In order to answer the question "What is a healthy diet?," it is important to first take a look at what our body is designed for. Is the human body designed to eat plant foods, animal foods, or both? Respectively, are we herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?
While the human gastrointestinal tract is capable of digesting both plant and animal foods, there are indications that we evolved to digest primarily plant foods. Specifically, our teeth are composed of twenty molars, which are perfect for crushing and grinding plant foods, along with eight front incisors, which are well suited for biting into fruits and vegetables. Only our front four canine teeth are designed for meat eating, and our jaws swing both vertically to tear and laterally to crush, while carnivores' jaws swing only vertically. Additional evidence that supports the human body's preference for plant foods is the long length of the human intestinal tract. Carnivores typically have a short bowel, while herbivores have a bowel length proportionally comparable to humans.
Animal World Link
To answer the question of what humans should eat, many researchers look to other primates, such as chimpanzees, monkeys, and gorillas. These nonhuman wild primates are omnivores. They are also often described as herbivores and opportunistic carnivores in that although they cat mainly fruits and vegetables, they may also eat small animals, lizards, and eggs if given the opportunity. For example, the gorilla and the orangutan eat only 1 percent and 2 percent of animal foods as a percentage of total calories, respectively. The remainder of their diet is derived from plant foods. Since humans are between the weight of the gorilla and orangutan, it has been suggested that humans are designed to eat around 1.5 percent of their diet in the form of animal foods. However, most people derive well over 50 percent of their calories from animal foods.
Modern World Food Preferences
During the twenty century food consumption patterns changed dramatically. There were significant increases in the consumption of meat, fats and oils, and sugars and sweeteners in conjunction with a decreased consumption of noncitrus fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products. But the biggest change of human nutrition was the switch from a diet with a high level of complex carbohydrates, as found naturally occurring in grains and vegetables, to a tremendous and dramatic increase in the number of calories consumed in the form of simple sugars. Currently, more than half of the carbohydrates being consumed are in the form of sugars such as sucrose (table sugar) and corn syrup, which are added to foods as sweetening agents. High consumption of refined sugars is linked to many chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Diet and Chronic Diseases
Weston A. Price, a dentist and author of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, was observing the changes in teeth and palate (orthodontic) structure as various cultures discarded traditional dietary practices in favor of a more civilized diet. Price was able to follow individuals as well as cultures over periods of twenty to forty years, and he carefully documented the onset of degenerative diseases as their diets changed.
Further research on the influence of diet preferences on human health was done by Denis Burkitt, M.D., and Hugh Trowell, M.D. Based on the extensive studies examining the rate of diseases in various populations (epidemiological data), including the groundbreaking work of Dr. Price, and their own observations of primitive cultures, Burkitt and Trowell formulated the following sequence of events:
First stage: In cultures consuming a traditional diet consisting of whole, unprocessed foods, the rate of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer is quite low.
Second stage: Commencing with eating a more "Western" diet, there is a sharp rise in the number of individuals with obesity and diabetes.
Third stage: As more and more people abandon their traditional diet, conditions that were once quite rare become extremely common. Examples of these conditions include constipation, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and appendicitis.
Fourth stage: Finally, with full Westernization of the diet, other chronic degenerative or potentially lethal diseases, including heart disease, cancer, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout, become extremely common.
It is obvious that there is a strong correlation between our diet and health condition and the choice is left for each of us to decide what to do with our own health.
Like any other therapies and treatments Dietary practices require that people take responsibility for their own health and healing. After all, a physician can prescribe a course of treatment, but no one can make us to take it!
- Holford, P. The optimum nutrition bible, Little Brown Group (2004)
- Holford, P & Lawson, S. Optimum Nutrition Made Easy How to achieve optimum health, Piatkus Books (2008)
- Murray, M.T. et al., Encyclopedia of healing foods, London : Piatkus (2005)
- The National Research Council. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th ed, National Academy of Sciences (1989)
- Werbach, M. Nutritional Influences on Illness, 2nd ed, Third Line Press (1993)
Posted in Healing FoodsAsk a Question Or Join a Discussion
Healing Foods Categories
As the best source of natural sugar which the body needs for energy, fruit should be an essential part of everyone’s daily diet. Packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants, fruits are the best sources of vitamins from any of the food groups.
The older a person gets the more they probably realize they should have listened to their mother a long time ago – and eaten their vegetables at an early age. Modern science has made it hard to argue with the extensive health benefits of consuming large quantities of vegetables.
Grains as a food group are the most commonly consumed foods in the world. Wheat, rice and corn are the three most important grains and are the largest crops worldwide. These grains are also some of the oldest foods. Their use is known to go back for at least 10,000 years.
Dried fruits – the natural vitamin and mineral complex offered us by nature. The health benefits of dried fruits have been known to mankind since ancient times.