What is real food and why does it matter?
(from the forthcoming book Beating Cancer with Nutrition 2018 by Patrick Quillin, PhD,RD,CNS)
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“Nature to be commanded must be obeyed.” Francis Bacon, 1617, founder of the scientific method
Your body is the most amazing organism on earth. 37 trillion cells each performing 100,000 chemical reactions per second. Lungs with the surface area of a tennis court that bring in 11,000 liters of air per day that circulates oxygen through the 60,000 miles of blood vessels to feed each cell and carry away the waste products of living. Your brain has 100 billion cells with each of them having 1000 connections to other brain cells, making 100 trillion junctions in the brain for memory. Your gut includes a dazzling array of digestive enzymes, bile salts, and 100 trillion microorganisms to help in the process. All of this occurs on auto-pilot. If you are not at least a little bit impressed, then you are not paying attention.
And all of this grand symphony of life occurs because of what you eat. Your body is built from, repaired by, regulated by, and fueled by your diet. For better or worse, what you eat will greatly influence your quality and quantity of life. If you don’t have your health, then nothing else really matters. If you can regain and retain good health through a diet of real food, then let’s get started.
All of life is built around nutrition. Most religions have prescriptions (eat it) and proscription (don’t eat it) about food. The first mono-theistic religion, Judaism, assigned an important task to the Rabbis in monitoring the purity of the food supply and the humane raising and slaughtering of animals. Fasting was the beginning of the ministry for all great spiritual leaders throughout history. The recent triple crown winner, Destiny, was fed a very particular diet dictated by its trainer. Farmers know the importance of feeding your soil properly in order to get an abundant harvest. Every major zoo on earth employs a scientist schooled in the art of feeding captive animals exactly what they ate in the wild. When obesity first became a problem, a famous adage was “we dig our graves with our teeth”. With all the logic and science behind nutrition, modern humans instead select whatever food is convenient, tasty, and cheap; thus ignoring the primary reason for eating…to feed this extraordinary organism of your body.
OOPS. What if you got the answers to the final exam before the test. Would you use them? Here are the answers. Mother Nature knows best. For millennium, humans have been tampering with our food supply, nearly always with disastrous results. Were it not for junk food, we would have no nutrition science. Yes, millions died and suffered in the process, but let’s get to the point. One example. Food processors found that grinding wheat separated the chaff (bran and germ) from the grain (white flour). By around 1100 AD, England was awash in grain grinders because white flour produced bread that was “tastier” and had a longer shelf life, because all the life in the whole wheat was separated in the grinding process. Although the two greatest civilizations on earth, Egypt and Rome, used whole wheat as their staples, wheat as we see it today is not the same. Stripping the bran and germ from wheat was one of the greatest robberies on earth, causing the premature death of tens of millions of people.
Around 1895, Christiaan Eikjman was a Dutch physician sent to Indonesia to resolve the disease known as “beri beri”, literally “I cannot, I cannot”. Locals in Indonesia eating the processed white rice, compliments of the Dutch milling machines, developed a condition of weakness and eventually heart failure. About 30,000 people died with many more developing polio like symptoms. Eikjman eventually discovered that eating the “garbage” of the milling process, meaning the rice bran, cured beri beri. At the time, no one could conceive of something in food curing or preventing any health condition. In 1929, Dr. Eikjman was awarded the shared Nobel prize in medicine. Were it not for processing of real food into junk food (white rice), then the science of nutrition would not have been born.
Albert Szent-Györgyi, MD, PhD earned the Nobel prize in medicine in 1937 for his work on vitamin C. Yet, his real passion was for the unidentified factor, eventually called flavonoids, in citrus fruits. Tang was a fruit flavored drink formulated by General Foods and sent to the moon in 1969. Tang consisted of sugar, vitamin C, and fruit flavorings…woefully lacking in the thousands of other nutrients in a real orange.
Around 1820, Reverend Sylvester Graham found that feeding people whole wheat, created meaningful bowel movements and significant relief from health problems caused by chronic constipation. His idea eventually led to Graham crackers and a food industry. The Kellogg brothers found that whole grain corn could relieve many health conditions, just by producing a daily bowel movement. The Kellogg food company was born around 1922 on this principle. Still, after centuries of nutrition scientists assuring the public that fiber cannot be digested and therefore was better off eliminated from food, the plagues of civilization continued. “We are taking this waste product out of your food for your own good. You are welcome.” Not until the Human Microbiome Project was completed in 2017 could scientists confirm that because fiber was indigestible it was essential. Among the many benefits of feeding our microbiome with fiber is the production of butyrate, a powerful anti-cancer substance that feeds the intestinal mucosa. Mother Nature has not made any mistakes here. It was poetry in design.