In talking to the variety of people who come into our market, I’m struck by the range of dietary templates that healthy people follow. From Vegan to Paleo, locavore to piscatarian, vegetarian to flexitarian, all seem to have a focus on whole, real foods. This makes sense from a health standpoint. In reviewing the science of food, books such as “The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner point out that some different cultures eat in different ways with the same end results: longer lives with less morbidity (illness). It’s not necessary to point out that the Standard American Diet (appropriately nicknamed “SAD”) does not lead to long, healthy lives. So what is it that binds these dietary lifestyles together? In a nutshell, it’s traditional foods.
Our “traditions” in America aren’t always the ones that our parents and grandparents followed: eating in our cars, eating in front of the computer or television, and eating at our desks have replaced sitting down for family meals. More importantly, our traditional foods seem to have swung to fast foods, or industrially produced foods. Not surprisingly, our culture has the highest incidence of obesity now than we have had in our history.
What are traditional diets, then? Dr. Daphne Miller, a family physician, does a nice job of linking them together so take the time to watch her YouTube presentation, if you can at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_VC4Ya6i1I . I’ll boil down the salient points here:
*Eat fresh, local produce (even better, grow your own!) The closer you can get your intestines to the farm the better (graphic, but true).
*If you choose to eat grains, eat native grains prepared traditionally (Westonaprice.org is a good source for properly preparing grains)
*Eat the real food, not the processed version
*If you choose to eat meat, quality over quantity is important (grass-fed, not grain-fed, to lower the Omega-6 inflammatory components). Use it as a “spice” (don’t necessarily make it the focus of the meal). Eat the whole animal, not just for environmental reasons but because healthy animals that have eaten a healthy diet (their natural diet) provide a lot of nutrients from their organ meats and bones. (Avoid the organs and fat in conventionally raised meats, however, as they are the collectors of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, etc.)
*If you choose to not eat meat, beans are the way to go. Look for the highest quality protein sources you can find.
*Fermented foods provide healthy bacteria for a healthy gut.
*Indigenous oils (ie, ones that you could make without industrialized machinery) are the best option: Coconut oil, olive oil, red palm oil, suet or tallow from healthy animals. Avoid canola, sunflower, safflower, etc., as they are very pro-inflammatory.
*Use healing spices (these can vary from culture to culture)
*Get your sweet, sour and salty from whole foods.
*Follow some familial eating traditions: Communal eating (like potlucks or family meals, holidays, etc.), intermittent or modified fasts (religious examples can include lent), Hara Hachi Bu (eat until you’re 80% full), or Siga Siga (slow down and enjoy your food and life!)
What I’ve noticed at the market vs. the pharmacy is that people come into the market often at the beginning of their health journey, looking for a way to eat and live that will lead them to vibrancy. At the pharmacy, I often speak with people who feel that a pill will help them be healthy. Unfortunately, pills cannot make you healthy in and of themselves (with the exception of acute treatment, like antibiotics). Pills are not magic bullets…you have to make whole life adjustments if you want to be vibrant and healthy until the natural end of your life. Join the new movement by embracing the traditional. Eat real, whole food for life!