I keep railing virtually every aspect of food processing, so let’s take a look at how we got here and how our modern food culture is impacting our health and society.
Historically, lifestyle changing inventions are rare. Fire and agriculture come to mind. But in the last one hundred and fifty years, there have been a number earth shattering changes, including 24-hour lighting and electricity, mechanized agriculture, chemicals, mechanized food processing, oil-based transportation, and the corporation.
We have done more to change traditional lifestyles in the last 150 years than anyone would have though possible. Moving away from the farm, staying up all night, and hitting up Taco Bell at two in the morning would have been impossible for most people only two centuries ago.
So what’s the problem? As fast as our lifestyles are changing, and as well as we are able to adapt, our bodies cannot evolve rapidly enough to deal with the new food and lifestyle. Humans evolved in a primitive world, and when we don’t account for our bodies’ traditional expectations, we end up with the diseases of the modern world.
500 years ago, people didn’t get cancer, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, asthma, and heart disease like we do today. You might argue that we live longer now, and modern medicine has certainly helped, but living past 65 was actually pretty normal, even for the founders more than 200 years ago. Today, we don’t live so longer as much as we avoid early death.
Let’s roll with some interesting research. A hundred years ago, a dentist named Weston A. Price became discouraged by the poor health of his patients in Ontario. He “suspected his patients were malnourished on industrial foods, and set out to examine diets in isolated cultures, where people still ate what he called native foods” (Nina Planck, Real Food, p.25). Price studied preindustrial communities in Uganda, Switzerland, Papua New Guinea, Canada, and other places and examined their diets. In these traditional societies, without modern medicine or toothpaste, he found healthy people with perfect teeth again and again.
These societies ate real foods like meat, vegetables, unpasteurized dairy, nuts, whole grain bread, fish, roe, whole oats, kelp, fruit, lard, and insects. All of these diets had four things in common: “whole foods, especially grains; the lack of refined flour and sugar; abundant meat and fish; and unrefined fats” (Planck 27). The people eating like this had none of the chronic diseases of the Western World.
Worryingly, as soon as they began to eat “what Price called ‘the displacing foods of commerce‘–the sugar and jam, white flour and white rice, and refined vegetable oils that came on ships with European Settlers–their health decline sharply” (Planck 25).
The advent of food processing came about amidst ignorance of the fact that our bodies can’t handle processed food very well. It’s well documented that industrial produce has less nutrition than organically (traditionally) farmed produce. Same with industrial meat production. Packaged foods like cereal, pasta, and cookies are inexpensive, but the processing has destroyed all of the nutrition. Cold pressed, traditionally processed olive oil is great for you, but industrial vegetable oils are actually processed to the point of rancidity.
Formerly healthy foods have been processed to death in forms like juice, bread, pasta, peanut butter, and margarine. This list doesn’t even include things like donuts and soda.
It’s only recently that we’ve had this array of new health problems. Instead of famine, we suffer from a strange form of chronic malnourishment. We eat plenty of food, but it doesn’t contain the nourishment we need. We lack vitamins and minerals, we don’t get enough raw food so as to have enough enzymes to digest our food properly, we are often dehydrated, and our detoxification systems are taxed by the loads of toxic chemicals in our food and our environment.
Clearly, our primitive bodies aren’t designed to handle our modern food.
What’s the solution? Let’s put away this processed garbage and focus on eating real food–food that has been around for thousands of years, food that goes bad if you leave it on the shelf for a year, food devoid of chemicals, and food that provides the nutrition our bodies need. Meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts and unpasteurized dairy products: these are real foods.