In Crowding Out, Part One, Ashton Miles starts taking a look at the difficulty we face when navigating the ever-changing seas of nutritional data
It is relatively recent in the history of our species that we come to have experts telling us what we should and should not put into our bodies. Somewhere in the last few hundred years, the human race seems to have lost the intuitive knowledge it once relied upon to feed itself, and has come to depend instead on outsider or ‘expert’ opinions to help navigate a complicated minefield of possible health risks. It is today impossible to walk down a supermarket aisle without being bombarded by various health claims: ‘99% fat free’, ‘now with added vitamin B’, ‘gluten free’ and ‘made with natural sugars.’ Why now, when our species has thrived on the saturated fats of animals, nuts and oils for centuries, is it so important to eliminate this once treasured compound? If our ancestors didn’t add vitamin B to their bread or Iron to their milk, why do we find that to be necessary now?
Since nutritional science first came to the forefront of popular awareness, multiple conclusions about how what we eat affects us, and therefore, how we should alter our habits, have been drawn using biased and inconclusive data. It was fat that was first demonized, and with the low-fat craze came the replacement of many healthy, natural, saturated fats with highly refined and unstable polyunsaturated fats like seed oils, canola and margarine. Later, carbohydrates took the fall, and many dieters and would-be health fanatics switched to high-protein, low-carb diets just as quickly as they had eliminated fat, just a few years earlier. The 21st century diet as it stands today has been subjected to so many mixed messages, and toyed with so frequently and drastically, that very few people feel at ease with the once normal practices of food shopping, preparation and consumption. Perhaps worse than this food anxiety, is the fact that despite our best efforts, the elimination of various food types doesn’t seem to be doing much for the obesity epidemic, not to mention the rise in metabolic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In fact, it seems to be making it worse.
In our search for an easy fix, we replace one highly processed food with another; doing away with, for example, sugary soda drinks and replacing them with artificially-sweetened (or better sad, chemically sweetened) equivalents, or switching to a bread made with vegetable oils, refined, reinforced grains and soy. Many people, for example, have made the ‘healthy’ switch from regular full cream milk, to ‘skim’, vitamin enriched, or soy milk, only to find their health or weight problems worsened.
So what more can we do? We control our portion sizes, order off the ‘healthy’ menu, buy everything fat-free and work out like crazy. We try to say no to sweets and let guilt and advertising wear us down until, like a child who has been told ‘no’ one too many times, we cry out ‘why not?!’ Experts would have us believe it is our own fault, but we are only to blame for following the advice of breakthrough experts who led us to believe they knew better than our mothers, better than our bodily intuitions, and better than thousands of years of evolution.
The question then, in the midst of this diet-crazy mess, is, ‘what can I eat?’
The answer, say those retaliating against this fanatic oversimplification of nutrition, is simple.
To find out what those answers on, join us next week for Part Two…