What should I eat to be healthy?
There are many diets on the planet today. Most of these diets are significantly influenced by modern industry. Almost all are influenced to some extent. While this has allowed for a more plentiful food supply, it may not have lead to a healthier food supply. Studies of some cultures who eat or ate a less processed diet suggests an overall healthier population that is less susceptible to chronic disease. There are many theories based on archeological findings as well as data from more current population studies that offer what influences may be causing the increased disease. However, the data available is limited and does not take into account all factors that influence the health of human populations. This oversight has led to many misleading theories which are based in noticing a coincidence rather than determining a functional cause. By using our understanding of human metabolism and the interactions of specific nutrients, we can start to draw some well-founded conclusions as to what aspects of our diet have a significant influence towards health and disease. By using these theories and re-analyzing the data of our population studies we can see much stronger correlations than the current popular theories. Also, it becomes clear how, by missing some of the important variables when analyzing these populations, many have been so easily misled into demonizing one aspect of the diet or praising another.
Just because we can eat meat, grains, vegetables, beans, fruits, milk, eggs, etc. doesn’t mean they are all good for us. I have been, in my younger days, vegetarian and vegan, and did so primarily for social reasons. I later became infatuated with an animal-based diet and removed most plants — especially those containing any energy such as sugars and starches. In both cases I felt much better initially, but eventually gathered a host of symptoms ranging from tremendous loss of body mass and fatigue to the development of digestive dysfunction, food intolerance, and difficulty falling or staying asleep. Clearly there was more I needed to understand to determine why these supposedly healthy diets did not make me feel better. As you can imagine, I have found this to be a very complex and daunting, yet fascinating, task.
There is a lot of information out there; however, a lot of it is opinion only, and very little of it is based on thorough observation. Even the good scientific studies have significant limitations. In most human studies, only one variable is analyzed and controlled. For example, some researchers have compared vegans to meat-eaters and concluded that a vegan diet is healthier. Others have studied the same groups and made the opposite conclusion. However, none of the researchers analyzed or controlled for the types, amounts, or qualities of meat in the diet, nor did they analyze the types, amounts, or qualities of the non-meat components of the diets of their test subjects. On top of all this, there was no analysis of the types of oils and fats, nor the vitamins or minerals in the diets of the two groups. As you can see, this makes it very difficult to draw any irrefutable conclusions. Another important factor to consider is that many of the scientific studies on the effect of diet measure surrogate markers, such as blood cholesterol levels, for disease as the outcome of interest. The studies are not conducted over a long enough period of time to actually compare the incidence of disease in the two groups studied. What we are really interested in is the likelihood of contracting a disease, not the surrogate marker. Scientific study of the body and its biological function has changed and improved our understanding of many of these markers, and so the studies are not actually showing what they were originally intended to show. Finally, it is important to note that almost no studies measure optimal health as the outcome of interest.
So, we come to the point where we need to take a few steps back and look at studies that assess the effects of specific substances on specific metabolic processes, rather than hoping to find the answer in studies that assess the effect of “whole diet” on the “whole human.” This is an area of intense and active investigation, so I have found the best sources of information are not the usual ones. Textbooks on this subject are out of date before they are even published. I have found the best information from journal articles, blogs, and reports by scientists who are paving the way to a better understanding of nutrition and optimal human health. To name a few, I have studied the works of Hans Selye, Broda Barnes, Ray Peat, Gilbert Ling, and Gerald Pollack. More recently, I have been able to go back to the studies which formed the foundation of our current popular mistaken beliefs about healthy diet. Using the variables I have found to be the most influential to human health, I was able to find a better interpretation of the data. Occasionally the authors of a study would mention the most important variables as if they considered it in passing. They even mentioned how it’s possible the variables could change the base of their current theory. Unfortunately, often times the attachment to a belief held by our community, or desire to prove a specific theory, clouds our vision of what is happening right in front of us. While I will probably always continue to investigate and learn in this area, I now feel that my understanding of basic human metabolic processes is sufficient to allow me to formulate some general guidelines for an optimal human diet. The 5 dietary guidelines I will be offering will be an excellent step in the right direction for anyone hoping to make a healthy change.
The primary source of fuel for your cells is glucose. This is what composes the sugar in your blood. Thus, it is important that our diets contain readily available, easily digestible and abundant sources of high quality carbohydrates. Evolutionary studies show that humans ate a diet rich in plant-based energy sources, such as ripe fruit and root vegetables. Availability of these nutrients is particularly important for the function and evolutionary development of the human brain. Our digestive anatomy also makes clear that ripe fruit is the type of plant source we are best suited to consume. Plants do not defend the fruit from animals as it is a short lived aspect of the plant. The main function of the fruit is to provide a device for spreading and fertilizing the seed. In fact, the consumption of the fruit by another animal is often a necessary part of the reproductive process of a plant. The flesh is easily digestible so the nutrition is rapidly available and often contains very little matter which cannot be broken down before reaching the lower intestine. Tropical fruits in particular contain the highest levels of nutrients and energy with the least amount of detriment. The sugars contained in most fruits are excellent for efficiently fueling the body and maintaining an even supply of energy to our cells. Giving even more metabolic bang for the buck, the minerals contained in these fruits enhance the efficiency of the delivery and use of the energy, thus enhancing the organism’s ability to compete and thrive. Roots can also have very beneficial nutrients and high energy content. They are also poorly defended against animal consumption as they grow underground. They are, however, defended against yeast and bacteria which is found in the soil. These same bacteria can become an irritant in the human digestive tract and so the chemicals in roots can aid in maintaining an appropriate balance of microorganisms in the gut. For many tens of thousands of years, cultures have coveted roots that can be boiled and consumed for their energy and mineral content. Some roots, such as potatoes, also can provide protein. The younger roots, which have less starch, are more easily digested. Cooking converts the starches in root vegetables to a more easily digestible form. This enhances our ability to obtain nutrients from the vegetables and decreases the likelihood that large volumes of undigested material will remain in our lower digestive tract (a process that can lead to overgrowth of “bad” bacteria). Squashes, peppers, apples, and pears are fruits but are best cooked in order to increase the digestible nature of the material. The metabolic support and energy we obtain from appropriate plant foods is important in reducing the overall needs for protein. The more sugar we are able to consume and use efficiently, the less protein will need to be converted to sugar to provide the needed energy. The less tissue that is broken down, the less protein is needed for maintenance of those tissues. Still, protein requirements are rather high for a human.
Guideline 2: Eat animal foods and products from animals that are fed appropriate diets, and eat every part of the animal.
Animals provide the highest quality protein for human consumption. They are also a concentrated source of many other nutrients that increase the quality of our diet. These nutrients include some that we only receive through ingesting the animals that digest plant materials that are indigestible to us. It is important that the diet of the animals we eat is appropriate for their physiology and free of toxins. Animals will produce toxic materials when stressed, and when exposed to toxins animals store them in their tissues — especially their fat cells. These toxins will be concentrated in the animal and absorbed by you when you ingest them. Conversely, if the animals have eaten healthy foods and are stress-free, you will be eating foods that are of high quality and low in toxins. Sea creatures living in shallow warm waters that are relatively low on the food chain are an excellent food, as they are highly nutritious, the richest in minerals, and are the least likely to contain harmful toxins. Seafood in which the entire organism is eaten such as shell fish and mollusks, offers the benefit of the organs being consumed as well. Larger fish dwelling in deep cold water are high in toxic substances which accumulate in the tissues. The one most focused on is mercury, which is due to the human pollution of our water. These fish are also higher in fat, and any oily fish will contain fats that contribute to a suppression of the metabolism and general function in many ways. This will be discussed a bit more in my next post, but will require a post of its own in the future. The protein composition of the tissues in many land animals, including our own, is about 50% collagen protein. Collagen as a dietary source of protein is very beneficial; it provides generously the amino acids needed in the greatest abundance for our metabolic use. It also has very protective actions within the body and enhances cell structure and function while reducing the harmful effects of inflammation. Collagen is easily digested and absorbed and does not contribute to a poor intestinal environment as it is extremely resistant to putrefaction and bacterial growth. When we consume as much of the protein content of the animal as possible, we will end up with a significant portion of our protein content coming from these beneficial and protective collagen fibers. For this reason stocks and stews using collagen rich portions of the animal, as well as adding gelatin (the culinary name for collagen) to foods and drinks is a good staple as far as dietary protein. Any portions containing bone and ligament are rich in collagen, such as ribs, tails, legs, necks, joints, and feet. Bones and skin alone are very rich in collagen and can be used to make stocks that can be consumed alone like a soup or tea, or used in cooking. Milk is an incredible source of nutrition for the human. It is a high quality protein and the richest source of easily digested calcium in the human diet. The carbohydrates are very similar in there metabolic interactions to those of fruit. The fats in dairy are so rich in nutrients I will need another post to go into it in depth, however they are an important source of many fats and vitamins that are difficult to receive in adequate quantities elsewhere. Our method for digesting milk is easily compromised with the decline of our health. Dairy intolerance is most commonly not a true allergy, and in almost all cases is a symptom of intestinal inflammation. I have seen many individuals who were once incapable of consuming milk begin to use milk as a primary source of nutrition. As the body heals, the intestine will begin to breakdown and process milk again, and at this point it is a tremendous aid to continued regeneration. Eggs are very rich in protein. The yolk also contains a concentration of nutrients important to the human metabolism. It is not rare to be truly allergic to eggs, and in these cases they cannot be used in the diet. No amount of healing will remove a truly allergic condition. Perhaps the richest source of vitamins and minerals, as well as other metabolic stimulants, is in the organs of healthy animals. The liver is the organ meat I promote most. It is valuable as a dietary supplement for the incredible quantity of vitamins and minerals. The rich iron content of liver should be considered when determining the quantity and frequency with which it is consumed by an individual. While some may benefit from a liberal supplement of iron for a time while replenishing their stores, most will need to be wary of receiving too much iron. The muscle of land animals and fowl is an excellent quality protein. Its specific protein content provides particularly well for the needs brought on by growth in late childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Unfortunately, due a cultural fascination with muscle meat, many people suffer from metabolic distortions that can be caused by a diet too rich in this source of protein. Also, some of the protein in the muscles can exacerbate the condition of an already compromised metabolism, and, in some cases, may need to be removed almost entirely until sufficient healing has occurred. When the diet contains significant amounts of seafood, collagen, dairy, eggs and organ meats, the amount of protein obtained from the muscle of the animal is typically well within the appropriate range. Vegetable sources of protein are not really worth consideration. There is some good protein in plant matter, but it is not possible for a human to meet the metabolic requirements for protein from optimal plant foods. The plant sources containing the highest quality proteins are otherwise detrimental and are better avoided.
These simple guidelines offer a place to start with respect to the optimal choices for your nutritional foundation. There are many specific topics that need to be explored in order to create a more defined picture of the why behind your actions. Continue to research, and I will continue to offer information as you develop your own personal diet. The third part to this post will cover some more topics needed to flesh out the foundational understanding of how to select an appropriate diet.
Account of anthropological findings of human diet:
Rowe JW, Tobin JD, Rosa RM, Andres R. Effect of experimental potassium deficiency on glucose and insulin metabolism. Metabolism. 1980; 29: 498–502
Glycogenisis from fructose during elevated glycogen phosphoralase
Insulin suppression of glycogen phosphoralase
Fructose suppresses insuli lepton etc.
Potassium intake protects against metabolic disorders in human population
Am J Clin Nutr. 1969 Dec;22(12):1589-96.
Improvement in glucose tolerance of fasting obese patients given oral potassium.
Anderson JW, Herman RH, Newcomer KL.
Rowe JW, Tobin JD, Rosa RM, Andres R. Effect of experimental potassium deficiency on glucose and insulin metabolism. Metabolism. 1980; 29: 498–502.
Fructose added improves the metabolic response to a specific amount of glucose.
Cooked potato more fully digested than cooled.
Humans have little to no bacteria in the upper small intestine it is very unhealthy to have overgrowth
Collagen or Gelatin in the diet provides glycine at 33% of it protein content
Zhong Z, Wheeler MD, Li X, Froh M, Schemmer P, Yin M, Bunzendaul H, Bradford B, Lemasters JJ., “L-Glycine: a novel antiinflammatory, immunomodulatory, and cytoprotective agent.” Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2003 Mar;6(2):229-40.
Glycine protective: review current research
FASEB J. 2000; 14:476-484. Glycine-gated channels in neutrophils attenuate calcium influx and superoxide production. Wheeler M, Stachlewitz RT, Yamashina S, et al.
Glycine gate channels protective against melanoma growth
Cell Mol Life Sci.1999; 56:843-856. Glycine: a new anti-inflammatory immunonutrient. Wheeler MD, Ikejema K, Mol Life Sci. Enomoto N, et al.
Glycine reduces pancreatic inflamation
Glycine protective against protein oxidation and glycation
Glycine helps wound healing
Muscle meat has high levels of tryptophan:
Tryptophan toxemia in rats
Seratonin induces calcification of nerves
Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1967 Nov;126(2):579-83. Serotonin antagonist increases longevity in mice with hereditary muscular dystrophy. O’Steen WK.
Young rats seem to benefit from a diet higher in tryptophan however as they age the life span increases as tryptophan in the dot decreases.
Elevated tryptophan is associated with depression in older individuals.
Review of milk and correlated health in humans shows a benefit in many important areas including heart disease, strokes, blood pressure, and cancer.
Increase milk consumption increases overall nutrition in diet
Milk calcium and weight loss in mice
Calcium and dairy augmenting weight loss in humans