What They Ate, What We Eat

“I eat very healthy.” “My doctor tells me I can get all the vitamins and minerals I need from food.”

I often hear one or both of these statements from my clients.

Here’s my response: It is great that you eat healthy because that is the foundation to build upon. However, it is very unlikely that you can get everything you need from your food. There are two main reasons for this. First, most people have not eaten “very healthy” most of their lives. Therefore they are likely to have nutritional deficiencies. Second, and most important – what we eat today is very different from what our ancestors ate, and by ancestors I mean our grandparents and great-grandparents (think the 1920s). In the rest of this article we will explore some of the key differences between “traditional diets” and “modern diets.”

To get right to the point according to Sally Fallon Morrell, President of the Weston Price Foundation, “traditional diets maximized nutrients while modern diets minimize nutrients!” Here’s why:

Traditional diets foods came from fertile soil. Modern diets foods come from depleted soil. Numerous studies support the reduction of vitamin content of food since the 1930’s. Modern mass farming techniques do not replenish nutrients into the soil.

Traditional diets favored organ meats over muscle meats. Modern diets are almost entirely muscle meats with very few organ meats. Organ meats are loaded with specific nutrients that are essential to that specific organ’s function. For example, liver is loaded with B vitamins and Vitamins A and D. Muscle meat is mostly protein. True protein is important, but so are other nutrients.

Traditional diets emphasized animal fats. Modern diets stress vegetable oils. Animal fats are high in fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and do not oxidize when cooked. Vegetable oils are highly processed such as corn oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, or canola oil. These oils are inflammatory to the body. Of course even worse are the trans-fats in margarine.

Traditional diets had animals that were raised in pastures. Modern diets have animals raised in confinement. Animals raised in pastures are generally healthier and eat the foods they were designed to eat. Cows eat grass and their fat becomes Omega 3. When cows eat grains and corn they produce inflammatory Omega 6 fats. Chickens are not vegetarians! Animals raised in confinement are fed hormones to grow faster and given antibiotics to control bacterial infections. We are what we eat eats and these substances are being found in samples of our blood!

Traditional diets had dairy products that were raw or fermented. Modern diets have pasteurized dairy products. Raw or fermented dairy products contain their natural vitamins and healthy bacteria. Pasteurization kills the nutrients or makes them bio-unavailable while homogenizing makes the fats unusable to the body as well.

Traditional diets had grains and legumes that were soaked and/or fermented. Modern diets have refined and extruded grains. Soaked and fermented grains and legumes are easily digestible. Refined grains have the protein and fat removed so we are just left with the starch. Diets high in refined grains keep blood sugar levels high resulting in inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Extruded grains are damaged by the heating process, so even whole grain cereals are not healthy as the fats have been damaged during the processing.

Traditional diets had unrefined sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup. Modern diets have refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. Refined sugars are linked to all modern diseases and artificial sweeteners are no better!

Traditional diets had lacto-fermented vegetables. Modern diets have canned vegetables. Lacto-fermented vegetables are more easily digested, contain healthy bacteria, and have all their nutrients. The canning process reduces the nutrient content of the vegetables.

Traditional diets had lacto-fermented beverages. Modern diets have soft drinks. Lacto-fermented beverages contain healthy bacteria and vital nutrients. Soft drinks are loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, and artificial flavors.

Traditional diets had unrefined salt. Modern diets have refined salt. Unrefined salts contain high volumes of trace minerals. Refined salt is just sodium.

Traditional diets had natural vitamins in foods. Modern diets have synthetic vitamins added. Real food has real vitamins and minerals. Processed foods lose the real vitamins and minerals during processing so synthetic vitamins are added back to make the food appear nutritious, but these synthetic vitamins are often rejected by the body.

Traditional diets had natural seeds. Modern diets have hybrid and GMO seeds. Natural seeds are as nature designed. Hybrid and GMO seeds are designed by man to produce greater yield. At the same time they allow for a large amount of pesticides and herbicides which are getting into the food and stay in our bodies wrecking much havoc, similar to the antibiotics and hormones being fed to confined animals.

So, as you can see Sally Fallon Morrell is right. By their very nature traditional diets maximized nutrient content while the modern diets minimize nutrients. This is why it is unlikely that you can get sufficient vitamins and minerals from your food unless you are very strict. I have been brief with all the points due to space limitations here, but elsewhere on my blog you can see many articles providing more details.

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Mequon, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at bernie@brwellness.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.