I once heard author John Robbins say that we Americans are Overfed and Undernourished.
Looking around me today, I would say that's probably true.
Look at this data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009–2010
- More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
- More than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese.
- More than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity.
- About one-third of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese.
- More than 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be obese.
And sadly, the majority of the calories we eat today come in the form of processed fat, sugar, and salt, with very little (if any) actual nutrients that our body needs to be healthy.
The vitamins, the minerals, and most importantly, the fiber.
At my previous company, where I was trained as an Emergency Medical Responder, I saw the effects first hand of excess calories with very little nutrition. Most of my calls were for dizziness due to high blood pressure or low blood sugar. I even had a few calls for kidney stones, gall stones, and diverticulitis.
No, I would venture to say that we actually get very little nourishment from all those empty calories we consume every day, and that Mr. Robbins is 100% correct - our bodies are literally starving for nourishment.
Starving for Nutrition
Think about it, most of our food today is processed. Even the meat our omnivore friends eat now comes from a factory, pre-loaded with growth hormones and antibiotics.
In fact, nothing we eat today is comparable to what our ancestors ate 100 years ago. Oh sure we have a lot more food, and we can feed the masses very inexpensively.
But is it worth it?
It's convenient - that's for sure. Ready to eat in just 3 minutes. Pop it in the microwave or pull into a drive-thru and bam, dinner is served.
But I'll ask again - are all these technological and agricultural advances worth it?
My grandfather had a very large garden back in the day, and a small, simple tractor to till it. The work was back-breaking... the hoeing, shoveling, and weeding. And then during harvest there was even more work - picking and shelling the beans, canning the tomatoes, digging the potatoes, not to mention fighting all the critters , bugs, and weeds.
But the food was fresh, and loaded with nutrition. Yes he worked hard for it, but it was most definitely worth it.
How many of you were raised in the 50's or 60's? Do you remember seeing obesity on the scale we have today?
I sure don't.
And I think it's because we had real food. Food that was actually good for us.
I'm not saying I didn't eat meat back then - I did. But with that small portion of meat, we always had several LARGE portions of fresh vegetables, and always a starch or grain too, plus some kind of fruit dish for dessert. Hardly anything we ate back then was processed, it was all homemade from scratch.
Turning it Around
So what can we do to turn this epidemic around?
For starters, as Michael Pollan put it so eloquently…..
Eat FOOD. Not too much. Mostly plants
- Try your best to eat real food, not that highly processed, heat 'n eat, microwavable, convenience stuff they call food.
Foods that your grandparents would approve of - or even just recognize for starters. Foods like beans, potatoes, corn, vegetables, rice.
Believe it to not, our food doesn't have to come smothered in some kind of salt, sugar, or fat to taste good.
Nothing can be simpler, and tastier, than a plain baked potato with just a little salt and pepper.
- Leave out the meat, as much as you can
We really, really don't know what goes on in those meat processing plants. And frankly, I don't want to know.
Dr. Michael Greger at www.Nutritionfacts.org has tons of data to support that statement. Look him up along with Dr Neil Barnard, Dr Joel Fuhrman, Dr Dean Ornish, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, and Dr John McDougall.
And I saw the effects myself at work with many of my medical calls. Calls for pain or discomfort due to kidney stones, gall stones, diverticulitis, Crohn's Disease, and high blood pressure.
These conditions, and many more, are all due to a bad diet. A diet centered around meat and protein. You don't need that much protein (regardless of what you read in the media) and what you do need you can easily get from plants.
- Eat those carbs
One of my wife's walking buddies said the other day that she was going to start a low-carb diet because she was getting fat.
The ironic thing of course, is that if she would just eat like her Asian ancestors did, a HIGH CARB diet of mostly rice, with some fruit and vegetable on the side, she would regain her health and lose that extra weight easily.
Regardless of what the media says - Carbs are GOOD for you.
Complex carbs that come from REAL food, like beans and vegetables are full of fiber and studies have shown that our westernized diet seriously lacks any real amount of fiber. We simply don't get enough, and then try to make up for it by drinking a fiber supplement from a bottle.
How upside down is that?
As you learn to eat the foods we were designed to eat - basically a low-fat, starch-centered, plant-based, vegan diet - you will immediately start to feel the effects of what real nutrition can do for you.
And as you get leaner and healthier every day - you will stop and wonder how we ever let ourselves get in this mess to begin with.
Real food is out there - we just have to learn what it is, how to prepare it, and then learn to eat it. Only then will we overcome this new America where everyone is overfed and undernourished.