nmo-gut-health-journal

The Power Of Food

September 27, 2019 Kriben Govender

The power of food is extremely underrated. People look for this panacea in a pill or a supplement but we forget the basics of our human evolution and the importance that food has played in the past. It continues to play a role and it will continue to play a huge role in the expansion of human civilization. Today we will be breaking down what you should be eating to become the best version of yourself, and how modern agriculture is negatively impacting us.

hunter gatherer and gut health

The journey from ancestral eating to modern agriculture

We are approximately 10,000 years old as a modern civilization. In the very early days, we were hunters and gathers and we can see the remnants in some African tribes like the Hazda of Tanzania. Lots of studies have been conducted on these tribes, and this gives us a clue as to what life would be like at the very early stages of civilization. This is our origin story.

  1. We started as hunter-gatherers. This is where you hunt animals and pick berries or any wild edible crop. Food was extremely scarce and very prized. It’s a central part of life. Finding good food and finding a good source of water was security for the tribe.
  1. We then gradually moved to agriculture as we know it. This is where you start to see people building castles and cities because it was all based on securing the food supply. This food supply was primarily grains that have been planted, grown, harvested and then kept and converted to feed the growing city.
  1. In the last 100 years, we have started to see the modernisation of agriculture and food. After the world wars, we started to see the mobilisation of millions of soldiers. These and these soldiers had to be fed. We then started building factories to produce large amounts of food to feed these soldiers. After the war ended there was a massive surplus of these factories. 
  2. Through clever marketing campaigns, post-war food companies convinced us to let them take care of feeding us. This was the birth of processed foods for the masses.

This led us to where we are today. Instead of cooking our own food using the highest quality clean ingredients we rely on food factories to provide quick and easy options. This saved us time but it also took away the control we had. 

rice fields

Visiting A Developing Country To Optimise My Health

Imagine having to be a hunter-gatherer vs now when you can order food with your phone. My family went on a holiday to Bali recently.  I had a realization, eating the food here made me feel great. I didn’t take any supplements the entire time. My observation was that most of the local food is produced on the island. Think lots of rice, fruit, coconut oil, coconut water, vegetables, fresh eggs, seafood and chicken. And tempeh a fermented soybean cake.

While I was there, I took a permaculture course. Let me tell you, it was intense! Just imagine your ancestors who were foraging and farming in the hot sun and how intense it would have been for them. Versus now and being able to order uber eats at the push of a button on your phone. We take this for granted. 

I was thankful that I got to spend time with these farmers whose knowledge was passed down through generations. We talked about permaculture which is:

-Looking after the soil

-Looking after the environment

-Not using any chemicals or pesticides. 

Instead, of chemicals, they use special variety of flowers planted in the vegetable beds to attract insects that help pollination. And other varieties of flowers keep pests away. They had all sorts of animals and birds so they could use all of the natural resources such as manure to produce a beautiful ecosystem. In developed countries like Australia, we’ve broadly moved SO far away from this. It makes you wonder if we had these health problems (anxiety, obesity, and depression) back when we farmed. Now we have so many cases of diabesity (obesity and diabetes) and cancer, mental disorders. Could this be partly attributed to our modern food supply?

 

Our Life Expectancy And Diseases

There is a rapid increase in autism across the world. It’s projected in the future that 1 in 2 people will be autistic. In addition to that, we are already up to 1 in 2 people ending up with cancer. The modern world is bringing convenience and security with our food supply but there is a cost. A cost to our health.

The UK is starting to see life expectancy flatlining for the first time. Children may have a lower life expectancy their grandparents. 

What Dietary Approach Should One Follow For A Healthy Life? 

There is so much information on the internet. The confusion stems from the fact that we have been told through these universal dietary guidelines. There is never going to be a “one size fits all” approach. No health organization can say “this diet is best for everyone” The science is telling us that everyone is different that we all have a different:

-Gut Microbiome profiles

-Risk Factors

-Genetics

I recommend for people to go on a journey of self-discovery. To understand their genetics and to understand their microbiome. If you don't want to go to that level of sophistication, there are other things you can do, like to monitor how a particular food makes you feel. 

A lot of this stems from genetics and what is happening in the microbiome. It’s up to the individual to self-experiment. It can be as easy as buying a glucose monitor. Elevated postprandial blood glucose level is substantial when it comes to weight gain. Simply have some food and wait 2 hours. Then check your blood glucose levels, see how different foods affect it and record in a journal. This will provide insights on what food is causing your blood glucose to remain elevated after a meal. Make refinements and keep testing until you come up with a dietary regime that creates stable levels (I recommend working with a dietician if you are suffering from a health issue).

The reality is that the impact of postprandial blood glucose response is highly individualized base your gut microbiome composition. The studies are telling us that some people can have rice or even ice cream and elicit a minimal blood glucose response. The most important thing is for people to experiment and know what their goals are. Try different diets and see what works for you. 

gut health and diversity

Our Relationship With Food 

It is a real mess. BUT there is still hope. This mess stems from our trust in the food companies. We trust that they were giving us what was supposed to be the best for us. Eliminating processed foods is something that everyone can tackle before even looking at supplementation. The problem is that we all need vitamins because we have stripped all the nutrients out of our food through modern farming and food processing. 

I recommend simply eating clean, raw, minimally processed foods that you have prepared from scratch. This way you know 100% that what you are putting in that meal is nutritious. It's not just about what you eat, it's about what you eat ate. If you are looking at animal products, what has this animal been fed and has it been on antibiotics? Ask these questions and source the food carefully. Spend money on good food rather than pills when you are sick. Spend money feeding your family the best you can afford than waiting until it's too late and getting sick and trying to fix the problem using pills.

Food and exercise are the easiest ways to get started on improving your health. Start with these low hanging fruits. People get overwhelmed because they are looking for quick results. Quick results aren't sustainable. Instead of calling them “diets” view them as lifestyle changes. Living that lifestyle, and not looking for a quick outcome will work more in your favour. Just simply believe in the process of nourishing your body with the best you can afford.

like-minded people

The body will work things out. The body is incredibly intelligent. It doesn't need us to get in the way to make the changes but it does need us to form good habits. Connect with communities throughout your journey and connect with like-minded people. This can help tremendously. You can join the Nourishme Organics facebook group here. Even getting together with friends that have the same ideologies can help. 

For example: When I was younger I had a horrible diet. I started spending time with my friend and his family and they were very into health and fitness. I went over to his house, went to make a sandwich and there was no white bread. And my whole life I only ate white bread. They only had wholegrain and at the time I was wondering “what is this?” But being with this friend started to shift me into eating better. It’s powerful being around people that have a higher standard of health. It makes you eat better, cleaner, and adopt great habits. You are the combination of the 5 people you spend the most time with. There is a lot of value in evaluating your circle because if you surround yourself with like-minded people then it becomes inspirational. 

The social context is so important when you are making these lifestyle changes. The modern food production system is designed for your failure. Food marketing and product development are pouring money into making food addictive. More addictive than any narcotic. Whether it’s sugar, which may be more addictive than cocaine. But also the sensory research, believe it or not, food companies have sensory departments. During this development phase, they put it through panels of 300 or so people. 

They can fine tweak the formulation in terms of:

-Salty

-Sweet

-Sour

-Craveability. 

They even do this with pet food! They have sensory panels with pets. 

These foods do not make you feel good afterwards. The addictive state that you get into like craving McDonalds. I would go mad about it because it lit up the sensory parts of my brain. Afterwards I would feel horrible. The food companies want it to be addictive. You would be shocked by the amount of MSG that goes into our food supply. MSG is cheap, tastes amazing, it makes everything taste good and it rounds flavours out. This is a magical thing for food companies to make food addictive. A lot of people are in the fast-food cycle but they don't know how good their body is designed to feel. They just think this is normal. If a healthy person was going to go binge McDonalds they would feel absolutely terrible. 

People aren't feeling as good as they can. We are getting smarter about it as information comes out but a lot of people are still missing out on this low hanging fruit. Simply eat clean real food! 

Reading Food Labels

As a food scientist and a product developer in my time in the industry, I learned that there are also loopholes. There are things called processing aids that don't need to be declared on the label. Each food legislature is a little different in every country but ask questions from the food manufacturers about what food processing aids are being used. Companies can easily make the label seem cleaner but have a slew of chemicals still present in that food. It is a little bit tricky. The best option is to cook from scratch!


cook from scratch for gut health

What Is The Future Of Food?

The future is full of danger BUT it is also very positive. The danger is the 70-year-old experiment with processed foods and the impact it is having on our bodies. It is like asbestos or smoking. The information was suppressed for so long but eventually, it came out. It is the same concept as food. They won't be able to hide it forever. It is becoming clear as day that a lot of additives and pesticides are damaging:

-Our bodies

-Gut microbiota

- And potentially our future offspring

It is happening at a genetic level. That is the danger of what is happening in modern agriculture. 

But the positives are that people are becoming aware, they are waking up. We are starting to see shifts happen at the supermarket level. Where there are healthier options from which to choose. But it depends on the individual on how far they want to take it. If you want to be the best version of yourself, buy the best food you can afford and make it from scratch. Whether it’s fermented foods or just simply your meals. It takes more time but you will thank me in the long run. You have the best control over the ingredients that you put in your food. 

The other danger to our food is a genetic modification. CRISPR technology has made it cheaper than ever for humans to make genetic modifications. The future is full of the impact of what these modifications are going to have on us. Ten years ago I worked for a large food and agricultural company and they already had an offshore laboratory. They were doing genetic research on food crops. And that was TEN YEARS AGO, imagine now!

Another thing to avoid is processed vegetable oils! They are one of the most chemically toxic products on the planet:

-Canola

-Cottonseed

-Soybean

These cheap oils are the go-to for these big manufacturers. These oils go rancid really fast and cause a lot of damage to the body.

Lab-grown meat and processed vegetarian meats are becoming more popular. The positive side of it is that it takes the burden from land and the damage it does to the environment. But as always it's a price to pay. You are growing tissue in a test tube or using novel additives like soy leghemoglobin (in vegan meat product). We don't know the impact on what these foods and additives will have on us. 

On the positive side, there has been a resurgence of regenerative farming.  At the permaculture course, I took in Bali they use a special type of fruit called a Maja fruit. During the composting process, it favours a type of fungi. This fungus speeds up the composting process and it helps to extract the nutrients to break down the compost. This led me to this exploration of the fungal world and mycology. 

I started to explore the importance of fungi in agriculture and I stumbled upon something staggering. This is called Mycorrhizal Fungi. They are fungal networks that are found in very old forests. And they help the root systems of the plants to extend far greater. They form a symbiotic relationship with the roots and 95% of food crops can benefit from this fungi. There is a huge potential for this in the future to impact the way we farm. We can bring back the other mechanisms before humans were involved. This may help us move us away from pesticides. Another technology that is emerging is a natural pesticide. You could use beneficial microbes to target pests. 

We covered where we came from, where we are at, and where we are headed. The takeaway is it starts with SMALL steps. Improve your diet and exercise step by step. Surround yourself with like-minded people and have fun! Food is all about fun and pleasure. It shouldn't be something that you rush through with your phone not enjoying each bite. Prepare it and enjoy it. Join our Facebook Group and find someone to help you through this process. There is a ton of helpful information and people there and over 11,000 like-minded individuals. Grab a friend and request to join!

 


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