by Leslie Kenton
A lot has happened to our foods in the last century to produce the widespread degenerative diseases that plague our planet now. First, they are grown differently than our ancestors, who for thousands of years, grew theirs.
We grow food on chemically fertilised soils in which the organic matter has been degraded or destroyed. Eating foods this way leads to a depletion and imbalance in the minerals and trace elements available to our bodies - both of which we need in good quantities to support complex metabolic processes on which health and leanness depend.
Second, our foods are now highly processed. Raw foodstuffs, instead of being made into meals in home kitchens as they were in our grandparents’ time, are sent to food manufacturers where they are fragmented - literally broken apart physically and chemically - then put through complex processes to alter them out of all recognition. Third, our foods are shipped over long distances and stored for long periods of time, both of which lowers their nutritional value. These modern practices destroy food’s wholesomeness - a property very hard to measure except in terms of the degenerative effects that eating such foods has on our bodies. Destroy a food’s wholesomeness and you destroy a food’s ability to support the highest levels of health. And once the health-giving integrity of any food has gone it has gone for good. It can never be compensated for by vitamin and mineral supplements or by eating cereals to which extra fibre and vitamins have been added.
Our great-grandparents - whether they were Africans, Indians, Asians or Europeans - regardless of the staple foods they ate - rice, wheat, rye, barley, corn, cassava, yams or what have you - had two important things in common. Their meals were mostly prepared from foods of vegetable origin, and the foods they ate were little processed. They were eaten whole, as closely as possible to their natural state.
Such foods form the basis of radiant health. This kind of eating helps prevent the development of obesity and other degenerative conditions - even if you happen to have inherited a tendency towards them. The even more exciting news is that studies carried out at leading universities and published in highly respected medical journals such as The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine as well as clinical results from centres for health education and lifestyle medicine now show that returning to what I call a Go Primitive Diet can free people from much suffering caused by degenerative conditions such as high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, diverticulitis and other Western diseases.
Food For Degeneration
The typical Western Diet is based on `foods of commerce’ - the stuff you can buy at the local corner shop and in run-of-the-mill supermarkets. These foods are very different from the simple foods that human beings have eaten throughout history and to which our bodies have become genetically adapted. Our ancestors did not eat massive quantities of white bread, white sugar, junk fats, and pre-packaged, pre-cooked foods like we do. They ate simple, ordinary, wholesome foods - as much of them as they could get. Their diet was low in fat, high in complex carbohydrates and only moderate in protein. Modern convenience foods on which we now feed is high in fat and depleted of natural fibre. They consist of highly refined carbohydrates like white bread and packaged cereals, spiked with lots of sugar and junk fats - that is oils which have been separated out from the foods in which they occur in nature then chemically altered by solvents and heat processing. We now consume masses of animal protein riddled with fat - milk, cheese, meat, eggs, fish and poultry. Even the leanest beef, pork, or lamb, is more than 50% fat. Our ancestors never consumed massive quantities of protein or high concentrations of fat - not in all history. As a result our bodies are ill equipped to handle them. With a few rare exceptions such as the Eskimos and the Maasai, in all “primitive cultures” - the Chinese, the Greeks, the Indians, the Europeans, the Africans, and the Egyptians - meat was used as a condiment or was eaten only on feast days - never every day. It did not form the main part of a meal.
There is one more major change that has taken place: today we also swallow a kaleidoscope of chemical colorants, flavourings additives and `enhancers’, not to mention pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, which our ancestors never imagined in their wildest dreams. We slurp down chemical pollutants with each sip of our diet cola and every bite of our pre-cooked meals. Such is the Western diet. So next time you upbraid yourself for what you perceive to be your lack of will power as you reach for yet another biscuit and feel guilty about it, let the guilt go. It does not belong to you. The denatured, degraded, food we eat bears the lion’s share of blame for the state we find ourselves in as well as for how hard it is in our culture to stay and to remain healthy.
Western Way of Death
It was Weston Price early on in the century who first brought the scientific community’s attention to the devastating effects of the rise of processed convenience foods. Price, a dentist, travelled the world recording the changes in the shape of the jaw and teeth which take place slowly but inevitably as each culture discards its traditional dietary practices in favour of more `civilized’ Western fare. Price’s many studies - each of which lasted between 20 and 40 years - carefully plot the onset of degenerative diseases including overweight and obesity. It is not surprising that the human body, used to a diet of simple whole plant foods rich in natural fibre and health-giving synergy of nutrients and micro-nutrients throughout evolution, should find the foods we now eat anathema to long-term health and leanness. Our genes have been attuned to Go Primitive eating for more than a million years. Our metabolic biochemistry as human beings is designed for it.
Many years after Price had completed his work, two British doctors Dennis Burkitt and Hugh Trowell carried out their own extensive studies taking Price’s work a step further. They carefully documented the exact sequence of events which takes place when a people’s diet changes from primitive to convenience:
Destruction is Two-Faced
- Stage One: The primitive, unprocessed diet of plant eaters complete with large quantities of unprocessed carbohydrates and whole foods is eaten. There are very few examples of degenerative disease.
- Stage Two: Western diet is introduced. Obesity and diabetes become common among privileged groups able to afford foods of commerce.
- Stage Three: A culture’s diet becomes moderately Westernized. Obesity becomes more widespread, as do constipation, haemorrhoids, varicose veins and appendicitis.
- Stage Four: Westernised diet now widespread. Overweight and obesity are common in all social groups. So is heart disease, high blood pressure, diverticular disease, hiatus hernia, cancer and other Western Diseases.The degradation of our food has two major aspects, each of which is important to understand in depth. The first revolves around changes in the way food is grown. The second has come from the way food is handled and processed.
Early on in the twentieth century a few scientists - mostly in Germany - experimented with chemicals as a means of fertilising food crops. They found that a mixture of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) would grow big yield crops of good-looking vegetables, grains, legumes and fruits. But little interest was taken in their discoveries until the end of World War II. At that time most foods were still grown pretty much as they had always been - by farmers who manured, mulched, and rotated their crops to keep soils rich and in good condition. To put it another way, most food was grown organically, although nobody had even coined the word for this was no more than what traditional farmers throughout the world had done for thousands of years. When the war ended, big chemical conglomerates who had been involved in the manufacture of phosphates and nitrates as war materiel found themselves stuck with huge stockpiles. They went looking for new markets. Aware of the early research into chemical fertilising, they turned towards farmers and began to sell them artificial NPK fertilisers at costs low enough to make it all look very attractive. These purveyors of chemicals also spread the false belief that NPK is all you need to grow healthy crops. There were unfortunately two very important facts that chemical hawkers left out. Probably they did not even know. Maybe it was not so good for their profit margins to know. The first is that, although plants grow big on artificial fertilisers they do not grow resistant to disease. The second is that the health of human beings eating food plants grown this way can be seriously undermined.
Plants grown only on NPK are deprived of essential minerals and other micro-substances they need to synthesise natural complexes in roots and leaves which ward off attack by insects, weeds and animals. So before long the new artificially fertilised vegetables and fruits began to develop diseases. The chemical hawkers were quick to the rescue. The answer to this problem, they said, would be found in using more chemicals. That is how pesticides, herbicides, nemacides and fungicides came into being. They provided chemical companies with yet another exciting business opportunity - especially since the longer you fertilise chemically the more depleted in organic matter your soils become and the less they contain of the minerals and trace elements needed to synthesise natural protective complexes during growth, so the more pesticides you need. So as time went on, more and more pesticides and other chemicals were sold. Yet before long another important fact began to raise its ugly head. It was this: like plants, human beings need a lot more than nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous from the foods they eat too, to maintain their own health.
Your body cannot make minerals. It has to take them in, in a good balance, from the foods you eat. In addition to nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, it requires magnesium, manganese and calcium, selenium, zinc, copper, iodine, boron, molybdenum, vanadium and probably other elements as yet undiscovered as well to stay healthy. These elements need to come from the foods you eat. Generally they do when foods are grown organically in healthy, traditionally fertilised soils. But they are increasingly missing and unbalanced in the foods we buy today thanks to our legacy of chemical farming.
The organic matter in healthy soil is Nature’s factory for biological activity. It is built up as a result of the breakdown of vegetable and animal matter by the soil’s natural `residents’ - worms, bacteria and other useful micro-organisms. The presence of these creatures in the right quantity and type gives rise to physical, chemical and biological properties that create fertility in our soils and make plants grown on them highly resistant to disease. When it comes to human health they do a lot more.
The minerals and trace elements we need to trigger our metabolic processes on which health and leanness depend, must be in an organic form - that is taken from living things like plant or animal foods. You cannot eat nails - inorganic iron - for instance, and expect to protect yourself from anaemia, or chew sand - inorganic silica - and be sure to get enough silica - the trace element that keeps your nails and hair strong and beautiful and helps protect your bones from osteoporosis. It is the organic matter in soils that enables plants grown on them to transform inorganic iron and silica into the organic form which is taken up by the vegetables and fruits, grains and legumes grown on them which we then eat, making these nutrients available to our bodies. Destroy the soil’s organic matter through chemical farming and slowly but inexorably you destroy the health of people and animals living on foods grown on it. Organic methods of farming help protect against significant distortions in mineral balances - an increase in one or more mineral elements which can alter the availability of others. This can also undermine the people’s health. No such protection is available when foods are chemically grown.
Hard to Cope
Your body has a remarkable ability to compensate for a mineral or trace element missing from your food. But, as a result of many years of our all eating nutritionally-depleted foods multiple deficiencies have become widespread. According to large scale studies, few people in the West still receive all the minerals they need to ensure that the metabolic processes work adequately - processes on which health, leanness, and the immune system depend. And the deficiencies we are developing as well as the metabolic distortions that come in their wake cannot easily be corrected. Popping the latest multi-mineral tablet from your corner pharmacy of health-food store won’t do it. For nutrients in foods exist in complex synergy and affect each other. They also interact and work together in your body. A balance of bio-available minerals and trace elements available from wholesome foods is infinitely more complex than vitamin fanatics would have us believe. To restore balance once it has been disturbed you need to return to good wholesome food - perhaps supplemented with extra green plants such as kelp, spirulina, chlorella, barley grass or alfalfa. This is a slow process taking months and even years.
Our indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and other chemicals has quite literally poisoned the land we live in and contributed to widespread degenerative diseases in other ways too. It was Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring back in 1947 who warned that this would happen. She was viciously attacked for her brilliant book when it appeared. Chemical interests did everything in their power to discredit what she wrote. Yet now, half a century later, her prophetic words have turned out to be terrifyingly accurate. Since Silent Spring many laws have been passed and many official agencies have been set up throughout the Western World designed to regulate the kind and quantity of chemicals used on the land. They vary greatly in their approach and powers from one country to another. But they all have one thing in common: an inability to stop or significantly alter the ubiquitous poisoning of lands, people and animals.
The poisoning of our air, land and water continues to take place. In most countries it grows worse year by year. Like ostriches, we have tended to bury our heads in the sand and hope that what we don’t see won’t hurt us. Meanwhile, each year more than one billion gallons of chemicals are sprayed onto crops. In the US 2.6 billion pounds of pesticides are spread over the soils - not to mention herbicides, chemical fertilisers, rodentocides, and other chemical contaminants. Similar statistics - from official government agencies - exist for every other English-speaking country in the world.
In most English-speaking countries DDT was banned in the seventies or eighties. Yet in many areas its use still remains unchecked. After the ban, large stockpiles of the poison were sent to developing countries who had no limiting regulations against DDT. This is something we, in the so-called First World, do frequently. As soon as one chemical or another is put on our banned list we send it off to our cousins in developing counties for them to use. It is a practice not without sinister irony. For the cash crops on which they spread our rejects return to us in the form of sugar, coffee, tea and fruit which we then eat. Even in many countries where DDT is no longer to be found in the crops, it continues to poison marine animals and fish. Residues remain dangerously high in our own soils, the water, and in mother’s milk. Meanwhile we have taken up newer pesticides which are even more toxic - dinoseb for instance and lindane, captan and alachlor - chemicals which controlled studies have already conclusively proven to be carcinogenic. We are still using them.
Chemical pollution not only does a great deal to harm the body, it specifically encourages overweight. Whenever your body is exposed to poison in any form - from heavy metals such as lead or cadmium in air or water or to pesticides and herbicides, and other contaminants in our foods, it makes big demands on the body’s resources for detoxifying these pollutants. Enzymes such as glutathionine peroxidase and catalase and anti-oxidant nutrients such as selenium, and vitamins A, C, and E are needed in significant quantities. Your body’s supply of these important enzymes and nutrients are also needed for many other functions of metabolism, including protecting your immune system and they can become depleted. So when exposure is long enough and high enough then, as a means of self-defense, your body will try to store such toxic residues it can’t adequately clear away in a safe place - that is your least metabolically active tissues - the fat cells.
If you, like many of us, have inherited a propensity to gain weight such body pollution only encourages you to grow fatter and fatter.
Like our soils, the industrially prepared foods of commerce we eat today - from biscuits and pasta to pre-cooked convenience meals - have also quite literally been taken to pieces. High-tech food production works something like this: To create a great variety of palatable foods from raw materials you first have to reduce the foodstuffs - grains and seeds, vegetables and legumes - to simple, malleable `nuts and bolts’ that lend themselves to whatever manipulations you want to perform on them. Take soya beans. These little legumes contain a complete protein as valuable as meat or eggs - more valuable in many ways since it is so cheap. Food manufacturers take whole soya beans, in which 30% of each bean is protein, and process them physically and chemically to extract this protein and make it ready to accept dyes and flavourings. They then alter its texture through more processing until eventually it becomes ersatz meat. This end product is a long way from the natural soya bean from which it was made. In the course of such manipulations the little soya bean, once an excellent synergy of nutrients, complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and fibre, has now been turned into a highly concentrated artificial material. During the operation vitamins and minerals have also been destroyed and the soya bean’s proteins and natural fatty acids have been denatured and chemically altered into new forms, some of which are not even usable by the body - except to lay down as fat stores. Its protein content has tripled and now approaches 90%. To this artificial food manufacturers then add a lot of phoney colours and flavours. Canadian expert in food science, Ross Hume Hall, puts it rather well when he says: “The product contains the same number of calories as the original soya protein, but it now consists of a set of naked molecules completely divorced from any natural context.”
From milk to meat to garden peas - whatever food is involved - processing destroys nutrients. According to official government handbooks, 50-70% of vitamin B6 is lost when meats are processed. 50-90% of folic acid - a vitamin of particular importance to the functioning of nerves and the actions of hormones, especially in the female body - is shed when grains are milled while more that 80% of the mineral magnesium disappears in the same process. The multi-national food industry which tends to cover the packaging of its products with endless `nutritional’ information would have you believe that any goodness lost in processing can be made up for by `enriching’. Enriching is just another process whereby a few vitamins and minerals in synthetic form are pumped back into the now fragmented food. It is categorically impossible to restore the health-giving power of wholeness to any food that has been fragmented in this way.
Similar nutrient losses happen during other phases of food handling too - like artificial ripening, transport and storage. Store asparagus for a week and it loses 90% of its vitamin C. Keep grapes for the same time and they shed 30% of their B vitamins. Freeze meats and you can lose as much as 50% of two important B vitamins - riboflavin and thiamin. These are just a few examples of nutrient losses which occur every day. They are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways in which modern food handling and manufacturing processes have created highly concentrated calorie-dense foods which are no longer able to support health and protect those of us who have a genetic disposition towards gaining weight from getting fat.
Ask Any Rat
It is not just human beings who respond to processed foods in this way either. Studies show that when you feed rats on foods of commerce - what is commonly called a caféteria diet - most of them get fat too. The more highly refined and processed the food you eat the hungrier you can become. There are many reasons for this. Because such foods are bereft of some essential nutrients, your body in its natural desire for them eats more and more. Also, continuing to eat foods `constructed’ from the same raw materials - things like milk, flour, corn oil and sugar - stresses your body’s enzymes - all of which are food-specific. Because there is a particular enzyme needed to break down a particular food this can deplete your system of those enzymes and create food sensitivities - what are commonly called food allergies - so that every time you eat something containing milk or flour you crave more. This is part of the bizarre but widespread phenomenon of chemical and food addiction. Another important reason for food craving is that the convenience foods are full of junk fats and sugar. The more you eat of either the more you want. After a couple of packaged biscuits, or a sloppy hamburger or one of those chic and expensive packets of chicken drenched in wine sauce you crave more and more. Some foods are even sprayed with so-called flavour enhancers which encourage greed. Tinned dog foods fall into this category which is why dogs seem ravenous when they devour them. Foods that have been chemically grown, sprayed, treated and highly manipulated like this can never really satisfy hunger because they are nutritionally inadequate and chemically distorted. We can over look this fact with our mind each time we feel a Big Mac craving coming on, it is a truth our bodies know very well at the deepest levels.
Refining and processing foods strips them of their natural fibre and in changing their physical form makes them absorbed very quickly into the intestine. This is especially true of the average breakfast cereals and most of our bread and biscuits, cookies and sweets. It is why you get a slump of energy and hunger at 11 each day after eating them. Such foods give only a temporary feeling of having eaten enough. Very soon your stomach is back again complaining of emptiness and demanding more.
Dietary fibre is an integral part of every vegetable food as it appears in nature. The naturally high-fibre Go Primitive Diet of our ancestors had a low caloric density. People eating this way reach satiety far quicker than those munching away on the products of the Western food industry with their very high caloric density since they are devoid of fibre and stuffed with junk fats and hidden sugars. 85% of the calories we eat in the Western world - animal products, refined cereals, sugar, oils and fats - now come from foods that lack fibre. The average person on a Western diet gets only 10-25 grams of fibre a day. The diet our ancestors ate and the more primitive diets of developing countries contained between 35 and 60 grams. So important is fibre in whole plant foods that these facts alone would be enough to account for our spreading waist lines and rampant degenerative conditions. The bulky and moisture-rich foods our ancestors ate - and which are still eaten in the few primitive cultures that remain on the planet - are the foods that we need to restore our body’s balance. Eat them and they make their full journey through your digestive tract while skilfully clearing away wastes and toxins and decreasing the number of calories absorbed by the intestine.
Go Primitive foods are archetypal comfort foods. They are the kind of foods that make you feel deliciously satisfied. Rich wholesome breads, legumes, fresh vegetable stews, crunchy cereals and luscious natural sweets. They are foods in which the integrity of their components - natural proteins, fatty acids, fibre, minerals and vitamins - has been preserved. You will find they satisfy hunger as no other foods can since they are the kind of foods to which your body has been genetically adapted for hundreds of thousands of years. If you can get them in their organic form, so much the better. If not, buy them as fresh as you can and incorporate special nutrient-rich items into your diet such as sprouted seeds and grains, seaweed or spirulina, chlorella or green barley.
In a world where much confusion abounds over how much of this and that you should or shouldn’t eat, the simple Go Primitive diet is nothing short of revolutionary. For many, starting to eat this way is rather like coming home again. You begin to re-experience all the rich textures of real foods again with their wonderful aromas, colours and textures - all those things that our widespread foods of commerce have lost and are continually trying to compensate for with the addition of chemical flavourings, colourings and bright seductive packaging. You may even find, as I have, that for the first time in years you enjoy cooking and food preparation again. For these natural raw materials - the crunchy grains, the colourful fresh vegetables and succulent fruits, the seeds and beans and nuts - can create meals that are as delicious as they are health-giving. Go Primitive. It is time to break free.
Organic Food Resources
Effective nutritional secrets. Buy the DVD, arrange a screening with friends. www.foodmatters.tv
The Future of Food
A must-see documentary about the policies of Monsanto Inc., its worldwide programme of patenting all seed stock genetic codes, producing terminator seeds and controlling the world food supply.
A Youtube video of the first ten minutes of The Future of Food.
Controlling Our Food: The World According to Monsanto
A 109 minute French documentary that Americans won’t ever see. The gigantic bio-tech corporation Monsanto is threatening to destroy the agricultural biodiversity which has served mankind for thousands of years. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6262083407501596844
Genetically Modified Food
Food Patents: Stealing Indigenous Knowledge?
A web report by Global Issues.org on genetic piracy and indigenous peoples.
Organic NZ (New Zealand Soil and Health Assn.)
New Zealand Soil & Health Assoc and its magazine Organic NZ.
A web based advertising business for organic products.
This website providing information and links, on organics and subjects, products and services related to the organic lifestyle.
Permaculture in New Zealand
Grow organic food the permaculture way, keep in touch and share information. www.permaculture.org.nz