Health Uncanned, Unboxed, Unbagged

By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.

Genesis 3:19

My maternal grandfather and my maternal grandmother were married for over fifty years. My mom tells me that he adored her; she, however, was more of an independent woman. However after fifty years I suppose she must have had a thing for him too.

Near the end of those fifty years my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and his life slowly started to deteriorate and melt away. He became frustrated as he had trouble remembering things and knowing that tomorrow he would not remember yesterday. He eventually had to be institutionalized. Near the very end of his life, his wife of more than half a century came to visit him and asked him if he remembered her, his wife. His reply?

“I don’t have a wife.”

This pained her greatly, as can be imagined.

Stories such as this are sadly so common today. Passing away while sleeping is less and less an option, but dying while suffering from cancer, heart/cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, COPD, autoimmune diseases, et cetera, seems to be an ever-growing option. Even children are being diagnosed with some of these diseases, diseases which a century ago were virtually unheard of. But as personal health seems to diminish, public awareness of nutrition seems to increase, ironically. Could it be true that the health epidemic is due to the public’s ignorance? Health and nutrition are always hot topics, and half the products in the grocery store have health-conscious labels. What’s more, the political agenda for public health continues to improve nutrition information, such as MyPlate, and to make it easier-to-read.

So why in spite of all this, does disease persist? Why does cancer–or even a simple chronic runny nose–continue to squash our hopes for a healthy life?

My hope with this blog is to use simple logic and good science to investigate the perceived paradoxes to change how you look at nutrition. Nutrition information is extremely prevalent today, so much so it can be overwhelming. Calories, fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, protein, fiber, fiber-to-protein ratio, glycemic index, gluten, vitamins, minerals, sodium–these are all data the health-conscious person might pay attention to–but data that, until recent science, were not available.

A version of the Food Pyramid, designed to show us the many food groups and how much of each we should eat from

Were humans destined to live in the dark shadow of disease their entire lives until they had these data? Of course not! There still exist isolated groups of peoples who live without any nutritional information such as we have, who are very, very healthy. Studying these peoples was the work of Dr. Weston A. Price. You can read about it here.

I believe, along with many others, that a healthy life should be much simpler than keeping track of a bunch of numbers, and that our food should be much more natural than what it currently is. Our food today comes in boxes, in bags, in cans–not just the Honey Buns and Hershey’s, but also healthier choices like Cheerios and chicken noodle soup. As more and more people strive to become healthy, we see more and more healthy foods on the shelves of our local supermarket–with phrases like “heart healthy” printed on the packaging. But the more they print advice on packages, the more we seem to become diseased. Why is it so difficult?

One, among many, of my goals with this blog is to look at simpler, and more traditional foods, such as butter, stock, lard (yikes!), red meat, raw milk, fermented vegetables and grains, and eggs–foods our great-grandparents ate before disease came a-knocking. Most of these foods have acquired a connotation of unhealthiness over the years, though their consumption is at an all-time low while rates of obesity and diabetes are at an all-time high.

Perhaps disease is a matter of ignorance and lack of willpower. Or perhaps disease is a matter of health no longer coming from the freedom of a field, but from the confines of a can. And a box. And a bag.

First photo by Nutrition Education. Second photo from government publication.