How foods have changed during the last 100 years has redefined many aspects of food and health and even more has changed since the beginning of human existence. The changes over time have had extensive effect on the health and well being of the people present during each major change and has been fairly well documented.
There are several moving parts on this topic outlined below. The most significant factors are:
- What kind of food are we really supposed to be eating?
- What foods truly drive optimum health?
- What has driven the changes in food?
- How is the public is educated on those changes?
- How the way the public is educated -- or even mislead -- drives buying patterns towards profitable food products...not necessarily healthy ones.
- What about conflicting food, nutrition and health research studies?
- Being aware of the changes in food can empower us to drive different behaviors in our modern times for significantly more positive health results.
There are several key sections outlined below that address the de-evolution of healthy foods and the creation of fad diets and highly processed fast foods. Even botched and biased food research studies that send confusing messages to all health conscious consumers.
This de-evolution, combined with propaganda, have defined how foods have changed. In order to be effective at achieving our own health goals, awareness is paramount because awareness drives personal decision making.
The Importance Of Understanding How Foods Have Changed
Deep down, vitality, health and strength is what we all desire. It's just not as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables any more because of how our foods have changed. All the factors that have influenced how foods have changed in recent decades has led us all down a path of eating a diet that we have never experienced before as a human species...and it is clearly having devastating negative health effects on everyone not informed about what to avoid and what to seek in our new world of food.
The results of our new modern diet are what we all see on the news every day:
- The obesity epidemic
- Heart disease
- Autoimmune and inflammatory disorders
The list could fill this entire web page with these (and many more) modern afflictions humans rarely saw in the not-so-distant past. Once we embrace the fact that we don't possess the vitality, health and strength we should, it becomes abundantly clear that the foods we eat and the drinks we drink have a profound effect on our state of health.
Knowing how foods have changed will guide is all to making better food choices that will put us in control of our health. Vitality, health and strength is the minimum acceptable state, and our birthright.
It is vitally important that we redefine and understand how foods have changed on a fundamental level. There is a big difference between just simply knowing something and understanding it.
In order to define how foods have changed, we need to know where it all started so that we can more easily see how it has changed. When you stand back and watch the de-evolution of food over time, it is easier to gain perspective about why we have so many health problems ravaging our society today. We're simply not fueling our bodies the way we once did.
So let's start at the beginning... in the paleolithic era.
The Paleolithic Era of Food
This era was from 2.6 million to about 12,000 years ago.
This is when human genetics were first selected to be successful in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and our genetics today are virtually identical to our ancestors of 120,000 years ago.
So what does a hunter-gatherer eat? Let's look at the first word first: Hunter.
Since our ancestors hunted, they would have eaten any animal they had access to, could catch and kill depending on where they lived. It also would include eggs, fish and carrion.
Any meat harvested by any means would be what we call today as "organic grass-fed" meats and wild caught fish. In other words, they hunted animals that foraged on their own natural diet and they were also in a prime state of health.
More importantly, the meats eaten had the appropriate ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, high protein content, lower fat and higher and more diverse nutritional levels than today's factory farmed animals which are fed grains and soy.
Ok, let's look at the gatherer aspect of our paleolithic hunter-gatherer past.
Here again they would find and eat anything edible in their surroundings. This included vegetables and leafy vegetables, roots, herbs, fruits, nuts and seeds. All of which would be called "organic" in today's terms meaning not genetically modified or drenched in fungicides and pesticides. Further, these wild edibles grew in very healthy and fertile soils thus enabling the edible plants to be packed with nutrition that is much depleted in our over-farmed soil today in the 21st century.
They ate a wide variety of all that they could find creating an opportunity for a wide variety of nutrients to be consumed and also mitigated the risk of famine by taking from a variety of food sources. What's missing from this list are grains which, for as far as we can tell, were absent in our ancestor's diets.
Early Human Civilization Era of Food
Some humans began transitioning from a purely hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one of agriculture about 10,000 years ago and is marked by the use of domesticated plants and animals that were previously gathered or hunted in the wild. Over time, agriculture advanced to include irrigation, crop rotation and even fertilization. Other markers of early agriculture are:
- Selective breeding of crops began taking place to enhance yields or eliminate undesirable properties.
- Some crops grown were fig trees, flax, wheat and barley in the near east. In other parts of the world, there were potatoes, millet, avocado, bananas, rice, beans and squash to name a few.
- Animals were also domesticated and raised to be eaten or used for other purposes such as chickens, pigs, sheep, cattle, horses and others.
- Along the way, about 7,000- 9,000 B.C, we began milking animals and consuming milk.
- Herdsmen and tribal peoples moved their animals to where fresh grasses were available and also began rotating pastures in order to keep the animals fed with their native and natural diet. The methods used here were just as diverse as the regions of the world they were in.
As in the paleolithic era, all foods were what we would call organic and grass-fed in today's terms. All the foods were whole and packed with nutrition. The meats were eaten with all the fats and cholesterol along with it and the people thrived without obesity and other modern afflictions although there is significant evidence that many agricultural societies showed significantly more signs of disease and malnutrition as compared to their hunter-gatherer neighbors.
No low fat, low sugar processed foods soaked in vegetable oil, soda pops, cup cakes, high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate and grain-fed beef in the diet just yet...but strap yourself in for a trip to the 20th and 21st centuries!
20th and 21st Century: The Modern Food Era
Agriculture in the 20th and 21st centuries showed a major transformation to profit-driven motives that have caused the fastest pace of food de-evolution man kind has ever experienced.
The changes are certainly happening much faster than our bodies are able to adapt to causing a myriad of health issues throughout our modern society. Markers of modern agriculture are:
- In the early 1900's, gasoline powered vehicles began replacing farm animals
- Chemical fertilizers were used extensively to increase yields for a growing population.
- Pesticides and fungicides were developed and used extensively.
- As people led a busier lifestyle concentrated into towns and cities, pre-packaged food, fast food and processed food began to be developed.
- Development of food preservatives and pasteurization to make food last longer before spoilage.
- Food producers went "corporate" during this time. Instead of knowing the farm our food was coming from, now we're buying a brand and it is no longer known where the food came from or how it was produced.
- Food extracts like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) were developed and added to just about anything as a cheap alternative to cane sugar. These sugars are also added to low-fat foods because when you take the fat out of a product, it doesn't taste as good so sugar is added to compensate...or worse, a sugar substitute.
- Food corporations then began growing in political power and were able to influence the FDA to pass laws that enhanced profits, not necessarily the health of the consumer.
- Food corporations began genetically modifying foods to "own" crops for enhanced profits and crop yields.
- GMO's (genetically modified organisms) were allowed into the food supply with a minimal understanding of the impacts to human health and the environment. GMO's are banned in many countries worldwide but allowed to grow unbridled here in America.
- Food companies have fought and resisted the labeling of GMO foods despite public support.
- Factory farmed meats drastically changed the nutritional and fat profile of meats leading to a hidden health disaster. The grass fed meats humans have always eaten have significantly more nutrition and less fat than factory farmed meats.
- Food advertisements aimed at every demographic have led us down a path of eating for profit and convenience rather than health.
- These same advertisements have us all believing that fat makes us fat so they can sell low-fat food items that they fill full of sugars that actually make us fat. Geez, this is madness!
- Food companies began advertisements aimed at children to influence the eating habits of entire generations.
- Food companies also began influencing networks of nutritionists, dieticians and paid talent like celebrities to work behind the scenes to influence the perception of their products in a positive light.
- Food companies also fund studies that are supportive of their products (or initiate said studies) and do all they can to discredit anything opposing them. All this to have you believe that a highly processed frozen weight loss TV dinner is good for you.
- Profitable grain and processed based foods cause significant weight gain in people so fad diet plans began to emerge along with pharmaceutical weight loss solutions that further enhance profits for an entirely new industry.
How the Public is Educated About Food
So how in the world did we all get to where we are as a society with our health and diet? Why are there tons of food products out there that are low fat, low sugar, zero calorie that have the term "diet" printed on them? And still we see a terrible obesity epidemic, diabetes and a long list of other health afflictions and diseases.
To answer these questions, let's take a brief look at a few items that have an influence on what we eat and how foods have changed in our collective beliefs:
- Food advertisements: The food industry has done a great job of feeding the world. The problem today is that it leads us all down a path of profitability, not necessarily a path of health or healthy foods. Unfortunately, this has become a significant source of public information about what are healthy foods and only new knowledge can guide you through the maze of advertisements.
- Diet advertisements: There are countless diets plans out there like diet pills, prepared frozen dinners, shakes and then there are the low fat, low sugar (or sugar free) and low calorie products out there. Have you ever wondered why we still have an obesity epidemic even though these "diet" products fly off the shelves? Ever wonder why people always say they gain the weight right back?
- Artificial ingredients: There are a myriad of artificial ingredients in foods today that our bodies were never meant to deal with or process. Food colors, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), MSG (monosodium glutamate) (which gives me heart palpitations by the way) and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils to name a few. These ingredients are used for a variety of uses and none of which are to promote your health.
- Financial and political power: The food industry has also influenced us through networks of nutritionists, dieticians and paid talent such as celebrities to paint a positive light on their products. They also pay to influence the outcomes of nutritional studies for the same reason and do all they can to discredit any opposing findings. They also use various methods to influence the FDA on the passing of laws and regulations that benefit them...not you.
The New Age Of Knowledge-Based Healthy Food
The perspective the knowledge of how foods have changed empowers us in the following ways:
- It changes our perception of what truly defines what are healthy foods in today's more complex and profit-driven society
- It guides decision-making when at the grocery store or at a restaurant
- It simplifies the process of making conscious changes without specialized diet plans
- It quickens the pace and eases the transition of new eating habits that is sustainable for a lifetime
- This will change your life in a positive way with a newfound minimum acceptable level of vitality, health and strength