In America today the typical super-market in a middle-class neighborhood has over 3000 different items you can eat. But is that enough? We assume this is a fantastic variety and gives us an envious freedom of choice. We can eat American, Texan, Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Greek, and more. But are we really getting the nourishment our bodies require for optimal health and expect from the food we eat?

Are we really enjoying freedom in the way we nourish ourselves, or are we being misled by a food system which is more focused of profit than disease prevention and healthy posterity?

Having been a teacher of vibrant health through natural living for over forty years now, I have seen incredible changes in our eating habits and have seen the direct consequences of these changes.

When in the 1970s I studied with Canadian biochemist Ross Hume Hall, author of Food For Nought, he predicted that “light” would be the watchword for marketing food in the future because natural taste and variety would be gone.

Even then more than three quarters of the calories in our super-markets were from just three or four foods. These foods are corn, wheat, soy, and cow’s milk. Now the proportions are even worse, closer to 90%.

Since the 70s, we have discovered ways to chemically manipulate foods and add chemical ingredients which can make these basic foods appear and taste like just about anything we may want. Commentator Michael Pollan calls most of what’s in our markets Food-Like Substances or FLSs. He has written several excellent books, including In Defense of Food. Also, there is even less variety in these basic ingredients than in the 1970s, because of mono-culture, where the vast majority of the crop comes from the same exact genetic pool as industrial agriculture finds more and more profitable ways to give us what we think is the same old food, but with far less of what our bodies need and want from it.

Today the chemical companies that are coming to dominate food production are even developing food which cannot propagate on its own but instead requires their seeds to be purchased each year.

Yet until the mid-twentieth century, most food was organically grown and varieties varied from region to region and country to country. And in more traditional societies, researchers found that in the course of a year, the population consumed over 3000 different species of organisms in their homes.

So what? You may ask, what difference does it make?

T. L. Cleave was a physician in the Royal Navy of Britain for some 40 years. In his book The Saccharine Disease he documented the changes he saw as the diet in the many places he traveled by sea across the British Empire and Commonwealth changed from the traditional diet to the typical modern diet of Europe at the time. From a society where the people were free of the chronic degenerative diseases there was a dramatic change in the health profile. First came appendicitis, then diabetes, allergies, cardiovascular diseases, and eventually cancer. He urged his contemporaries to take note.

Another intrepid explorer, Weston A. Price, searched the world to document the way different peoples and cultures met their nutritional and social needs. He saw the same correlations as did Cleave. His work is pursued by the organization founded by Sally Fallon Morell , the Weston A. Price Foundation. Her book Nourishing Traditions busts many popular myths about foods we eat, and recommends returning to traditional ways of eating.

I have seen this change myself. I first visited Tahiti, in French Polynesia, in 1961. I was so impressed with the beauty of the people, just as described by Paul Gauguin, almost a century before. The children were all of a healthy physique, none too heavy or thin, with big beautiful smiles filled with a line of straight white teeth.

When I returned in 1965 and again in 1968, I saw what Cleave and Price had documented, though at that time I knew nothing of their work and had not even developed any interest in nutrition. By 1968, the cruise ship we were on was delivering a shipload of fast food, coffee cakes, and more “American” style foods, and the children showed the results.

They weren’t smiling any more. They were arguing in the streets, so of them overweight, some of them too thin, and their teeth were crooked and often discolored.

The “Western Diet” had taken its toll.

I have been back in recent years and things have only gotten worse. Those children are now grown and have all the chronic illnesses, including obesity, which trouble us here.

Most recently, a representative from the Weston A. Price foundation interviewed a Maasai leader in Africa, who had seen these changes in his community. None of what he calls the “foreign” diseases occurred when he was a child, when the community relied on their traditional diet derived from their herds of cattle and fruits and vegetables gathered from the wild. Yet we are told to abhor the eating of beef fat, rich fresh milk, and so on. But until the coming of sugar and hydrogenated oils, these populations were free on the diseases that kill and disable us before our natural time.

So my recommendation is that the best thing you can do is try to replicate whatever your great-grandmother might have prepared for her family. Buy a variety of organic foods, buy a cookbook which really gives traditional recipes in your own family’s ethnic tradition, and if your family is a blend of traditions, do that.

Avoid chemical ingredients as much as possible, vary the grains you rely on, try new veggies and fruits, and avoid fabricated and fractionated foods. It is not hard to learn some simple cooking and preparation techniques once you are using real, organic food, because the natural flavor that your taste is looking for is there, and people will surprise you with their compliments once you discover how simple good food can be. Assert your freedom to eat healthy.

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