I just finished a book called Traditional Foods Are Your Best Medicine. I would highly recommend it, although I sometimes think that I read it from a different perspective.
First, I think I should share my background. My mentor through my master’s degree was Dr. Loren Cordain, the author of The Paleo Diet. He said that we should eat primarily meat and vegetables and no grains or dairy. When I went on to my PhD program, my mentor was a follower of The China Study which promotes a plant based diet (primarily vegan) because of the low disease rates among rural Chinese farmers. In short, my background provided me with a variety of perspectives.
So I read this book about traditional foods and I thought it was fantastic. It took into consideration both the benefits of a vegan diet as well as differentiating good sources of meat from bad sources of meat. I think that most importantly it found a group that have lived for centuries as an agrarian society and demonstrated the benefits of a traditional agrarian diet. I emphasize traditional, because modern farms are working hard to ruin most of the food that we eat.
The main point that I took from the book was that native groups knew how to eat traditional foods in appropriate combinations and seasonally to provide good health. Where things got a bit sketchy for me was the declarations of genetic evolution. I believe that humans evolved… whatever. I don’t believe that just because the predecessors to humans didn’t eat a certain food that current humans can’t digest it. Honey is an example that comes to mind. Honey is not a complex molecule and the body certainly knows what to do with it. It has many benefits over highly processed sugar. Sure, it shouldn’t be over consumed, but it is certainly a better option.
I especially liked the emphasis the book placed on healthy fats that are not found in most of the meat raised today. I think that is among the most lacking nutritional information in the world today. I don’t know if it is an evolution thing or just a function of how things work, but I do know that our diets are deficient in omega-3s and overflowing with omega-6s.
A problem that books like this never seem to address is the environmental impact. Obviously the native cultures lived with a great relationship with the environment and cared for the earth that in return provided for their well-being. I think one of the major problems with eating like the natives before us is the environmental impact of it. There is not enough range land to feed the insatiable desire of Americans to eat meat. The book emphasized consuming seafood, but never recognized the greatly diminished fish population. Yes, fish provide the greatest source of beneficial fats, but if you meet the demand of the people and fish them to extinction, then nobody gets the beneficial fats.
It’s a good book, I recommend it.