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The Real Story of Food and Your Health
Traditional Diets vs. Our Modern Diet

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Traditional Diets vs. The Modern Diet

Suggested Reading:
RDA vs EAR

This is part five of a nutritional health article on dietary changes and choices that can either result in renewed health or the tearing down of health. Read part one on food and your health. This information is the copywritten material of Loren Howe Do not reprint without express permission from author.

So what do traditional diets indicate regarding cooking? Unlike modern society, traditional diets seem to recognize there is a trade-off between the benefits and disadvantages of cooking. Northern cultures, where bacteria were less of a problem, often ate a great deal of their meat raw. The Eskimos, who ate nearly all meat raw, are a classic example.

How Our Ancestors Prepared Food
Traditionally, fermentation was generally preferred over cooking when time allowed. Raw, fermented vegetables and dairy and grain drinks were a staple food in many societies. Examples of fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kvass, chicha, and ale." Even when foods were heated, prior fermentation seemed to add benefits such as decreased cooking times and improved digestibility. A common example is sourdough bread." "

Furthermore, traditional diets seemed to favor low heat when cooking was necessary." Foods were often steamed or cooked very slowly at low heat even though this greatly increased the difficulty of preparation for people who were heating with wood.

It is likely that this slow cooking was effective in killing bacteria and unlocking nutrients while creating a minimum of toxic Maillard particles. In contrast, many foods today are heated rapidly, pressure cooked, or fried in order to save time (money) in preparation. "

Each food had its traditional method of preparation that generally differed from the modern method. A common example is beans, which were traditionally soaked first to remove toxins, improve digestibility, and reduce cooking times. Today, however, beans are usually boiled for a longer time to produce the same texture, rather thank soaking before boiling, at the expense of quality. Unfortunately, nearly every food today is processed in a new and often radically non-traditional manner. Few if any long-term studies have been conducted to learn the effects of these changes.

Guidelines to Better Diets:
The best guidelines, therefore, are to copy traditional methods, develop your skill in observing the effects foods have on your body, and use instinctive taste as a guide." In addition to minimizing cooking and eating more raw and fermented foods, humans also traditionally had different food sources from today. Until the advent of agriculture and animal husbandry 8,000 years ago (less than 1% of human existence) dairy, grains, and beans (legumes) were an insignificant part of our diet. Adoption of these foods allowed an enormous new source of calories, however, our genetics could not fully adapt in such a short time.

A well-known example is the fact that most adults worldwide are unable to digest milk's lactose. Similar problems exist for the compounds in grains and legumes. Problems with gluten digestion in wheat are perhaps the best-documented example. Hemagglutinins in beans are similar to the gluten in grains. Basically these substances in grains and legumes are a natural defense.

An animal that is not adapted or eats too much of these food sources will have their systems clogged and blood flow decreased in the capillaries. Such clogging has a relatively unstudied effect on nutrient and oxygen flow to tissue like the brain.

Traditional methods of food preparation such as sprouting, fermentation, or soaking helped improve the digestion of dairy, grains, and legumes. Unfortunately, these methods are rarely followed in modern large-scale food preparation." "

There are so many variables and interactions involved with any food source that it becomes impossible to fully determine the long-term effects of one food for a given person. While non-biased studies are helpful, the best method is probably to study the traditional diet of your ethnic type and region while observing the taste and effects of modified diets.

Getting Back to Ancestral Diet:
Simply making one or two changes, however, will not alter an overwhelming unhealthy trend. In order to truly feel the potentially enormous benefits, it is necessary to make a significant transition back to some semblance of what our ancestors ate." "

At this point we have, briefly, covered the broad field of "ancient" dietary changes." In summary, our ancestors had a very different dietary foundation (fruit, nuts, roots, greens, and meat) compared to our current staples (grains, legumes, meat, and dairy)." For nearly all of human history most foods were also eaten raw or processed through fermentation or low heat cooking when necessary.

By experimenting with these traditional practices we can begin to overcome endemic food-related health problems that have been accepted as unavoidable for millennia.Examples include frequent colds, headaches, and a range of degenerative diseases.

However, these "ancient" problems were only the beginning. Today we live under such unnatural conditions that few people know or can imagine the feeling of true health." "

The great news is that once you understand what has happened, you can begin to restore traditional dietary and health practices. Knowledge and action can eventually give you an unimagined degree of wellbeing once you have restored missing elements from our natural environment. Hopefully this information will assist you in learning about a misunderstood topic and enjoying the health and wellbeing that should be the birthright of everyone.

Conclusion: traditional vs. modern diet

Wholistic Health Disclaimer: The views on nutrition and health presented here are the views of Loren Howe. They are not presented as replacement for medical attention.

To learn much greater detail regarding traditional dietary and health practices, you can read The Real Story of Money, Health, and Religion, by Loren Howe available in paperback or download at"LuLu Online Bookstore"