Arguement for a Local, Whole Foods Diet

Dr. Jay Wortman is a local low-carbohydrate diet advocate. Last night I watched his documentary My Big Fat Diet. Below is Part 1. Part 2 and 3 can be found here.

These ideas are extremely convincing and when put into practice the results unlike any fad diet can produce in health and fat-loss. Logically, if our ancestors lived in similar environments or more probable, environments with even less available plant starch and sugars, we can run well if not optimally on similar diets. I can imagine woody and fibrous plant parts with resistant starch would be something to munch on when there was not a lot of wild foods available.

There are not a lot of starches and sugars to be found in the ecosystems of the north. The sugar peak would probably be in the late summer and early fall, just in time for winter, and consist of fruit and starches loaded with fibre.

The sugar of our day and age is like rocket fuel, unbridled by the same amounts of fibre, nutrients or water as the natural state of sugar. This processed sugar doesn’t run clean in our bodies and creates all sorts of inflammation. Even fruit smoothies and juice creates an unnatural dose of sugar.

However, I do not think the conclusion should be starches and sugars are bad so cut them out completely, that is, unless particular health considerations dictate otherwise. Here are some arguments in favour of starch.

To summarize:

  • Many traditional diets of those living closer to the equator are high starch:

Kitava in the Pacific Islands, Tukisenta in the Papa New Guinea Highlands and Okinawans in Japan among others. The Kitavan diet is 69% carb, 21% fat, and 10% protein. The Okinawan diet is even more carb-heavy, at 85% carb, 9% protein and 6% fat. The Tukisenta diet is astonishingly high in carbohydrate: 94.6% according to extensive studies in the 60s and 70s. All of these cultures are fit and lean with low and practically non-existent rates of heart disease and other modern chronic disease

  • Humans carry more copies of a gene for the production of enzymes that break down starches than primates.

For further information, see the video for Safe Starches Panel from the Ancestral Health Symposium 2012.

Argument for Whole Food instead of Low-Carb:

I think what is truly valuable, is eating a diet of whole, natural foods. That is, limiting products comes from artificial processes and eating an abundance of fresh foods. Fresh vegetables, fruit and tubers and unprocessed meats, not over-cooked.

Beans, legumes, grains, seeds and nuts are the reproductive organs of plants and have protective toxins. Most of these should be processed through soaking and fermentation, unless you are a bird. And vegetable oils are a lot like processed sugars in the unnatural dosage of omega 6 fatty acids and resulting inflammation.

If you can’t imagine a product growing out in the world or an early forager being able to harvest large quantities of it (grains, beans, seeds) limit or avoid eating it. This actually errs to lower grades of thermodynamics. That means less work and more sustainable.

Some Arguments for Local:

Connecting to the land is the full acknowledgement of what local ecosystems provide. Eating locally is “cheap” and costs less energy than requiring inputs from other land or people. I say “cheap” because the prices we pay do not necessarily integrate real costs, that is, those costs left to future generations, inter-generational, or those no equally carried by all people, intra-generational. So, a cup of subsidized grains may very well be cheaper than the equal calories you would get from grass-fed beef or organic vegetables from a local producer– but what are the hidden costs?

Transportation costs, nutrient losses in transport and unwanted inputs to keep products fresh are not the only reason to support local producers. The relationships people have with those whom grow their food foster genuine social power. If you chose to grow your own food or forage and hunt for wild foods, your knowledge and skills can become personal capital in self-reliance.

Land knowledge should be cultivated by those living on that land. Know your local ecosystem and enjoy all the wild foods it can produce! As a species, we can be optimizers and manipulators of nature and still be sustainable. That is, sustainable for inter- and intra-generations.

Here’s a good starting point: Perfect Health Diet

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