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Nutrition, Evolution, and Having a Healthy Diet


Nutrition has everything to do with health.  This isn't news, exactly, but looking around at the crazy information on the market, one wonders if anyone actually makes the connection: what you eat affects how you feel.  It's that simple.  Your health depends on the food choices you make in both the short and long term. 

Take a pill, and all you've done is treat a symptom.  Change your eating habits, and create a lasting change in your well-being.  There are so many approaches to eating, however, and so much conflicting information that it's come down to this simple question: does whatever you're eating right now make sense?

Well, sense isn't common, and it does depend on some good information.  So here is something to consider: what kind of foods are humans evolved to eat?  Cheetos?  Don't think so.  That's a no-brainer, but what about some others that we counted as healthy staples until recently, like bread and pasta.  Go way back in your imagination, to hunter gatherer days - before agriculture and the obesity which followed for the first time among humans - and consider what would be part of our ancestors' normal diet.  If you're about to pop something into your mouth that wasn't around before agriculture, (a relatively recent development in human history), then eat it knowing it's not considered a 'normal' food by your body.  Foods your body considers 'normal' contribute to your health, other foods are either neutral or harmful.  How simple is that?

A well-known exploration of this concept that certain foods help our bodies thrive is Dr. Peter D'Adamo's book, "Eat Right 4 Your Type," in which he bases his lists of what to eat and avoid on blood type.  D'Adamo asserts that type O is the oldest type, and the newer A type didn't show up on the scene until agriculture.  So, Os should eat lots of meat and veg because that blood type doesn't know how to handle too much grain.  Type As can eat grain, but not dairy.  Dairy is a category reserved as a 'normal' food only for the yet more recent human blood type, AB.  (Maybe we'll evolve a new type that can handle Cheetos and red licorice, my personal favorite abnormal foods).

D'Adamo supports his blood-type theory with all kinds of careful research, and so what?  Does it make sense that humans should rely primarily on foods that occur naturally?  Absolutely.  If you're going to eat a grain like wheat then, eat it whole, or don't eat it at all, and don't eat much of it anyway because humans pretty much made wheat up!  I'm not going to take the, "Does it occur naturally?" debate too far, because it's time to look at another researcher's take on the food and evolution connection. 

Dr. Phillip Lipetz wrote "The Good Calorie Diet," a book for the weight loss market, but he also has supported his theories with all kinds of careful research.  His describes how the human response to starvation that was developed during the ice age carries on today.  Ironic, isn't it, that the food available to us today - rich and sweet and abundant - causes our bodies to behave as though starvation is at hand.

The short story for how this works is that up until the ice age, humans ate whatever was readily available, like roots, plants, fruit, and a little tasty carrion now and then.  Along came the ice ages, and those foods became scarce.  Now humans were forced to hunt, but it was dicey and the weapons were primitive, so spans of time occured between kills.  The result: our ancestors evolved ways to make the most of the conversion of excess blood sugar into stored nutrition in the form of body fat.  When they starved, they lived off stored fat.    

Today's diet mimics the ice age diet: high fat and high protein, and our genetic programming says, "Uh oh, we're facing starvation again.  Better store up some fat."  Lipetz goes into convincing detail about food combinations in his book.  He describes some that cause the creation of excess fat, such as butter on bread.  More useful are his combinations that actually inhibit fat formation, like lean meat with most vegetables.  In a society where obesity and its attendant health issues are rampant, these food combinations are helpful places to focus our attention.  Yet the single most useful bit to remember from his research is that foods which cause our bodies to create excess fat all have one thing in common: they weren't part of our ancestors' normal diet. 

Armed with this overview, next time you're about to pop something in your mouth - whether your focus is health or weight - you don't need to have a bunch of rules and whacky information in mind.  Just use common sense.  Ask whether it's a food that was around before the advent of agriculture.  If it was, go for it.  If it wasn't, then consider that your body won't consider the food 'normal,' and in both the long and short run, that's got health consequences.  

 

Judith Schwader earned a Master's degree in Education, and has written extensively on health and nutrition.  She has a background in social science and addressing chronic health conditions through nutrition.  Judith invites you to visit http://QandAHealth.com, an excellent resource for health. 


MORE RESOURCES:

USDA.gov (press release) (blog)

Celebrate National Nutrition Month with MyPlate at School!
USDA.gov (press release) (blog)
In honor of National Nutrition Month®, MyPlate is sharing resources to help you bite into a healthy lifestyle everywhere you go! This blog highlights resources for encouraging a healthy lifestyle in the classroom. Learn about healthy eating at home ...



Boston.com (blog)

Are Eggs the Nutrition Comeback Kid?
Boston.com (blog)
Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. She writes on healthy eating, one bite at a time. Share; Comment. hardboiledegg.jpg. What's not to love about them?



Utica Observer Dispatch

3-day event teaches kids about science, nutrition
Utica Observer Dispatch
The three-day event teaches children how science and nutrition play an important role in daily lives. Susan Sady from Susan's Cooking School in Utica Monday demonstrated various cooking techniques while emphasizing the science behind each item that ...



Nutrition is the fuel to success
The Ranger
Eating a healthful breakfast and choosing smart snacks will help students to fuel up their brains for a successful semester from beginning to end, said Eleanor Skelley, a biology professor who teaches nutrition at Palo Alto College. Students who have a ...



Chia seeds deliver a nutritional boost, but they're not for everybody
Yahoo News
Tiny “superfood” chia seeds are being mixed into dozens of food products—cereals, snack bars, yogurt, and drinks—just to name a few. These little black and white gems, which come from a plant (Salvia hispanica) in the mint family, are pretty nutritious.

and more »


Huffington Post

A Nutrition Prescription for a Healthier America
Huffington Post
Good nutrition is an important protective factor against obesity and the preventable diseases associated with this condition. Proper nutrition is also essential for children's growth and development. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating right and ...
Nutrition scientist, registered dietitian urges Secretaries to reconsider ...Dairy Herd Management

all 18 news articles »


Nutrition center agreement approved
Hannibal.net
The Marion County Commission will continue its support of the Monroe City Nutrition Center. On Monday the commissioners approved an agreement that will see $2,250 go to the nutrition center, which also serves people who are elderly or handicapped in ...

and more »


Challenge aims to change community's nutrition
Rochester Business Journal
Roc Eats Real—a six-week community nutrition challenge—is slated to take place from May 3 to June 13. The initiative's goal is to help community members clean out their food stocks to start eating healthy. The goal is to remove processed foods ...



U.S. and Global Markets for Ethical Nutrition in Healthcare
PR Newswire (press release)
The global market for ethical nutrition in healthcare was valued at roughly $34.5 billion in 2013 and increased to $37.1 billion in 2014. This market is expected to reach about $58.2 billion by 2019, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.4 ...

and more »


KPRC Houston

How nutrition plays into your fitness plan
KPRC Houston
MARCH IS NATIONAL NUTRITION MONTH THIS. MORNING WE WANT TO TALK ABOUT HOW NUTRITION PLAYS INTO A FITNESS PLAN. JOINING US ARE HEALTH AND WELLNESS EXPERT HAYDEN AND KRISTIN, REGISTERED DIETICIAN. THANK ...


Google News


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