Imagine you were building your dream home. You chose a picturesque piece of land in the neighbourhood of your dreams, got an architect to design your dream home and have spent months building it and choosing finishes, checking each meticulous detail. Finally, the big day arrived that all was finished and you could move in. You had great fun arranging your furniture, buying new curtains, rugs and scatter cushions until it all looked perfect. It was a dream come true… until one day a large crack appeared in the middle of the living room wall and all around it the plaster and paint started peeling and cracking. What would you think?
Would you think you’re unlucky, there’s nothing you or anyone else could have done, this piece of land is not suitable for building? Would you think the engineer who signed off on the foundation was not doing his job? Would you think that the builder maybe used a poor quality (probably cheap) cement or did not mix it well? Would you want to investigate and bring to book the responsible party? Get to the bottom of the matter and fix whatever was causing this so your beautiful home could be restored to its former glory? I’m guessing you would.
It is a very interesting phenomenon to me that when it comes to material possessions – buildings, cars, equipment etc. it is generally accepted that any lack in durability or function is most probably due to a problem, possibly sub-standard materials, incorrect workmanship or the like. However, when it comes to our bodies we are very quick to accept sub-standard performance and durability and tend to view it as a situation determined by powers outside our control, the roulette of genetics, the luck of the draw, the conspiracy of circumstance.
I have many a time heard a parent put their child’s decaying teeth down to bad genetics. Teeth, for example, are built of minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, boron, iron and phosphorous. In order to properly metabolize these minerals our bodies require fat-soluble vitamins, specifically A, D and K. Does a parent with a child whose teeth are decaying examine whether their child may be deficient in any of these essential nutrients for the building of teeth? Should that parent consult a dental professional, does the professional ask questions about the child’s nutrition? I would venture to say generally not. In the vast majority of cases, the child’s teeth would be filled and sealed and the parent may be asked to be more diligent about brushing and flossing.
What is the reason for this discrepancy in logic? Could it be that the medical profession in general do not have much knowledge in this area? The average medical student received less than 40 hours of training on nutrition in their entire education.
Few people realize how much our food supply has changed in the last century. Let’s take a simple example of a cheese sandwich – a simple, commonplace food eaten for centuries. One hundred years ago a cheese sandwich was probably made on sour-dough wholegrain bread. Bread was baked with flour, salt, water and a little of the sour dough starter that most homes always had on hand. That bread was then most probably spread with butter made from the milk of a local cow who walked around and ate fresh grass. The cheese on the sandwich was most probably made from the milk of the same cow, made with only that milk, some cultures and salt. This cheese most probably still had live probiotic organisms in it. The fruit and vegetables eaten at that time were not extensiveley sprayed with insecticides, as modern insecticides were either not yet invented or not commonly used. The animals received no hormones or antibiotics as a routine part of their diet. Today, to eat bread with only salt, water and flour as ingredients, or cheese with probiotic cultures, or fruit and vegetables free from pesticides or meats free from hormones and antibiotics you have to shop almost completely out of the mainstream food supply. You can very rarely buy any of that at a supermarket.
So, why is it a problem? Are these not just modern improvements on the ways of old? The problem is that the nutritional content of our food has degraded significantly and that many modern foods in fact deplete our bodies of nutrients. Dairy products and meats that are derived from animals that live outdoors, are exposed to sunshine and eat a natural diet of green grass and other foods that suit their species are nutritionally much richer. Grass-fed meats and milks are much richer in healthy anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats, with grass-fed beef containing more omega 3 fats than salmon. That’s right, your rump steak can be truly healthy if it comes from a healthy animal. They are much richer in minerals. Green grass is rich in magnesium, so the meat and milk from animals eating green grass is richer in magnesium. The same goes for eggs from chickens living outdoors and scratching around with a diet including insects and fresh greens. Green foods and sunshine result in food products far richer in Vitamin A and D as well, great for strong immune systems and strong healthy bones and teeth. Fruit and vegetables grown in healthy soils without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are also much richer in vitamins and minerals, and often taste much better to boot.
Many of the substances added to our modern food supply like colourants, preservatives, flavourants, hormones and pesticides are toxic to our bodies and must be detoxified by our livers and kidneys. This process of detoxification uses up a lot of minerals like zinc and magnesium as well as vitamins like the B vitamins. Eating refined foods like sugar and white flour also require our bodies to contribute a lot of minerals and vitamins for these foods to be metabolized. Whereas a healthy sour-dough wholegrain bread has enough B vitamins and minerals in the bread for the body to metabolize it, a slice of white bread requires more minerals like magnesium, zinc and chromium for your body to digest it, so it depletes your body of nutrients as you eat it. The same goes for any other refined carbohydrate like sugar, pasta and even many gluten-free flours. Many of the modern food additives, like preservatives, also kill our good gut bacteria, who are an essential part of our immune system, help us to digest and absorb our food properly and make many of our B vitamins for us. Our gut flora also manufacture the majority of our neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that make us feel happy, positive, motivated and enable us to think clearly.
Anyone shopping for food for their family holds in their hands a great power. They are choosing the quality of the building materials to build one of the most important things they will ever build in their lifetime – the bodies of themselves and their loved ones. Do not underestimate the immense power you hold , or how completely you could change your family’s health by choosing foods more like those that our ancestors have always eaten, produced in a way that maximizes their nutritional content and health-giving potential. It is well worth becoming an informed consumer, reading the ingredients of what you consume and choosing carefully what and from where you buy. It has changed my life, and I know it can change yours.
Very few people make the entire change overnight, what steps did you take that were small and simple and made a significant difference to your family’s health?