A whole food diet is a way of eating that emphasizes eating clean, natural, complete foods to ensure the intake of the highest levels of nutrients.
Whole foods come from living sources, and they age just as we do. They are real foods, not fake foodstuffs made in a laboratory or factory. Some examples of whole foods include organic pastured fed meats, poultry, eggs, raw milk, cream, butter, vegetables, and fruit.
History has shown that a whole food diet is critical for vibrant human health. Humans did not develop disease on a mass scale until we stopped eating clean, whole foods.
The processed food industry is powerful in our culture. New processed food products made from genetically engineered, pesticide soaked corn and soybeans are constantly being added to the market, and the industry uses sophisticated marketing techniques to fool the American public into believing these products are healthy.
I believe that the cause of the modern human disease is rooted in malnutrition which is propagated by our industrialized food systems. And worse, even with so much evidence pointing to the cause of our health issues, our modern medical systems ignore the restorative power of a whole food diet and instead, treat illnesses with expensive drugs and/or invasive surgery.
The Connection Between Food and Disease
The logic of the connection between food and disease is inescapable. Contemporary humans have been on the earth for about 200,000 years. During the majority of that time, humans have survived and thrived without the need for processed foods, medical interventions or prescription drugs.
It is only in the last 130 years that whole food nutrition has been replaced by junk processed foods. And it is during the last 130 years that epidemics of disease have become common in our populations.
If you follow the work of researchers like Weston A. Price, it is clear that proper nutrition is the basis for vibrant human health. His research showed that humans thrive when they eat a clean, whole food diet and that they become diseased when they don’t.
In the early 1930s, Dr. Price, a dentist, began a series of investigations into the causes of the disease conditions he saw in his patients. For over ten years, he traveled to isolated parts of the world to study the health of people who were untouched by the processed foods of western civilization. His studies revealed that dental problems and disease were the results of nutritional deficiencies, not inherited genetic defects.
In every population he studied, the people who ate a traditional whole food diet were free of disease conditions. They had strong bone structures, straight white teeth and they did not develop diseases as they aged. Because of the vibrant health they enjoyed, they had no need for doctors, dentists or drugs.
In contrast, he found that the individuals in these populations who switched to eating the refined foods of the west (white sugar, white flour, processed, canned and pickled goods) easily succumbed to tuberculosis and other diseases, they had rampant dental cavities, and their children were born with narrow faces and jaws which did not allow room for all of the teeth.
Dr. Price wrote a book about his experiences called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, in which he included pictures showing the differences in the people who chose the contrasting diets. The book and the pictures present a compelling case for the importance of whole food diets.
How Did We Forget About Good Nutrition?
The human body needs the nutrients found in whole foods in order to maintain vibrant health. When we take care of our food supply, it takes care of us. But the opposite is also true.
Our food system didn’t fail us until we failed to support it in the late 1800s, as the Industrial Revolution was underway, the American public began moving into cities to work in factories. To feed the throngs of people cheaply, mass-produced foods began to appear, and whole natural foods became polluted by an orientation towards long shelf life and quick profits.
As an example, consider what happened to raw milk. When most Americans lived on farms and in rural areas, most families had their own dairy cow or had a neighboring farm or city that pastured cows and produced raw milk. Whole families drank raw milk every day and enjoyed its benefits without getting sick.
But as cities grew during the industrial revolution, grazing land within the cities was lost. In addition, after the War of 1812 cut off America’s access to West Indian whiskey, domestic liquor distilleries began springing up in cities. The demand for milk and whiskey caused heartless entrepreneurs to house dairy cows in buildings next to whiskey factories. The cows were fed the swill, an acidic grain mash leftover from the whiskey-making process, and confined in crowded, filthy sheds, unable to eat grass or enjoy the sun.
Because of the unnatural environment, the unsanitary conditions and the abnormal food, the cows quickly became ill, and many died from the inhumane treatment. The milk they produced was in such bad condition, neither cheese nor butter could be made from it. In addition, this milk made the people who drank it sick. In many cities, infant and child mortality rates soared.
Instead of returning the cows to their natural habitat and foods, the government decided on the course of pasteurizing the milk with high heat.
This fixed the original issue, but it created new problems. The pasteurization process destroyed the beneficial nutrition and damaged the fats in the raw milk, and made it into a food that did not support human health.
This kind of story was repeated over and over as the food processing industry exploded in growth. Because they were cheap and easy to obtain, city folk and then more rural populations began depending on processed foods instead of a natural whole food diet. Soon after, the rates of disease began to rise dramatically.
By 1859, the food processing industry was in full swing, and manufacturers were determined to sell their products whether they were healthy or not. Our nutritional problems grew as more and more whole foods were modified and adulterated in the interest of extending shelf life and profits.
By 1900, malnutrition was severe in city populations, and Americans were battling all sorts of nutritional and digestive health troubles. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies caused conditions like goiter and pellagra, and typhoid fever and tuberculosis were rampant. In the first case of diverticulitis, a severe infection of the digestive tract was diagnosed during this time.
People were dying from digestive disorders at an alarming rate, and snake oil salesman camped out on city corners with fixes for the aching tummy.
The US Government reacted by passing laws to regulate health advertising and weed out false claims for cheap health remedies.
It didn’t occur to the Feds to figure out the root causes of the American public’s collective gut ache. It still hasn’t. The government, like our health system, only knows how to treat symptoms.
During the same time frame, our pharmaceutical, agribusiness, and medical organizations were forming. Bayer, Parke Davis, Ely Lilly, and Upjohn Pharmaceuticals were all founded in the mid to late 1800s. Monsanto Corporation, now America’s largest agricultural business, was founded in 1901 by a 30 year veteran of the pharmaceutical industry.
The American Medical Association was founded in 1847. When penicillin was discovered in 1921, that landmark event set the scene for our medical and pharmaceutical systems to explore drugs instead of a return to a whole food diet to treat disease.
Fast forward to today, and it’s clear that this unhealthy combination of a powerful food processing industry, the unnatural and government-supported farming practices used by the agribusinesses that supply the food processors, and a medical system oriented toward drug-based solutions has led to our current health crisis.
A return to vibrant health means reversing the trends that caused sickness. Many, if not all of the chronic diseases from which modern man suffers can be eradicated through the consumption of clean, whole, nutritious foods.
A whole foods diet is especially important for pregnant women. If the mother’s health is strong, and she has all the nutrients she needs, she can create a healthy baby.
Unfortunately, many of us were born to mothers who did not know about whole food nutrition, and we started out with health strikes against us. But we can still eat a whole food diet to maintain as much of our good health as possible.
And if we can inform our new mothers about the benefits of a whole food diet, and support them in their efforts to eat well, we can raise healthier children who will, in turn, raise healthy children of their own.