Body – Diet – Omnivore

Friday, May 16th, 2008 at 9:00 am.
by pre.

The advice linked to in our article two weeks ago was, of course “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” and as far as it goes that advice is essentially correct, while the full article in the New York Times there is even more so.

However, it’s always more complicated than that. The raw fact of the matter is that nobody really knows the full range of micronutrients needed for human life, and it’s even more the case that nobody even has a clue what range of molecules in our diet are useful, as opposed to nessasary. That is, we have only a basic understanding of the stuff it takes to keep you alive, we have barely scratched the surface of understanding what you can use to make you better.

There are more micronutrients in your diet that you can count. That Wikipedia article lists nine just from the table of elements. Combine carbon and those elements in a variety of strange and interesting ways and you get more peptides and polypeptides and proteins and amino acids than science has even counted, let alone catalogued.

On top of that, every single one of us is metabolically different. Some can digest milk as adults, most cannot. Some can handle alcohol better than others. Some are even allergic to things other people find most enjoyable. Every one of us, identical twins excepted, has a different genetic make up and every one of us (even identical twins) has had a differing exposure to minerals and micro nutrients and peptides and proteins in our diet. All of which effect us.

Yet your diet can radically affect your behaviour even making you more violent. Your health and well being. So how are you best to navigate this maze of possibilities? Perhaps not by asking what you should eat, but how you should eat.

How should we eat?

Our species has spent literally millions of years experiencing Darwinian natural selection before the rise of civilisation. Our “natural” habitat, the one our bodies were bred to best be adapted for, is a diet so poor in any given food that we were forced to evolve an omnivorous diet. I mean you’re not a rat or a goat, you can’t litterally eat anything, but for the vast majority of evolutionary time your ancestors were eking out a living scrambing to eat anything they could get.

In other words, you have evolved to take advantage of anything you can get from your diet. If some random polypeptide is useful to your health, mind or body, not necessarily necessary, but usable, you have likely evolved to take advantage of it. Those who randomly did so, will have bred better.

This means the key to a “good” diet isn’t to eat a proscribed list of foods, or to ban some other proscribed lists of foods, or even to east seasonally, it’s to eat omnivorously

If there is a molecule in food anywhere that your body can take advantage of, you owe it to your body to make sure it gets some. Variety is key to your best diet. If you’re eating the same things every week you may be missing that useful (but not essential) micro nutrient that’s not in your normal fare. If you’re eating the same thing every week you may be building up an excess of some slow-acting poison found only in that food.

The key to eating well, is to like everything and eat everything. No food should be on your dislike list, no food on your must-eat list. Unless you’re literally allergic to it, you should be eating it now and then.

This Month’s Guided Meditation is naturally useful for this kind of diet. If there’s something you don’t like train yourself to like it. Get used to buying different things every time you go into a supermarket. Get used to buying your food from different retailers, different shops, farmers markets, corner stores and costermongers. Then you’ll know that your body has not only everything it needs but more relevantly everything it can want