The modern diet has gone mad.
Its hard to see, because for most of us it's all we’ve ever known, since we were knee high – we’ve always eaten this way, so it seems totally normal. Animal protein at every meal, packaged dinners, turkey dinosaurs and smilies, candy and salty chips.
But a plant-based diet? Whole foods only? These days, they are the extreme diets, characterized by their real lack of availability in the commercial world. But as everyday as it is to us, all this processing, added sugar, animal protein, and convenience foods, really only evolved in the past few centuries. From the agricultural revolution and the idea of grinding wheat and baking bread, to here in 2017 where ingredients lists are the length of your arm and only three of them familiar, we’ve come a long way. But this ‘modern diet’ we’ve gotten accustomed to? It’s making us sick. And that’s the problem.
Let's start with sugar.
Humans evolved on a diet containing almost no sugar or refined carbohydrates (1). Before sugar became a global industry, it was reserved for the super-rich, and regular folk would eat around 4g of sugar a day. Fast forward to now, and it’s potentially responsible for up to a massive 20% of the average Western diet! (2) That’s insane, right?
Even here in Canada, where our teeth are a little less sweet than American counterparts, we average 51-53g a day (3). That’s 13 teaspoons! Worryingly, most of it is hidden - snuck into pasta sauces and pizza crusts, mayonnaise, sushi rice, bread rolls.
We now know that the effects of sugar addiction, withdrawal and relapse are similar to those of drug abuse (4), that’s no small thing. Sugar has been proven to damage the brain (5) as well as contribute to weight gain and heart disease.
Animal protein, too:
The extent to which our prehistoric ancestors consumed meat is hotly debated, but that is a debate for another time. One thing is for sure, though – it has never been as high as now. Western meat consumption per capita has shot up 30% since just the 1960s (6) and that figure doesn’t touch the amount of fish, cheese, butter and milk and other animal proteins in everything from your restaurant salad to the kids’ ice cream. Those roots, leaves and fruits we used to eat alongside meat are now doused in cheese sauce or gravy, baked into pies or sizzled in animal fats. We are consuming drastically more animal protein than we were designed to. As Garth Davis M.D., author of Proteinaholic, puts it,
“In all my years as in medicine I have never, ever seen a patient who is suffering from protein deficiency. I have searched the medical literature and cannot find a single case of protein deficiency in someone eating adequate calories.”
Too much animal protein has been linked to everything from cancer (7) to heart disease to hypertension, high blood pressure and obesity (8), and more evidence emerges daily.
Now, we’re not suggesting the world goes vegan (although we wouldn’t complain!) – but 2-3 servings of meat daily, and the same for dairy is now the norm, just a crazy amount of animal protein by human evolutionary standards.
Food - our latest addiction.
In a natural setting, delicious tastes were our brain’s way of motivating us to seek less-abundant and more essential energy sources. Food that contained (healthy amounts of) fat, sugar or salt, and was more calorie-dense, would better fuel us to seek our next meal – so it tasted better. We had no need to crave plant food, because it was more abundant, and contains less energy, whereas salt, sugar, fats and the like were harder to find. As humans, we are driven to derive pleasure from the strongest energy sources that require the lowest effort expenditure.
But in a modern world with an abundance of food, we’ve unwittingly manipulated this pleasure in eating. We cook, we bake, we create these goods far more processed and calorie-dense than anything found in nature – and that, based on our biology, is what we want more of. We seek out this unnaturally pleasurable food, becoming less and less interested in the healthy stuff as our taste buds get used to stronger flavours. Processed food, like sugar, has now been shown to cause a dopamine release and addictive behaviour in the same way that recreational drugs do (9, 10), literally changing our brain chemistry over time.
And as modern processing progressed, driven by business, things went crazy.
Physical processes, like grinding, pureeing and heating, range from necessary (harvesting vegetables!) to not ideal. Take the trusty PB&J, for example. You’re taking a grain, naturally quite calorie-dense, and grinding it up, taking out the parts that slow down digestion and make you want to eat less, and leaving the sweeter bits. Then you’re baking it, with sugar, salt, egg white or fat or whatever else you throw in to make it taste great, and then you’re dousing it with peanut butter and more sugar. Your lunch now packs a flavour punch far greater than anything you’d find in the old outdoors, and it lights up our pleasure centres accordingly. Suddenly, that apple next to it looks just a little less appealing.
Refining carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta, is one of the most problematic physical processes because shortening the carbohydrates means they’re more rapidly digested into sugars and absorbed – this rush of sugar to the blood causes an insulin spike in the body, wreaking havoc on our energy levels and cravings, and eventually leading to insulin resistance (11).
is the industry’s response to market forces. To make food products more delicious and so more sellable, products are enhanced with all sorts of funky things. Preservatives are added, stabilisers, texture and colour enhancers, sugar under a hundred different disguises, and chemicals are used in all sorts of transformative processes – leaving foods with a veritable cocktail of artificial yucky things that our body just isn’t designed for. These are pretty controversial – studies emerge daily on their negative effects, and there is a strong argument for the need for further research of their harm at the rate and length of term that they are ingested in modern day life.
One thing is for sure, though – the trusty vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals we desperately need can’t survive the process, and many are lost along the way, meaning your frozen pocket pizzas are really just a pile of mystery chemicals, with excess sugar, salt and fat and absolutely nothing of value.
Plus, we like to grow the ingredients for these things in fields doused in chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilisers, not to mention the growth hormones and antibiotics animal products are raised with, so we are exposed to even more toxins and bad stuff. Even the environment isn’t clean any more – outside we encounter pollution to epic scales, and even in the house, man-made chemicals from hundreds of sources find their way into our bodies and our livers.
The lifestyle shift
So what we’re saying is that, our lifestyles have changed. It’s difficult to notice, but our bodies are a little slower at keeping up with society’s progress than our brilliant minds – and that’s why diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, heart disease and so many more are drastically on the rise despite massive medical advances in the last few decades and the near eradication of so many ‘traditional’, infectious diseases. Our biology just doesn’t know how to process it all, and it’s making us sick.
That’s why the Sea To Sky Thrivers was born – to teach people how to bring it back to real, honest, unprocessed and plant-based food, to give our bodies the relief and nourishment they’re craving, and to let them be the self-healing powerhouses that nature designed them to be. We don’t have to exist on cheap, processed crap, and we don’t need to listen to a health industry and government recommendations paid for by the animal agriculture, sugar and pharmaceutical industry. It’s never been more important to reverse the crazy changes in diet and environment of the last few decades. Give it a go – you’ll be surprised how awesome you feel!
1. Yudkin J, Evolutionary and historical changes in dietary carbohydrates. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1967-Feb 20() 108-15
2. Cordain, L. et al, Origins andEvolution of the Western Diet: Health Implications for the 21st century. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005 February vol.81 no.2 341-354
3. Brisbois TD, et al. Estimated intakes and sources of total and added sugars in the Canadian diet. Nutrients 2014;6(5):1899-1912.
4. C. H. Wideman, G. R. Nadzam & H. M. Murphy. Implications of an animal model of sugar addiction, withdrawal and relapse for human health. Journal of nutritional neuroscience. 05 Sept 2013 pages 269-276
5. F. Gomez-Pinilla, ‘Metabolic Syndrome’ in the brain: deficiency in omega-3 fatty acid exacerbates dysfunctions in insulin receptor signalling and cognition. The Journal of Physiology. 2012, May 15. 590-10, 2485-249
6. FAO World Agriculture, Towards 2015/2030.
7. Bingham, S.A (1999) High-meat diets and cancer risk. Proc. Nutr Soc, 58(2), 243-248
8. Appleby, P.N et al (2002) Hypertension and blood pressure among meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans in EPIC-Oxford. Public Health Nutr. Oct 5(5) 645-54.
9. Davis, C. From Passive Overeating to “food addiction”: A spectrum of Compulsion and Severity. ISRN Obesity, Vol. 2013, Article ID 345027, 20 pages, 2013. DOI 10.1155/2013/435027
10. Kenny, PJ. Common Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms in Obesity and Drug Addiction. Nat. Rev. Neurosci, 2011 Oct 20, 12(11):638-51
11. Bessesen, D. The Role of Carbohydrates in Insulin Resistance. J. Nutr, October 1, 2001 vol.131 no.10 2782s-2786s