Measured in “blog years” perhaps I haven’t posted for a while, but it’s good to keep it in perspective. Consider the timeline above, for instance, which describes part of our relationship to foods.
Each horizontal pixel in the timeline represents 162.5 years, and I’ve only run it back as far as the advent of modern humans — people who are physically the same as you or I. The timeline could have gone further — for example, to the beginnings of fire and cooking, which vary in estimation from 500,000 to 1.7 million years ago — anywhere from five to fifteen times as long as the current chart (or 2125 years per pixel, which would place the advent of agriculture a mere four pixels from the end of the timeline).
As you can see, the “classic staples” of our diets — breads, cultivated fruits, domesticated animals, imported foods and spices — didn’t really show up until fairly recently, in that last portion of the timeline. Our bodies (including the brains), which have been evolving towards their own maximized ecological niche for a very long time, were developed and balanced for a well-defined and pretty consistent diet long before agriculture cropped up.
Almost everything we’re familiar with today, eating-wise, fits into that very last pixel on the right. The past 162.5 years have seen the adoption of canned foods, refrigeration, aluminum foil, mechanized harvesting, supermarkets, plastic wrap, artificial flavors and preservatives, and — this one is key — corporate production and marketing of most everything we put in our mouths.
If we set aside questions of how to maximize convenience, or how to best-enrich the coffers of corporate food producers, what should we eat? The bodies that we have are still designed to make ther best use of the foods and environment in which they evolved. Primitive man may have had a life expectancy of 30 years, but when you remove the effects of predation (so far, none of my immediate relatives have been eaten by leopards) and severe infant mortality, the differences begin to dissolve. The human body was born eating simple foods, eating sweets only when in season, not being exposed to concocted flavors or near-infinite supplies of processed and addictive grains. The fossil record itself shows a shift when grains (which are relatively high in silicon and other minerals from the earth they’ve grown in) were added to the human diet — the teeth of the fossils at that point in prehistory suddenly become worn, ground-away.
Not all modern foods need to be harmful, of course. But it’s good to be aware of what they are, and to always be aware that the interests of your health are only marginally connected to the (financial) interests of those who feed you.
For myself, I’m sticking to foods not far from early man’s tree — at least 95% of the time anyway (exceptions mostly focus around social circumstances, such as always accepting hospitality — another core human trait is the ability to share!). The result is pretty-much a copy of modern low-carb fare: meat, eggs, veggies, only a small number of sweet foods, avoidance of refined flours and sugars. I don’t need to run from predators, but I give my elliptical machine a regular spin and inflict painful crunches on my abs. I take some modern advice by using cholesterol-free egg products, and keep just a few lingering industrialized vices: coffee, wine, and diet coke.
The net results after the past year or two of this eating philosophy: my doctor says I’m healthy, I feel great and energized, and I’m back to the clothing sizes I enjoyed in my youth — quite literally, I’ve recently found my best source of bluejeans is Gap Kids. Thank you, Alley Oop.