the act itself, was as easy as they come... We see something moving up ahead, so we kill it in order to feed ourselves (our bodies) the protein, saturated fat, and fat soluble vitamins we desperately need to survive... end of story!
Yet modern industrialized civilizations have made satisfying this most basic of urges as difficult as deciding which crook to vote into office.
So back to the question at hand, how do we decide whether something should be part of our healthy diet or not?
Unfortunately the healthy more "perfect world" of hunting and gathering does not exist in our modern society. Sure people hunt; deer season, pheasant season, duck season, Wabbit season... ok that last one might be lost on anyone whose cartoon watching years was post 1980s but I digress... very few hunt as their sole source of protein/fat intake, and the only gathering being done is in the grocery store aisles I mentioned above, and we all know where this kind of diet gets us... copay after copay, doctor visit after doctor visit, prescription after prescription with an inevitable disease ending.
So what to eat?
I think we can come to an easy answer by asking these two simple questions before putting whatever it is in our mouths.
- Does the food promote or inhibit inflammation? As we should have learned by now, the root cause of EVERY disease is inflammation of some kind. This goes for the obvious ones like crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic inflammatory disease, all the way to the less obvious ones like autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. So job one in maintaining a healthy diet has to be making sure our bodies are not a fertile breeding ground for inflammation. This means drastically limiting or eliminating anything that promotes inflammation. Easier said than done possibly... our industrialized factory farmed food system promotes an unhealthy lethal ratio of Omega-6:3 of nearly 20:1, where a healthy ratio of Omega-6:3 should be 2:1, 1:1, or anything where we have more Omega-3 in our bodies than 6. So why is this so hard? We live in a world where 90% of the meat available to us is of the grain (corn) and legume (soy) fed verity, and these foods are high in Omega-6 (inflammation). Oh but the "experts" will tell you to eat more fish, but much of the store bought fish is either farmed (fed corn) or depending on the type of fish and the waters it was caught in is so full of mercury and PCB's that they should be avoided on that basis alone. So the question is asked again, what to eat? Simply put, all locally raised organic grass fed and free range meets, eggs, and dairy products have healthy 'inflammation inhibiting' ratios of Omega-6:3, and therefore our diets should consist of only these types of purchased animal food sources. This means avoid all factory farmed animal products. Oh but the "experts" will tell you a healthy diet should consist of plenty whole grains. This would be true if by healthy we meant 'promotes inflammation', but since we know this is not true we should drastically limit or avoid these types of foods (grains and legumes) for the very same reasons the animals we consume should avoid them.
- Does the food promote a healthy gut? The 'gut' or digestive tract is the gateway to our immune system; as a matter of fact just as we can substitute inflammation and disease, I think we can safely substitute and healthy gut and a healthy immune system. In order to maintain a healthy gut (immune system) we need to make sure our diet provides and promotes healthy flora and a balanced ph for the environment for which they thrive. This means our diet should consist of foods high in digestive enzymes, healthy bacteria, and a healthy neutral ph. Avoiding foods that are difficult and in some cases impossible to completely digest (such as grains) will go a long way in promoting a healthy gut. I also believe that we should incorporate more fermented foods in our diets; my wife and I do this by making our own sauerkraut. Fermenting foods eliminates anti-nutrients, increases the levels of nutrients in the food, and adds a healthy dose of healthy bacteria. I'm itching to try fermenting milk but I will hold off until I can find a readily available source of raw grass fed milk; not yet legal in my home state.
So the next time you are deciding what to eat, ask yourself the two questions above.