Food, by its technical definition, is any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink in order to maintain life and grow.
While that may seem pretty simple, when we start to explore what is the ideal “diet” for modern humans, things can get a little complicated.
Thanks to agricultural advancements in the last 150 years, there are a lot of food products that exists now that wouldn’t have without modern processing. While that’s not inherently a bad thing, these products are often wrapped in marketing messages designed to convince us we need them. Most often times, these foods are nutrient poor, hyperpalatable, full of hype, and may not be the best for supporting the body’s processes.
To top it off, there are countless “one-size fits all” diet programs and protocols that exist that make finding out what works best for our body slightly confusing.
When considering what foods work best for your body, its helpful to look back to how food served our ancestors when there was little sign of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes.1
Food in Our History
Looking back to our ancestors, for quite a long time, humans ate a varied diet full of plants, vegetables, freshly caught fish, pasture-raised animals and animal products, and fruits when in season in ratios that were dependent on the location and season. All of these foods were nutrient-dense and contained the vitamins and minerals we needed to “maintain life and grow” in the appropriate ratios for optimal absorption.
Although the ratio of carbs, proteins, and fat in the diet varied greatly depending on geographic location, all foods were eaten in their whole sources.
For example, traditional Inuit cultures in the Arctic consumed 90% of their calories from animal fat, and were almost entirely free of the chronic and degenerative diseases that plague our modern society.2
Likewise, the traditional Kitavans in the Pacific Islands thrived on a diet which included 70% of calories from carbohydrates including starchy tubers, fruits and vegetables.3
At the surface, these evidences seem conflicting; however, they both have one massive underlying commonality:
A diet of real, whole food – void of the processing that dominates our modern culture.
This similarity brings attention to the fact that the standard western diet is very different to the one our ancestors engaged with. Products like vegetable oils, pasteurized and homogenized dairy, and refined sugar have only been a part of the food chain for the past three generations, and during that time, chronic disease as skyrocketed.
Now – of course, food is not the only part of the chronic disease equation. The stress our body is now exposed to from other parts of life has also drastically increased, which affects our mental and emotional health, our immune and endocrine system, and requires resources from the body. This is why balance is incredibly important, and dogmatic approaches to food are most likely not the answer.
Having an awareness of how food has changed throughout our existence as a human race gives us a framework for figuring out what foods will support our body best.
And while the specific types of foods you eat may look entirely different from your neighbor’s due to our varying genetic backgrounds, there are some basics general guidelines that can be applied to foods in our modern world: