A History of Healthy Diet Recommendations
How did we Evolve?
People have always eaten a wide variety of foods depending on what's available.
In evolution, humans had feasts occasionally, ate very little most of the time, and sometimes they suffered starvation. For ordinary people, all three nutrition situations might occur every year.
Our bodies are adapted to that, when we feast and get fat, that was considered good.
When there is very little, we used our fat stores. If we are starving we would go into starvation ketosis.
The point is, that our bodies are adapted to an uncertain and unpredictable food supply.
Tim Noakes, describes humans as "the best mid-day persistent hunters in the animal kingdom." When we were starving our brains were alert, and we were capable of running long distances in the sun, in the search for game.
Feeding our Big Brains
A big brain demands good food; nutrient-dense food containing the essential fats and proteins that are found in animal fats, meat, and offal.
In the USA between the 1890s and 1930, the quality of the American diet declined. Weston Price, a dentist, noticed that change in the jaw structure, tooth cavities, and general posture of his patients.
Price travelled the world looking for peoples who ate a healthy diet. He found many such cultures. Price was not alone, in reporting that aboriginal peoples, were bigger, stronger and healthier, than the people from Europe or the USA.
Many researchers and doctors from Europe and the U.S.A. have investigated the diets of people eating what we would call a primitive diet, reporting amazement at the height of the people, their strong posture, their lack of disease, and the length of their lives.
Now as then, people have trouble understanding that their own health is not better than those "primitive people." We are shorter, we weight more, our bone structure is poor, our strength is often less, we don't have a monopoly on, "how to be healthy." That's in spite of all the modern sanitation and medical expertise available to us, and our supposed new-found ability to live a long time.
These people ate grains and potatoes seldom, as an emergency food, and only when good food was in short supply. The best food was often self-provided, self-slaughtered livestock, or fresh fish, or game. This high-quality food was often free, or at least not dependent on markets (Supplied by friends and family.).
As cities became bigger, fewer people could provide for themselves off the land. People became more dependent on what they could buy in a market.
In the 19th Century, only the wealthy people got fat. William Banting struggled to reduce his weight.
Somewhere along the way to becoming modern people, we lost the plot, and our nutrition declined. The food once reserved for avoiding famine, became so cheap, that it became the staple part of the diet we eat. The fact that our nutritional health was declining went unnoticed. We looked to doctors to keep us well. Modern medicine would save us.
Governments have encouraged that transition, partly in support of farmers, and partly to ensure that cheap food was available in the markets. The decline in the quality of the diet was not understood.
In New Zealand, sharing "free food" of the highest quality still exists to some extent. Today one family member offered us strawberries from his garden, my son in law just rang; he's been fishing, and he's got a crayfish for us. We get fresh eggs from a friend with his own chickens. We also have our own small garden. We feast, quite often.
The decline in nutritional value, also has something to do with supermarkets, the availability of food every day, and our changing idea about what a "healthy food" might be. (Any food free of pathogens and bacteria?)
In early 20th Century Europe, researchers in Germany and Austria, understood that our weight was controlled by our hormones. There was a beginning for scientific understanding of nutrition, especially in Germany and Austria. After WWII, that knowledge was ignored, and we began again, taking a completely the wrong track. Making ourselves sicker, and more obese, with a low-fat high-carbohydrate diet.
Eating Processed Food Becomes "Normal"
We were told to remove saturated fat from our diet. We were told vegetable oils were healthy. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils turn out to be harmful.
We replaced saturated fat with bread, cereal, rice and pasta.
We began to eat mostly food that came in a packet. It had a long storage life. It was cheap.
If these foods were tasteless without fat, manufacturers added sugar, or high-fructose corn syrup to make it taste good.
We began to rely on supermarkets to supply our food. This increased our separation from local producers, from fresh food, and from eating by-products like offal.