As anyone reading my blog regularly will know, I’m skeptical. About lots of things, but in particular about all the information we read online about food. One week we should all be eating Goji berries and the next week Kale. The only thing people in my neck of the woods have ever used Kale for is to feed sheep and I don’t even know what a Goji berry looks like. I’m fairly sure none of my ancestors did either, yet I can trace my family back to the Viking invasion in the 700s AD so they managed to live long and healthily enough to produce 1500 years of ancestors despite having the same genetic diseases as me (my Mum’s Dupytrens Contracture has been traced back to the Nordic invasion through a study she took part in).
There was a recent article in the Daily Mirror by Dr Miriam Stoppard about supplements and how our bodies aren’t designed to utilize them. If you take too much Vitamin C for example you just end up with very expensive pee. There’s a lot of medical talk these days that we should ingest so many ugs of this vitamin and so many nanols of that mineral, forgetting that our ancestors lived on a massively restricted diet compared to us and yet worked physically harder than our generation ever have, producing up to 12 children per family along the way and not a vitamin supplement in sight!
There’s a big hoo ha about Vitamin D at the moment and how we northerners in particular don’t get enough sunlight in the winter. And it has to be said that I’ve had my Vit D levels checked in winter and they’ve been lowish, as against very high levels in summer (despite our lack of sunshine!). But hasn’t that always been the case? It wasn’t any sunnier in northern England in the 700s AD yet we’re all still here and functioning. In fact, people who live in hot climates seem to sleep a damned sight more than people living in cold climates – you try getting food at 2pm on a Greek island and you’ll struggle, cos they’re all knackered and having a siesta 😉 And as far as I know, people living in Scandinavian countries are healthy enough despite their lack of sunshine. The lack of vitamin D might have a lot more to do with the fact that none of us go outside in winter these days – we don’t walk to school, we don’t work outdoors not even to hang washing and we travel everywhere in our cars. As a baby I was placed in my pram, even in the depth of winter, every afternoon for a sleep outside – it was considered healthy, and probably was.
IMHO we absolutely do not need the massive range of foods we have available in Western countries. Yes it’s important to eat a balanced diet, but that basically means eat some protein, carbs and fat each day not to eat a huge variety of foods. If my ancestors have lived in northern England for 1500 years surely I’d do better to eat whatever they’ve eaten for the last millennia, not imported foods like medjool dates or coconuts? If the theory of evolution is correct my ancestors have naturally evolved to live on the foods available to us here in England which is lamb not buffalo, pears not mangos, wheat not rice.
Of course, the way we produce our food has radically altered for the worse in the last 60 years which is why I try to buy organic produce whenever possible. Organic soil is so much richer in minerals than none-organic and organic farmers still tend to use natural methods of crop rotation. Organic animals are reared in a more natural way, ie on grass in the open air, and aren’t given anywhere near the same levels of drugs that none-organic animals are pumped full of. Their food is also not laden with chemicals and fertilizers.
None of us cook from scratch anymore either, which has a massive impact on our health. I was absolutely shocked when I wrote this blog post, detailing the chemicals in a modern convenience diet rather than a similar home-cooked diet. I am absolutely convinced that our current obesity crisis, and many of our health issues, are more to do with the chemicals and drugs in our foods than anything else. Our bodies aren’t designed to handle 50 different chemicals (additives, fertilizers, supplements, drugs, hormones) a day, it’s just that simple.
I’m not saying that our ancestor’s lives were all rose tinted, but their health issues and early deaths were more to do with over-work, poverty (and resulting lack of food of any description, let alone a balanced diet) and the inability to treat disease (no penicillin for example) than not having access to supplements or enough sunshine.
I always read with a wry smile that we should be following a “mediterranean diet”. Why’s that then? Do people in the Med not have heart attacks or get cancer? Do they all live 20 years longer than the rest of us? Actually I know the answer to that – the average life expectancy in Spain is 82, as against 81 in England. Do people living in California, or South Africa, not get cancer being as though it’s so sunny there?
I’m not suggesting chucking the baby out with the bath water. Some supplements are absolutely necessary, eg folic acid before pregnancy, B12 for anaemia, but unless there is some fundamental underlying health issue I wholeheartedly belive supplements are a waste of money. Getting out in the winter sun will do you more good than fortifying cardboard breakfast cereal with vitamin D (does anyone really eat breakfast cereals? They’re not food!). And I believe a simple, local, organic diet and cooking foods yourself are a million times better for you than eating imported foods which have been picked before they are ripe, washed with bleach, irradiated to keep them looking fresh, and transported for several weeks before they reach your plate especially if you’re on a low histamine diet.
I’m sure some people will argue with me, but the food industry is just that………..an industry. An industry which needs to make you buy their shit, whether or not you need it or it’s good for you.