You Are What You Eat

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You have probably heard that old saying. I guess it means if you eat healthy foods you will be healthy. That is so true; choosing the right food is the most basic, the most vital decision you can make for good health. What food is the right food? With all the lies and misinformation out there today, it’s difficult to find the answer. I would suggest starting with the basics and simply

Eat What You Are

And that is purely and simply herbivore – a plant eater. People think that because they can eat meat then they must be omnivores and can eat both plants and animals. Actually humans may be one the most herbivorous of all animals. We eat animals only as a last resort because that is totally against our design and nature.

The proof is just so convincing and extensive.

Our Evolution

Go back along our evolutionary track and you find all herbivores. We could still survive and be healthy on what our nearest relative, the chimpanzee, consumes – leaves, seeds, fruit, berries. But that diet would confine us to the jungles where we would have those foods available all year round. That’s not what we did.

We moved away from those jungles; we spread out and eventually dominated all land areas. A few minor genetic changes allowed us to achieve all this. Perhaps our becoming hairless and more intelligent by Sun exposure was a major change. We also gained a great capacity to utilize starchy foods such as grains, tubers, beans etc. The presence of large amounts of the enzyme amylase in our saliva (an enzyme that breaks starches down into simple sugars) meant we became masters at starch utilization. We have at least 5 times the capacity to generate amylase than our nearest great ape ancestors. Starch foods are widely available with various grains and tubers everywhere. They can be stored for long periods which allowed us to move out of the tropics to climates with cold winters and seasonal food shortages. As Dr McDougall puts it, we became starchivores.

We can live almost exclusively on starchy foods and be slim, fit and healthy. Starch is our natural energy source. Other fruits and vegetables supply our pharmaceutical and supplement needs (nature’s full range in the right concentrations and variety). Some poorly informed people claim our cave man ancestors were largely carnivores. Animal bones and weapons show a culture of hunting. That led to that popular, romantic idea of hunter/gatherers where we were the intelligent masters of our domain. We were far more likely to be the hunted than the hunter. Those bone and stone weapons last for centuries. Not so the remains of vegetables and fruits that was our real food. Science today has been able to analyse their remains; even their stools. What they have found is they were plant eaters. Spears were something that the men leaned on while they swapped yarns. The vast bulk of their food was plant, gathered by the whole family or tribe. The women and children probably did most of the gathering.

If we eat the correct diet of fruits and vegetables we can expect to live a long and healthy life. We are designed to live a long life. It’s another reason for our success. Our intelligence enables us to learn many skills that we need for survival that are not innate. They must be passed down from generation to generation. The human species needs to spend many years in childhood to learn those skills. The older generation, the grandparents, have a vital role as substitute parents with the same love and caring and the capability to teach the grandchildren skills and also perhaps a little of the wisdom that they have learned from their life experiences.

Structure and Biochemistry

Our teeth and jaws – Front teeth are like those of a horse to cut off pieces of food. They are not pointed to hold onto flesh. Canines exist but are certainly not a weapon, more a fruit eater. Back teeth are flat and used like grinding stones with that side to side movement that our jaws are capable of. Carnivores don’t have that. Their jaws are locked in an up and down movement and their teeth are more like scissors that can cut bones and flesh into chunks that can be swallowed almost without chewing. With us the digestion starts in the mouth with the ground food being mixed with our amylase rich saliva while being ground by our molars. This mixing and grinding is very important. We don’t have teeth in our stomach. Foods that are not ground up may pass through us untouched and wasted.

Organs and digestive tract – Our stomach is just not acid enough for meat. Pieces of undigested meat can reach our large intestine. These rotting pieces can initiate cancer growth. Our liver is not large enough to handle the loads of fats and cholesterol in all animal products and they clog up our arteries and kill us. Plants have very little cholesterol and only a few have saturated fats. The type and quantity of fats in whole plant foods is generally healthy (unless you have heart disease). Our kidneys also are too small and the excessive load they have to handle in the breakdown of animal proteins causes kidney disease. Our appendix is characteristic of herbivores. We need a high fibre (from plants only) diet, to clean our intestinal tract and to establish the right gut flora. Consumption of animal products can lead to infection of the appendix requiring its removal. That shouldn’t happen. The length of our small intestine is in the same proportion as a herbivore, 10 to 11 times our body length.

Our Gut Flora (microbiome) – Around 100 trillion bacteria (around 1.5 kg) lives in our large intestine, our colon. That’s about 10 times the number of cells you have in your body. Don’t be concerned however because these are, or should be, the good guys. We live in a symbiotic relationship with these microbes. We supply them with shelter and food, they in turn are vital for our health. There can be around 1000 species of bacteria present; half of them are composed of probably only a hundred or so different species. Overall the variety of genes present in those microbes is about 150 times that of the human genome and that’s why we need them; they can do biological processes that we cannot do. Our microbiome should be considered another organ, as vital as any other. It accounts for around 80% of our immune responses, for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, weight control, gene expression, vitamin synthesis and mental health. It controls the function of most of our organs.

Because they live on the food that we supply to them, the species present and the distribution are very dependent on what we eat.

You could say our gut bacteria are as individual as we are. In fact, they are what we eat, that’s precisely why we must eat what we are.

Our microbiome is so important to us. The critical role that it plays for our health is increasingly being recognised and presently is the focus of a lot of research. Ways of modulating our bacteria is being investigated.  What’s being overlooked is the simple fact that a diet of whole plant food rich in fibre will result in a health sustaining gut flora. Consuming meat, eggs and dairy results in different gut flora with poor immune responses.

Other proof of our herbivore nature

Compare us to carnivores www.all-creatures.org/

  1. Finger nails and toenails; not claws
  2. We perspire for endurance running. Carnivores can only run in short bursts. They don’t have sweat glands and don’t perspire. They have to pant to cool themselves.
  3. Our carbohydrate diet gives us long distance running endurance that can match any other animal. Carnivores, with their diet of protein and fat, are limited to short bursts of speed.
  4. Colour vision rather than night vision for coloured food recognition rather than for hunting prey at night
  5. Clear distance vision rather than movement sensitive vision
  6. Poor sense of smell. Carnivores have an acute sense of smell that allows them to pick out the diseased or weakened prey. Dogs are used in medical diagnoses to scent bowel and skin tumour growths in humans.
  7. Humans require about 8 hrs of sleep per day, similar to other herbivores. Carnivores require more sleep, around 14 hours per day.
  8. We have both prostrates and seminal vesicles in our male reproductive system that is characteristic of herbivores only. Prostate cancer, the main cancer killer in men, occurs when a erbivore consumes a carnivore or omnivore diet. If we follow a plant only diet, prostate cancer will not occur.

Human Nature

There are only a few human individuals that you could say have a real killing instinct. People don’t generally kill for pleasure; that is except for a few abnormal individuals such as serial killers. These people usually start their killing sprees by abusing or murdering animals. For most people visiting an abattoir or even just seeing how animals are treated in factory farms would be too much for them. They would be traumatised. Many people would never consume animal products again. That’s why those places are kept away from public view. It’s also interesting that the highest staff turnover of any industry is in those that slaughter animals.

Just compare our reaction to say, that of a dog. The sights, sounds and smells in an abattoir would switch them on. Anyone who has owned a pet dog would realise how that killer, pack instinct lurks in them.  It’s almost like a switch in them; from a passive, gentle pet to a pack animal killer; fearless, ferocious, instantly ready to chase and attack the prey. That’s a carnivore, that’s not us.

Blue Zones

There are certain areas of population where the people live exceptionally long and healthy lives. They have been given the name “blue zones”. They are found in Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan and Sardinia, Italy. Also the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California should be included in this group. It is not uncommon for people in these areas to live past 100 years of age and to remain healthy and active. Scientists naturally are interested in what they are doing that is so healthy. The answer – plant based diets. Their diets are mainly whole grains, tubers, lentils with additional fruits and vegetables, very little if any meat and dairy. As modern lifestyle and fast foods come into these areas, the average health of the population deteriorates. The message – eat what you are – herbivore.

Wellness Warriors

Again, this is my aim, to stimulate your interest enough that you may look up the website of those Wellness Warriors. They are the people with all the proof, the inspiration, the success stories and the recipes to get you on the right track with your diet. I apologise that I don’t give you any references. My Wellness Warriors certainly do. However would you look up any references that I provided? Probably not. So you can use my laziness to not reference as a reason not to believe anything I have written. But consider an article I read just recently by a Dr Mark Hyman. He has written a number of books one of which is “Eat Fat Get Thin”.  He backed up his claims to get thin by eating fat with a reference to a scientific research article. When I looked up the research article, the research demonstrated the exact opposite to what Dr Hyman was claiming. Of course, he didn’t expect that people would look up his references. That’s laziness on his readers’ part, but deceit on his part.

Your Health depends on Eating What You Are ; A Herbivore