By Coach Mel
How did the Standard American Diet (SAD) come to be? If we understand this, we might begin to understand how to dig ourselves out of this disease-ridden, sugar-crazed, company-monopolized hole. Book length information could be given on the subject but I am just going to wet your tongue with a very brief account of how our diets came to be so SAD.
There are 5 historic milestones that led us to where we are now:
1. The Agricultural Revolution
2. The introduction of refined sugar
3. The Industrial Revolution
4. The creation of the “food giants”
Human’s first diet comes from the hunter-gatherers, the Paleolithic people. If they were still around today, they would be richer than the Kardashians with the diet craze that arose inspired by them. The “Paleo” diet is all the rage now but has morphed into a diet that would be unrecognizable to actual hunter-gatherers back in the day over 12,000 years ago as, to my knowledge, there existed no “paleo friendly” cookies then.
But as populations grew people started settling and the agricultural revolution came to be. Now farming had to take place on a larger scale. Breeding plants for desirable traits, storing crops, processing plants to maximize digestibility, setting down roots in one geographic location. Now that we could do this, populations grew and, more than that, they had more time on their hands because they didn’t have to go foraging for food and so could put energy into advancing culture with new technologies.
This, my friends (in my opinion) began our slow downward health spiral. At the same time populations were getting bigger, health began to deteriorate. But it wasn’t until the next chapter in our lives, roughly 400 years ago, that our deaths became imminent: the advent of sugar. Sugar used to be a sign of wealth but then we started getting “smart” and learned how to press cane and refine sugar. Then it was everywhere. Because it was so rare it took a bit to catch on but catch on it did… in the 1800s the average person consumed only 10lbs a year, today that number is up to 140 lbs per year. Whoa.
You might be bored by now but keep reading. The Industrial Revolution began and more and more people moved off of farms and into towns creating even more demand for food at a processed cost. The industrial revolution began in the 18th century and our shiny new toys allowed us to make things like margarine (don’t even get me started) and vegetable oils. Sugar imports rose and refining wheat products was all the rage despite their embarrassingly low vitamin and other micronutrient compositions.
“Food giants” like Kraft and General Mills, for example, started rolling in and then WWII is next in line and with it came the demand for the ability to be able to preserve food. As well, chemicals became used as pesticides and caught on for agricultural use. Get your umbrellas, crops.
There does not exist one perfect diet for everyone and, while walking into a grocery store can seem overwhelming, it is really quite simple. What in the store could not be “gathered”? If left on an island would you go traipsing around the woods in search of Honey Grahams? Probably not. Don’t let the processed taste of an Oreo and our undeniable addiction to sugar do exactly what big food giants want… drive you to buy their products. And don’t let the “healthy” labeling fool you. I could hand you a bag of sugar right now and could write on it “gluten free, soy free, dairy free, etc. etc.…” It’s still the worst thing for you.
We need to start going back to our roots. We don’t live in a time where we can go hunt and gather our food but this doesn’t have to mean that we take all “advances” and fill our plates with processed pieces of things unrecognizable to our bodies as food. Even though there exists thousands more choices, the actual number of real food options aren’t as huge. Food is a case where technology and advances have not served us. The challenge should not be what to eat but how to find the best sources of quality food that align more with hunting and gathering and not machines.