Thursday, August 30, 2012

All Food Is Bad

Yes you read the title. All food is bad.

Well, pretty close. Hopefully I can convince you of this after you read this article. Don't worry, though, this won't change your lifestyle or make you feel guilty about certain foods. It is only a thought experiment, a different perspective - exactly what this blog is about.

What is food? It really is two things; energy and "lego" blocks of the body.

We can do a two things with food;

  • Break it down to use the energy within chemical bonds (called Catabolism)
  • We can use energy to build new chemicals (called Anabolism)

Anything outside of that would be news to me. But it is true, we can only break down bonds (usually sugars or fats) or we can build new molecules (such as proteins or communicators). So why am I making the claim that all food is bad?

What I really mean by that is that inherently food isn't good for you. In fact, it is neutral, but in most cases it isn't better for you to take more than a certain amount. The Daily Value is a good indicator (not perfect) of this fact; we need a certain amount of essential foods in order to survive, but this is a very delicate equilibrium of nutrients - too much energy and you gain weight, too little vitamins and you see some nasty effects.

Many people of the world, however, actually survive on extremely malnourished diets. Africa is full of people who nearly only eat carbs and meat, no green vegetables to speak of, and meat is often a delicacy. There are accounts in America of people only eating Chicken Nuggets for more than 90% of their life. How is this possible? It is because all those things we are told to eat - broccoli, fruits, fish, breads (the food pyramid) is basically a lie. We can easily survive on very minimal amounts of foods. Heck, the Irish lived solely on potatoes for years (there skin turned translucent but that's not the same as death, right?)

Food, inherently, then, is neutral. We don't really need a variety of foods to survive. Our body is so incredible at manufacturing it's own nutrients from almost nothing, as well as preserving the limited amounts it gets. Other foods may better our lives, and make us more healthy, but in reality we don't need very much of them - a limited amount of vegetables and fruits will get you a long way. And, with most biological processes we will see three things; diminishing returns, desensitization, and even reversal of effects.

Diminishing returns means that as you eat, for example, more and more blueberries, the anti-oxidants your body is able to extract from them gets lower and lower, until there will eventually be a point where you gain no more antioxidants if you eat 60 blueberries as oppose to 50 blueberries.

Desensitization means over time our body grows accustomed or even immune to new nutrients. If you eat carrots for a long stretch of time, your body may take up less beta-carotene (vitamin A) from the 10th day of eating carrots than you took up from the first day. This isn't necessarily bad - maybe you have an excess of vitamin A from days 1-9, but it does happen. (P.S. I have no idea if we have desensitization to vitamin A)

Reversal of effects is pretty straight forward. If you have a deficiency of Sodium in your body, don't start drinking salt water. Too much sodium can be lethal. If you are skinny, fat can be extremely necessary for you, but of course too much can clog arteries. This reversal is actually true for all nutrients, but for most it is so impossible to accumulate a detrimental amount it isn't worth considering.

What I'm really getting at here is there are very few foods that will improve your life. Most will simply sustain it, or keep it working for longer (not a bad thing by any means). But there are not many foods that if you eat for a week are going to make you super man, or have incredible energy, or change your outlooks on life - those are pretty hard to change with diet. But with a bad outlook on life comes a bad diet, and a good outlook, a good diet - there is definitely a correlation.

What foods are inherently good, you ask?
These nutrients are necessary to maintain health, mind, and body;

  • Antioxidants - They fight cancer, 'nuff said. Balance these with the sugars they are usually accompanied with. Or look into Chaga - a mushroom! (I will make a post later about what cancer actually is.)
  • Omega-3 oils - They are absolutely necessary to maintain nerve & neuron function. You need them. Get them from fish if you can, or there are plenty in flax seed.
  • 'Essential' amino acids - Not difficult to obtain - they are in every living plant on Earth (I believe), but your body can't synthesize them itself.
  • The vitamins - They are important, but they are way overrated. You get plenty with nearly any diet you can think of.
  • Fats, proteins, sugars (carbs), cations (sodium, potassium), etc... The Daily Vitamin list. These are also really easy to obtain, only people who are known to have deficiencies should be watching these.

Other things like supplements and extracts... These usually have very little effect on the body, are hard to uptake, and have a half-life (how long the stay in the body) that is very short. I wouldn't dump too much money into them, but trying them can never hurt.

I hope I have tweaked some brain cells a slight bit. I didn't write this to make people change their diet at all, I wrote it for another perspective on food.

Next post - ? I don't know!

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