I have been watching my cat a lot more these days and one thing I notice about his eating habits is that he knows what he likes and seems to like what´s good for him. For Gin (that´s his name), eating is a simple matter since he eats pretty much the same thing every day. I assume that it´s that way for cats and dogs everywhere. I remember going to the zoo when I was younger, and saw that lions, tigers and bears, as well as elephants, crocodiles, and seals ate the same thing every day. Although I´ve never been on an African safari I do get the opportunity of watching wildlife documentaries and I see that, in the wild, animals know exactly what to eat and will stick to their regimen, no matter what. There is no confusion. Nature has conveniently programmed animals to specific diets.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN ANIMAL GOES OFF IT´S NATURAL DIET?
Examples of this can be found with animals that are raised on factory farms (i.e., cows, pigs and fish) where their diets are compromised.
“A Cows Natural Diet consists of plants that can be “grazed” or “browsed.” Grazing generally refers to the eating of grasses, and browsing usually refers to the eating of leaves, twigs, or bark from bushes or trees. Cows both graze and browse, but they are definitely more “grazers” than “browsers” and their complicated four-part stomach helps them to slowly digest relatively large amounts of grasses. From a historical perspective, consumption of ground grains has NOT been part of the cows’ natural diet.”
This is what you might find on small farms where cows are grass-fed. When factory farms sprung up during mid-19th century, because of the growing consumer demand for meat, grass fed cows were no longer feasible. There just wasn´t enough grazing land available and so it wasn´t profitable. The diet had to change and large amount of grains such as corn and soy substituted the grass. It also helped to fatten the cows which resulted in a greater profit margin. Also, a grass fed cow has less fat and more muscle than a grain fed cow and as a result…the meat is usually tougher. Unfortunately, this unnatural diet combined with the claustrophobic conditions of the factory farms has led to diseases and infections among the cows. That resulted in the use of antibiotics as an attempt to control the diseases, although not always with success. Factory farm pigs and fish are also not eating the foods that nature intended them to eat.
SO WHAT HAS THIS TO DO WITH US HUMANS?
Since animals know what their natural food is…why isn´t that the case with humans? Why are there so many contradictions and why has it become so complicated that Wikipedia lists 93 different diets. Isn´t it possible that, as with the diseases on factory farms, one of the main reasons for chronic diseases among us humans is simply because we´re not eating what nature meant us to eat?
WHAT DOES HISTORY TELL US?
1) Populations that mostly eat plant based foods (i.e., rural China, Japan, and parts of Africa – Nepal and Kenya – where long distant champion runners come from) rarely suffer from the chronic diseases that plague people on the Standard American Diet (SAD) of meat, dairy and processed foods. These populations have been eating plant based for centuries. Also, they don´t use supplements, count calories, worry about sugar or salt intake or have problems with gluten or carbohydrates. They eat what their ancestors ate. For them, eating healthy is simple and easy.
2) According to Dan Buettner´s book “The Blue Zones”, the longest living people on the planet eat plant based foods (i.e., Okinawa, Japan, Sardinia, Italy, Loma Linda, California, Ikaria, Greece and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica).
3) The Tarahumara Indians in Northern Mexico are considered “the modern Spartans,” because of their amazing endurance. They can run races day and night, kicking a ball for 100 miles, for the fun of it. According to the research: “Probably not since the days of the ancient Spartans (of Greece) has a people achieved such a high state of [extreme] physical conditioning.” And what do they eat? A diet made up of 75 to 80 percent starch (carbohydrates) based on “beans, corn, and squash.”
4) When healthy people from regions that consume plant based foods change their diets when they move to regions that consume the Standard American Diet, they begin to suffer the SAD diseases (i.e., heart, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, obesity).
5) Recently, the remains of dozens of Roman gladiators were discovered in a mass grave. Using just their skeletons, they were able to reconstruct the death blows, show just how strong they really were, and even reconstruct their “diet of barley and beans.” They were actually called “hordearii” which meant “Barley Men.” Similarly, the Roman army troopers, famed for their fighting abilities, also were eating a similar kind of diet, suggesting “The best fighters in the ancient world were essentially vegetarian.”
It´s important to recognize that fad diets have only been in existence for decades…at most! and so they can only make health claims based on short term results. Compare that to the successful track record of civilizations consuming plant based foods, that have been around for thousands of years.
SO WHY ISN´T EATING HEALTHY EASY?
Because we live in a consumer society we are faced with a constant barrage of enticing products that we are expected to buy into. Marketing experts are trained to capture our attention with the latest and greatest products and fads. This is especially true in the field of nutrition because there´s nothing closer to us then what we put in our mouths. Unfortunately, most marketing experts are motivated primarily by sales and to a lesser extent…our health. As a result of their persistent efforts to sell us their products, we end up in a never ending cycle of confusion about what foods are healthy for us. As a result, the choices that we make regarding nutrition may not be in our best interest. Understanding the essence of nature, it seems to make sense to me that human beings had always known perfectly well how to feed itself, just as all other species know how to feed themselves. Yet, because this nutrition “knowledge” has been forgotten, we end up believing so called diet “experts” who happen to have written a book or two on nutrition. As long as we´re in the mode of believing…we will never know. We need to connect again with the knowledge that lies within us…that would reveal what foods are best for us.