What We Eat
by Garth Davis, M.D.
The Davis Clinic
When I was going to medical school I developed the belief that the human body was an imperfect machine. In my mind, I thought of the human body as a broken car, a lemon. And I believed it took many very skilled mechanics to service this very complex and flawed machine. However, unlike my car, I never once thought that the problems we saw with the human body could be due to the fuel we put in the body. Now this seems so embarrassingly obvious, but at that time I believed only what my professors taught me.
Believe me, I spent hours studying the minutia of physiology and anatomy. I stared through microscopes at tiny cells until my eyes were tearing and sat in front of biochemistry books trying to decipher their hieroglyphics. For hours upon hours, I studied how to fix a broken body, yet I only received ONE nutrition class that lasted less than two hours. Nutrition was almost treated as an alternative medicine.
Now years later, I have seen so many people day after day suffering from the same diseases. It is amazing to me how we have come to accept disease as a normal part of life. Disease has become natural in our minds. You tell someone that they have high blood pressure and the response is, “Bummer. Oh well, what medicine should I take?? I routinely see patients on at least five medications; in fact, I am shocked when I see a patient without at least two.
The thing is, I just cannot accept that disease is natural. When you look at nature untouched by science and industrialization you find exquisite ecosystems that run flawlessly. And the most advanced system in nature is the human body. For those of you who are religious, don’t you wonder how God can create us in his/her image and yet we could be so susceptible to disease, so imperfect.
Dr. Weston Price, a dentist in the early 20th century, had similar beliefs. He felt that dental caries were due to industrialized diet. In fact, when he went around the world to primitive cultures he found no dental disease at all. Can you imagine looking inside the mouth of an Aborigine that has never brushed his teeth and has never heard of fluoride? Wouldn’t you expect a rotten mess? And yet, Dr. Price found quite the opposite- a pearly, healthy set of choppers.
There have been many studies like Dr. Price’s, the most famous being the China Study, which was published by Dr. Colin Campbell. The study basically looked at different communities in China and basically found that the parts of China that had not yet been “Westernized? (i.e. no McDonalds) had much lower rates of heart disease and cancer. They also found that if you took someone from a non-westernized community and moved them to the city, they soon developed the typical western diseases.
One of my favorite books, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen, tells an anecdote of a study done examining some aborigine men living in a city in Australia, all of whom suffered from obesity, diabetes and hypertension. These men were moved to their original homes and ate an original aboriginal diet and all of their diseases disappeared within six weeks.
The very interesting thing is it does not seem to matter what the diet consists of, so long as it is not a western diet. The Inuit Eskimos eat mainly meat and have no heart disease while the China Study shows the more fruit and vegetables- the less disease.
The bottom line is that we are so proud of our technologic advances and yet we are killing ourselves. Listen to me people! The food we eat is causing ALL of our problems. Obesity, diabetes, arthritis, sleep apnea, fatty liver, reflux, cancer are all diet related diseases.
I think in the back of our minds we all know this, so why do we continue on a path of destruction? Because we have been tricked or programmed to eat inappropriately. Sure you could probably blame mom for telling you to finish everything on your plate or for offering you candy as a reward, thereby elevating sugar to a place of importance in your diet. But I think the real culprit is big business and our government.
In Defense of Food goes through a very logical description of how Agribusiness has controlled our diet. In the 1970’s our government was growing concerned by rising rates of heart disease. A senate committee reviewed all the literature and concluded that reducing dairy and meat could stop the epidemic. Well, as you can imagine, the beef and dairy industry were not happy. They made sure that their lobbyists got to work immediately. They also made sure that the chair of the committee, who unfortunately was from South Dakota where there are many meat ranches, was voted out at the next election. The result was a decision that government cannot call any food harmful, just certain substances found in food. Hence the demonizing of fat. This was fine to industry because the scientist could now create low-fat milk, butter and all sorts of high carb goodies. Remember, they don’t get paid much to sell you an apple but they can certainly make a fortune selling you a low-fat Oreo.
We have gone so crazy trying to decipher what truly makes us healthy. Science has told us low-fat, but then it was low-carb. Now it is heavy omega fat. Diet coke is now vitamin fortified. Honey Nut Cheerios can save your life. It is not surprising that advertising dollars have sky rocketed and the more they spend on advertising, the more we eat and the bigger and sicker we get.
So what should we eat? Should it be a primarily fish based diet of the Eskimos or vegetarian like the country folk in China. Well, I don’t think I could put it any simpler than Michael Pollen in his book In Defense of Food: eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables.
While this statement is fairly simple, its execution is not so easy. We think everything we eat is food. In fact the vast majority of what we eat is not even close to being food. We eat processed scientific experiments that promise health but have only delivered increasing waist sizes and more diseases.
The one thing that all the primitive societies have in common is they are not eating processed food. Their food is natural and untouched from the vine to their mouth. We, on the other hand, only eat foods with ingredient lists that read like a sci-fi novel.
Our meat, which seems natural, is highly processed. Our cows are injected with hormones and antibiotics. They are fed unnatural diets of corn instead of their natural and healthy choice of grass. And the squalor they live in is despicable.
Finally, even our vegetables are unnatural. Genetic engineered seeds and soil deplete of minerals have produced tomatoes that are really just facsimiles of what a tomatoes used to be.
The harm in the food we eat is not just the bad stuff like saturated and hydrogenated fats, pesticides, genetically modified seeds, but is also in the lack of true nutrients we get from our diets of hamburgers and fries. I cannot believe that despite all of our scientifically fortified foods and our unbelievable appetites (we eat on average over 3000 kcal a day) just about every patient I see is vitamin deficient. And everybody seems to think that is ok! “I am vitamin D deficient so give me a vitamin D pill.? The problem is that there may be a thousand other vitamins and nutrients that we have not yet discovered but that could greatly affect our health. Every day we are learning about different phytonutrients essential to health. Nature is just too complex for our scientists to replicate.
So back to what to eat. Well to begin with your food should not come packaged from a big company or in a box. You should be able to picture your food out in nature. You can imagine a grape on a vine, but what was a cheetoh before it arrived on your plate.
The ingredient list should not be more than 3-5 and corn syrup should not be one of those three. In fact, you should understand and be able to picture each ingredient. What in the world does guar gum look like? Also, don’t get tricked by marketing scams like “all natural cane juice?. That is just sugar and a company is just preying on your desire to eat natural.
I know it is expensive, but I would buy organic and from local farms if possible. Organic meat is usually grass fed and grown in much cleaner environments. Organic produce tends to be grown in richer soil and is pesticide free. I would rather bite into an apple and see a caterpillar than eat an apple covered with pesticides and that is genetically engineered not to rot as quickly. The reason the caterpillar is eating the organic apple is because it is nutritious. The caterpillar’s tastes are too discerning to let it eat into an artificially created apple.
Your food should spoil easily. That is a natural quality. The fact that McDonalds French fries can sit in a hot car for weeks and still appear intact is a true freak of nature.
Finally, there is simply nothing better than fruits and vegetables. Vegetables are the most nutrient dense foods available. Filled with valuable vitamins and protein. Yes, vegetables have protein!
I think probably the best book describing how we should eat is Eat To Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. He describes eating mainly vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. This is distinctly different from the government taught food pyramid. Remember that the lobbyists have their hand in the creation of that pyramid which recommends that we should eat mostly grains and breads (think Nabisco and General Mills). A grain based simple carbohydrate diet, which is sure to be processed, is a recipe for diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.
I recommend this diet to all my patients and become so despondent when they respond by asking if that means they can no longer eat a hamburger. I especially get upset when I am told by a patient that they cannot live without ice cream (or any other processed junk we have been programmed to eat). We literally want to have our cake and eat it too.
Weight loss surgery helps because it simply reduces the amount of artificial junk that you eat. But I find that people seldom actually change their diet. They eat the same crap, just less of it. If you want to truly be healthy, be free of all disease, and look and feel fantastic, you have to do a dramatic diet makeover.
As Einstein states, “We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.? You have to ignore what the TV, the grocery store, the big businesses, and even your government is telling you about food.
Eat mainly vegetables and fruit that you get from local organic farmers or stores like Whole Foods. Make colorful salads filled with beans, broccoli, peppers, seeds and dark green leafy lettuce. You cannot eat too many greens. Have you ever heard of someone binging on broccoli?
Have a serving of walnuts or almonds daily. Also try not eating meat at every meal. In fact trying going days without meat. As Dr. Fuhrman says, make salad your main course.
I have lived these recommendations myself and have seen the results of patients who have heeded my advice. The results can be astounding and utterly life changing!
I no longer believe that the human body is flawed. I just believe that the human body functions best in a natural environment. Given the right natural ingredients the human body can and will thrive. The fountain of youth has been all around us for years. There would be no need for health care reform if everybody was healthy, and everybody can be healthy if we just go back to nature.
Do you buy organic? Or do you find the cost of organic food prohibitive? Please share your experiences.