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  • Matthew W. Mosebar

Discussion- Nutrition

Updated: Feb 21, 2021



NUTRITION- EAT LIKE YOU MEAN IT

The food we eat can either act as a poison, or as a medicine for the intricate and complicated human system. A bold statement, but a necessary one to help us start to understand how broken our food production system really is and how far we have removed ourselves from our ancestral diets. Adult obesity rates have doubled every 15 years since we have entered into the era of modern food production. A Harvard study claims that 57% of today’s youth will be obese by the age of 35. Multiple studies suggest over half of all Americans suffer from some degree of metabolic disease due to poor diets (diabetes, heart disease, lipid problems, cancer and stroke). Currently, 2 out of every 3 Americans are overweight or obese. In 1980 there were zero documented cases of type II diabetes reported with adolescents. In 2010 there were 57,638 reported cases. To put it bluntly, our food is making us sick and the big food lobbyist don’t give a shit.


So, how did we find ourselves in this predicament? How have we become so removed from the way our ancestors prepared, cultivated, and harvested food? How is the current food supply making us sick? Let’s start by going back fifty thousand years when humanity hunted and gathered their food. Imagine being one of your ancestors walking many miles every day collecting edible greens, digging up tiny tubers and, in rare occurrences, coming across a plant producing fruit. Now imagine coordinating with your hunting group as you stalk wild game through the grasslands, expending a tremendous amount of calories as you walk, run, jump, climb, crawl, and throw a projectile to procure meat for your family and tribe. This laborsome and unforgiving lifestyle is a far cry from what our modern lifestyles looks like today. Unfortunately, the process of evolution has not kept up with the rapid pace of growth mankind has experienced over the last few hundred years and the related diets that come with “progress.” Your digestive track, endocrine system, nervous system and all other systems in your body are almost identical to our ancestors that walked the earth 300,000 years ago. Yet, we expect a life of processed microwave dinners and perpetual “screen time” to be a healthy and fulfilling existence.


Now let’s fast forward to 12,000 B.C. when farming was first invented. The people of West Asia were the first to gather seeds and sow them into organized plots, enabling larger tribes and eventual cities to leave the nomadic hunter gatherer lifestyle and feed their growing populations. As farming techniques and equipment progressed, so did the harvest. Farmers were able to produce more with less. Eventually, crop diversity exploded and so did the practice of altering wild plants to make them more productive, easier to grow, and more enjoyable to eat. To date, four hundred generations of farmers and tens of thousands of plant breeders have played a role in redesigning native plants. The combined changes are so monumental that our present-day fruits and vegetables only vaguely resemble what our hunter gatherer ancestors collected many millennia ago.


Consider the banana, America’s most popular fruit. The wild ancestor of the modern day banana comes in a multitude of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Many of them come with large, hard seeds and their skins are so firmly attached one would have to use a knife to extract the flesh. The flesh itself is dry and astringent, making for a rather unenjoyable dining experience. We clever humans, over thousands of years, have selected seeds from plants that showed slight genetic variances that appealed to the farmer and population as a whole. By selecting these seeds with extreme prejudice countless times, we are left with the modern day banana: easy to peel, enormous, sweet, and practically a seedless fruit. So, what’s the harm in making a sweeter, more productive crop? The problem lies in the nutrient content.


Native fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, healthful fats, protein, fiber and phytonutrients. All extremely important nutrients that play a role in thousands of processes in our biological system. Unwittingly, as we went about breeding more palatable fruits and vegetables, we were stripping away some of the very nutrients we now know to be essential for optimal health. Compared with wild fruits and vegetables, our man-made varieties are markedly lower in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and essential fatty acids. A native wild plant called purslane, a succulent found throughout most continents, has six times more vitamin E than spinach and fourteen times more omega-3 fatty acids. It also has seven times more beta-carotene than modern carrots.


Most native plants are also much higher in fiber and protein while being lower in overall sugar content when compared to our modern varieties. The ancestor to our modern corn is a grass plant native to central Mexico. Its kernels are 30 percent protein and 2 percent sugar. In comparison, our newest varieties of sweet corn contain only 4 percent protein and 40 percent sugar. Eating corn this sweet will have the same impact on your blood sugar as eating a Snickers candy bar, or a maple glazed donut. Any health expert worth a shit would agree that the healthiest diets are ones that are high in fiber and low in sugar and rapidly digested carbohydrates. Often referred to as a low-glycemic diet, high fiber foods that are low in sugar help keep our blood glucose at optimum levels. A low-glycemic diet has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, obesity, and diabetes- five modern health epidemics plaguing Americans today.


To compound the issues found with selective breeding and genetic modification of our native fruits and vegetables, big food is adding a staggering amount of sugar to the food products found on the grocery store shelves. From 1977 to 2000 Americans have doubled the amount of sugar in their daily diets. Yes, I said doubled. Do you remember our ill-advised low-fat, and fat-free craze in the 1980’s and 1990’s? By the way, fat is an essential macronutrient and consuming it will not make you fat. In fact, many fats have been proven to be extremely healthy for us and evidence shows consuming certain fats will reduce the onset of cognitive disorders. So, what happens when we remove fat from a food product? It tastes terrible! Fat is a very caloric dense macronutrient and we have acquired a taste for it through the millions of years of human evolution. When a food product is advertised as being low-fat, or fat-free, it most certainly has added sugar in its ingredients to account for the loss of taste. For this reason, food in America has been loaded up with sugar and our demand for this relatively cheap, and long lasting stable ingredient, has only grown over the decades. Not conducive to supporting a low-glycemic diet.


The American Heart Association, recognizing the health concerns relating to excessive sugar intake, have published recommendations on sugar consumption. They state that Americans should consume 16 - 36 grams of sugar per day. To put this in perspective, the average modern banana contains 15 grams of sugar. Even with these recommendations by a governing body, we still do not see “percent daily value” for sugar on our food labels. Why? Well, big food has lobbied to keep this information from the public to ensure sales of their overly sweet products. We must remember that sugar has a very stable shelf life, appeals to the taste buds of Americans, has been proven numerous times to be an addictive substance and is relatively cheap to produce. All attributes that are great for turning a profit.


Now that we have recognized some of the pitfalls of our modern food production, how do we make informed decisions on our next visit to the grocery store? Below are some valuable shopping rules to live by, along with recommendations of certain fruit and vegetable varieties that have retained much of their nutrients over the years of selective breeding.


RULE #1: STAY AWAY FROM THE BOX

The majority of prepackaged and boxed food is highly processed and void of any beneficial nutrients. These products often have added sugar and do not align with a healthy and nutritious eating plan. They are cheap to produce and have a multi-year shelf life- all helping to increase big food’s profit margin.


RULE #2: READ THE FOOD LABEL

Make sure you recognize all ingredients contained within the ingredient list. Remember, the list is organized from heaviest ingredient to lightest. If sugar, or one of the many identities sugar portrays itself as, is listed as an ingredient early on you might want to think twice about purchasing the item. Also, look at the total sugar content and be sure it is at a reasonable number for the serving size. Make a concerted effort to stay within the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 16 - 36 grams of sugar per day.


RULE #3: SHOP THE OUTSIDE AISLES OF THE GROCERY STORE

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy, and meats are usually contained within the outside aisles of the grocery store. If you follow this rule alone, you will most definitely be taking a huge stride forward to eating your way to better health.


RULE #4: EAT THE RAINBOW

Different colored fruits and vegetables contain different phytonutrients, mineral and vitamins. Fill that plate up with purple, red, blue, white, red, green, yellow and brown fruits and vegetables to ensure you are eating an array of nutrients that have contrasting effects on your biological system.


KEEP THE NUTRIENTS IN YOUR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES


SALAD: Choose red, red-brown, purple, or dark green loose leaf varieties. The darker the green the more nutrients it provides. Also loose leaf varieties are packed with phytonutrients as these protect the lettuce from animals and insects in nature. Tightly packed lettuce heads, in contrast, have very little phytonutrients contained within its leaves.


ALLIUMS: Garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, and scallions fall under the allium category. Generally speaking, alliums have not lost any of their health benefits as we have not tried to make them sweeter or more resilient to pests over thousands of years of selective breeding. Strongly flavored onions are best for your health and avoid the “sweet” varieties as we have tinkered with the sugar content within. Enjoy garlic, scallions and shallots and incorporate green onions, onion chives, and garlic chives when cooking to add a plethora of nutrients to your dishes.


CORN: Believe it or not, in 1946 genetic researchers collected corn seed and blasted it with radiation via atomic bomb testing being conducted by the military in the Marshall Islands. The mutated seeds resulted in rather odd, freakish, and short lived corn plants. But, one particular mutated variety named sh2 was extraordinarily sweet. In fact, it was ten times sweeter than the sweet corn of the day. It also proved to be a hardy variety that could withstand colder climates while growing. For these reasons, it became one of the most popular varieties in the 1970’s and continues to be a staple variety in today’s market. Avoid these sweet and super sweet varieties and look for colorful corn that are deep yellow, red, blue, black, or purple. These colorful varieties give you more phytonutrients than pale yellow or white corn.


POTATOES: Choose potatoes with darker skin and flesh. Blue, purple, and red potatoes give you more antioxidants than yellow potatoes. Eat the skin of the potato as much of the nutrients can be found in the skin, or just skin deep. Younger potatoes do not raise your blood sugar as much as older growth potatoes.


ROOT VEGETABLES: These include carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets. Avoid baby carrots as much of the nutrients are found in the skin and just below. Baby carrots are literally just peeled and polished “grown up” carrots. Look for purple carrots with their tops still attached. Beets have performance enhancing qualities and enable better usage of oxygen for the cardiovascular system. Chose sweet potatoes over traditional potatoes as they provide more nutrients and have a lower glycemic index.


TOMATOES: Deep red tomatoes have more lycopene and overall antioxidant activity than yellow, gold, or green tomatoes. Cooking the tomatoes converts lycopene into a form that is more easily absorbed. Canned tomatoes prove to have the highest nutritional value as the tomatoes are often ripened on the vine (unlike the whole tomatoes you buy in store) and are heat treated allowing for easier digestion.


CRUCIFERS: These include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. Try buying fresh broccoli and eating it as soon as possible. Broccoli will lose much of its nutritional value within just a couple days. The same goes for brussels sprouts, look for bright green, tight heads and try to eat them as soon as possible after purchasing. Cabbage can be steamed briefly to increase nutritional value. White cauliflower has more cancer-fighting compounds than green and purple cauliflower, but the colorful varieties are higher in antioxidants. Kale is the most bitter and beneficial of all the crucifers.


LEGUMES: These include beans, peas, and lentils. Avoid frozen peas and beans as they are not as nutritious as when fresh. Look for the most colorful varieties of peas and beans. Dried peas, beans and lentils are extremely high in phytonutrients. Canned beans are even higher in antioxidants than fresh beans. In fact, canned beans are one of the most nutritious foods found in the grocery store.


ARTICHOKES, ASPARAGUS AND AVOCADOS: Time to indulge! All three of these varieties are packed with nutrients. Just be sure to always buy fresh artichokes and asparagus and eat within a day or two of purchasing.


APPLES: As a general rule, apples that have a deep red skin have more nutrients than light red or yellow skinned apples. Always eat the skin as much of the nutrients are contained within the skin and just below the surface. When in season, look for uncommon varieties at your farmer’s market as they are considerably higher in nutrients when compared to the common grocery store varieties.


BLUEBERRIES AND BLACKBERRIES: These berries are some of the most nutritious foods we can buy in the grocery store. Eat a lot of them, and eat them often. Frozen and canned berries contain just as much nutrients as their fresh counterparts.


STRAWBERRIES, CRANBERRIES AND RASPBERRIES: Try buying strawberries at farmer’s markets or U-pick fields. Most strawberries picked for grocery stores are only three-quarters ripe. Cranberries are very high in antioxidants and unsweetened cranberry juice also has multiple health benefits. Raspberries have a rich mix of phytonutrients and are remarkably high in fiber.


STONE FRUITS: White-fleshed peaches and nectarines are higher in phytonutrients than yellow-fleshed varieties. Just like many other fruits and vegetables, eat the skin of the stone fruit as much of the nutrients is contained within the skin. Cherries are rich in phytonutrients and also help calm inflammation. Blue, black and red plums are higher in antioxidants than yellow and green varieties.


GRAPES: Red, Purple and black grapes have much higher nutritional benefits compared to the green or lighter colored varieties. Buy organic grapes as they are traditionally sprayed heavily with pesticides. Eat more currants as they have more antioxidants than raisins or golden raisins.


CITRUS: Choose large oranges with deep orange skin. Eat the membranes that surround the orange for added nutrition. The deeper the color of skin and flesh of the citrus fruit, the more phytonutrients the fruit provides. When buying citrus juice, look for deep colored juice with pulp included to ensure maximum nutritional value.


TROPICAL FRUITS: Bananas are relatively high in sugar and low in phytonutrients- eat sparingly. Extra sweet pineapple varieties are actually more nutritious than the common Cayenne variety. Papayas are becoming more popular in the states and have a relatively low glycemic index and are an excellent source of vitamin C. Mangoes have five times more vitamin C than oranges, have a low glycemic index and have five times more fiber than pineapples. Guavas are the most nutritious of all tropical fruits and also come with a low glycemic index.


MELONS: Melons offer very little nutritional value. Because melons rest on the ground, they come into direct contact with potentially harmful soil bacteria. Be sure to scrub melons thoroughly before cutting. Watermelon with deep red flesh can be a good source of lycopene.



In Health,

Matthew W. Mosebar

5/1/2019

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