What Can We Learn From Our Grandparents’ Diet?
Our grandparents cooked with lard, produced their own butter, fried their foods, drank full cream milk and they still looked so healthy. How did they do it for God’s sake?
Today we cut carbs, remove fat, cook less, eat more, consume GMOs, artificially sweetened and processed foods, and spend most of our time in sedentary position. It makes the difference, doesn’t it?
Science says calorie restriction increases lifespan
The scientific case for eating a lot less than we currently do is compelling. ‘Calorie restriction’ has repeatedly been shown to slow aging in animals, and many researchers (including Walter Willett, the Harvard epidemiologist) believe it offers the single strongest link between diet and cancer prevention.
“Once one of the longest-lived people on earth, the Okinawans practiced a principle they called ‘Hara Hachi Bu’ which means ‘eat until you are 80% full.’”
Organisms from yeast to rodents to humans all benefit from cutting down on calories. In studies, animals on calorie restriction diets die at an advanced age without any diseases normally related to aging. Among animals on a standard diet, the great majority (astounding 94%) develops and dies of one or more chronic diseases such as cancer or heart disease.
Abstracts of 2 previous scientific studies also suggest that reducing calories activates the silenced information regulator genes, which prolongs cell life.
Processed foods found a culprit
The old farmer John says he and his wife, who does most of the cooking, rarely ate processed food: “We didn’t have any packaged stuff at all. When Dad bought this farm after the war, we’d milk 2 or 3 cows so you’d make your butter and custards. We were reared also on fried scones. We loved fried scones. Instead of baking the scones, we’d fry ‘em. They were beautiful just with butter.”
In an article for TIME Magazine, Mr. Michael Pollan says we shouldn’t eat anything our great-great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. “Imagine how perplexed your ancestors would be in a modern supermarket because most items aren’t real foods – quite – they’re food products,” says Mr. Pollan.
History suggests you might want to wait a few decades or so before adding such novelties to your diet, the substitution of margarine with butter being the classic case in point. The promise was that margarine would prevent disease. People around the globe questioned this advice, especially those who have valued butter for its life-sustaining benefits for millennia. Today we know that grass-fed butter is light years healthier than margarine ever could be!
Mr. Pollan says the Western diet has shifted radically from whole foods to refined foods, from complex to simple carbohydrates, from leaves to seeds and from food culture to food science.
Governments here and abroad have been cautioning the public for decades on the dangers of high fat diets. Their claims based on “their science” concluded that it was best to avoid fats because of its extra calories –saturated fats raise the risk of heart disease. This low-fat mantra has been questioned for years by clinicians and nutritional scientists since it has failed to halt the obesity and cancer epidemic.
Let’s face it: the sheer novelty and glamour of the Western diet, with its amazing 17,000 new food products introduced every year, and the marketing “muscle” used to advertise and sell these products, has overwhelmed the force of tradition!
And even nutritionism (the science of diet), which arose to help us better deal with the problems of the Western diet, has largely been co-opted by it, used by the industry to sell more food and to undermine the authority of traditional ways of eating. You would not have read this far into this article if your food culture were intact and healthy. You would simply eat the way your grandparents and great-grandparents taught you to eat!
Our grandparents also didn’t spend all day stuck at a desk or hours at night on the couch. They performed manual jobs and rode their horses everywhere at full gallop. Food intolerances were unheard of back then and no-one feared carbs. And they also didn’t deprive themselves of eating plenty of food!
Read these Michael Pollan’s 9 principles of healthy eating and… simply stick to them:
1. Eat food… Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food!
2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims. Don’t forget that margarine, one of the first industrial foods to claim that it was healthier than the traditional food it replaced, turned out to give people heart attacks.
3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than 5 in number – or that contain high-fructose corn syrup. None of these characteristics are necessarily harmful in and of themselves, but all of them are reliable markers for foods that have been highly processed.
3. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. You won’t find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmer’s market; you also won’t find food harvested long ago and far away. What you will find are fresh whole foods picked at the peak of nutritional quality. Precisely the kind of food your great-great-grandmother would have recognized as food.
4. Pay more, eat less. There’s no escaping the fact that better food – measured by taste or nutritional quality (which often correspond) – costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care.
5. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves … By eating a plant-based diet, you’ll be consuming far fewer calories, since plant foods (except seeds) are typically less” energy dense” than the other things you might eat.
6. Eat more like the French, or the Japanese, or the Italians do. Confounding factors aside, people who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are. Any traditional diet will do: if it weren’t a healthy diet, the people who follow it wouldn’t still be around.
7. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden. The culture of the kitchen, as embodied in those enduring traditions we call cuisines, contains more wisdom about diet and health than you are apt to find in any nutrition journal. Plus, the food you grow yourself contributes to your health long before you sit down to eat it.
8. Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases.