With spring in the air it’s only natural that many of us will start thinking about dropping a few pounds. No doubt the best place to start is with diet. Consequently we might wonder why we are compelled to eat so many calories and why we tend to gravitate toward certain foods.
The Human race is instinctively programmed for a certain relationship with food and biologically programmed for a certain type of diet. Let’s consider the world around us for a moment. Most all species spend more time grazing or hunting for food than in any other activity. Herbivores and omnivores such as deer, elk, bison, bear etc. fatten up for the winter on carbohydrate rich foods. Conversely, carnivores are relatively lean by nature. Furthermore agricultural beef cattle and pork are fattened on grains like corn which is mainly carbohydrates.
As for instincts, no matter two legged or four legged we all have instincts. Take a look at the house cat. Let a cat outside for any length of time and ultimately it begins to hunt. After 5,000 years of domestication we have not been able to mute this built in instinct. We too have vestiges from our past that tug at our spirit. How about the last time you sat around a campfire? What is it about that fire that draws you to it? Or rather something in you that’s drawn to the fire. Much like all species, humans have been instinctively programmed to eat in times of plenty to put on body fat in order to withstand the leaner times. This helps explain why the general population tends to eat more than they really need and are drawn to carbohydrate rich foods, which are more easily converted to body fat.
But what should we really be eating? With respect to the biological aspect of this equation, our bodies through the millennia have biologically adapted to a protein and fat- rich diet accented by naturally occurring carbohydrates. The omnivorous Human digestive system has evolved over time. For tens of thousands of years the human diet was that of a hunter gatherer with a diet rich in protein and healthy fats from animal and fish sources and carbohydrates coming from gathered vegetation such as nuts, berries, fruits etc. It hasn’t been until the last 10,000 years that humans began agricultural farming and not until the last 2,000 to 5,000 years that we have actually been successful enough to fully rely on farming for our food. With this success in farming comes easy access to food especially Carbohydrate rich foods.
Depending on the individual and activity level, the average person only needs maybe 1,500 to 3,500 calories a day. Again, our bodies are designed to receive healthy amounts of protein and good fats as well as carbohydrates. Protein is the most abundant building block in the body and the body needs fats in order to utilize most proteins. Good fats are critical for brain function and hormone production. Carbohydrates are used for fuel and easily stored as body fat.
So here we are in our modern world. Now through our own successes the human race almost overnight has gone from just trying to find enough food to survive to having food everywhere in any quantity. Essentially we are living in the land of plenty with bodies that had been adapted for much leaner times. Much of our society consumes as many as 10,000 calories a day and most of those calories are not only carbohydrates, but refined and processed carbohydrates. We are becoming a society that is living almost exclusively on carbs. It’s not uncommon to see an infant or toddler with soda pop, sweet juice, or some type of sugar water in their bottle. An infants’ body is biologically designed to feed on breast milk which is high in protein, good fats and carbohydrates.
Granted somewhere deep inside we are driven to eat, worse yet we are driven to eat fattening carbohydrate foods. But we also have the intellect and reasoning ability to come to grips with these desires and we also have the resources to read labels, count calories, fat, and carbohydrate content and just plain get educated.
Written by DMK of Seven Grains