Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Food We Were Born to Eat: John McDougall at TEDx

 



What food habits do all great civilizations have in common? John McDougall suggests that starch-based diets are the foods humans were born to eat. He has been studying, writing, and speaking out about the effects of nutrition on disease for over 40 years and is a bestselling author of several titles, including The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good!.


Plant Foods Provide the Nutritional Building Blocks for Optimum Health

To understand why the McDougall Program is such powerful medicine, you must start by recognizing that plant foods are the most abundant sources of nutrition on earth. Nutrients are the raw materials your body needs to function properly and can generally be split into two types – the ones your body can make by itself and the ones it can derive only from your food. The latter are called “essential” nutrients.

There are 13 essential vitamins. Eleven are made in abundance by plants. The two that are not produced by plants are vitamins D and B12, both of which are stored in your tissues for long periods of time. You’ll get enough vitamin D with adequate exposure to sunlight and B12 can be easily supplemented. I tell pregnant and nursing women, and people who follow my diet strictly for more than 3 years, to take five micrograms of vitamin B12 daily.


Animal Foods Have Little Nutritional Value


There’s no comparison between animal foods and plant foods when it comes to providing immune-boosting and cancer-fighting nutrients. Animal foods are either exceedingly low or devoid of antioxidants and tend to offer concentrated amounts of individual nutrients, like protein or calcium, while being deficient in many others. By contrast, plant foods are rich in antioxidants and provide a wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting nutrients.

Only plants contain powerful substances called phytochemicals, which scientists are now discovering protect us from cancer, heart disease, and an array of other serious illnesses. Plants are also the primary source of all minerals in our diet. Minerals are derived from the earth and make their way into the food supply via plants. The only reason animal foods contain any minerals at all is because the animals eat plants, or they eat animals that eat plants. And plants offer our only sources of dietary fiber, which binds in our intestines with fat, cholesterol, environmental pollutants and disease-causing hormones to eliminate these dangers from the body. Fiber also decreases intestinal transit time and promotes healthy bowel elimination.


You Don’t Need Milk to Get Calcium


Plant foods contain generous amounts of calcium. A cup of cooked collard greens contains about 360 mg of calcium, while a cup of milk contains about 300 mg. A cup of cooked kale contains 210 mg. There is NO disorder known as “dietary calcium deficiency” – in other words, there is plenty of calcium in all plant food diets to meet the needs of both children and adults alike. Osteoporosis is not a disease that results from too little calcium, but primarily from acids derived from too much animal protein that rob the body of calcium and thus weaken bones. A diet based on starches with a plentiful supply of fruits and vegetables, combined with modest exercise, will preserve skeletal strength and even regain lost bone mass.


All the Protein You Need – Without the Meat

Protein is extremely misunderstood. First, you should know that plants contain protein and all of the essential amino acids needed to build it. Second, animal foods are not necessary to get the protein your body needs – indeed, all the protein you need and more can be easily derived from plant foods alone.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends men, women, and children get five percent of their calories from protein. The chart below reveals the protein levels of selected plants and as you can see it’s virtually impossible to fail to meet the WHO’s daily requirements.


Percentage of calories derived from protein
Food
%
Rice
8
Corn
12
Baked Potato
10
Pinto Beans
24
Broccoli
43
Cauliflower
33
Zucchini
17
Orange
9
Strawberries
8


Americans are Getting Too Much Protein

Americans consume 6 to 10 times as much protein as they need. All that excess protein overworks the liver and kidneys causing both to become enlarged and injured. Excess protein consumption also causes the kidneys to pull large quantities of calcium from the body, causing bones to weaken and kidney stones to form.

Scientists have found that animal proteins are particularly damaging to the body because so many of their amino acids contain sulfa, which is far more toxic to the liver and kidneys than vegetable proteins. One of the most time-honored approaches to healing the kidneys and liver, in fact, is to eat a low-protein diet, especially a diet low in animal proteins. When the protein content of the diet drops, kidneys are strengthened and very often healed.


What the World Needs Now is Carbohydrates – and Lots of Them

Carbohydrates are our primary source of energy. They alone provide energy for red blood cells, and certain cells of the kidneys, and they’re the preferred fuel for the central nervous system, including the brain. Fat, on the other hand, is a secondary source of energy that can be used by some tissues, such as muscle, but is more often stored for use in times of famine.

Humans were designed by nature to crave carbohydrates. With their unique combination of sweet flavor, energy and nutrition, carbohydrates regulate our hunger drive. There are no carbohydrates in red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, or eggs, and most dairy products contain little if any. Cheese, for example, contains only two percent. This is an important reason why people who eat a diet rich in animal foods rarely feel satisfied and become compulsive overeaters. Unless you eat enough carbohydrate foods, you’ll remain hungry and crave more food.

Unprocessed plant foods like brown rice, potatoes, squash, broccoli, and apples (just to name a few) are loaded with complex carbohydrates – long chains of sugars that must be broken down inside your intestine before they can be used as fuel. The process of digesting these complex carbohydrates is slow and methodical, providing a steady stream of fuel pumped into your bloodstream as long-lasting energy. On the McDougall diet, 70% – 90% percent of your calories are derived from complex carbohydrates, providing you with all the nutrients you need for optimum health, plus a high level of vitality and endurance.


A Lesson in Nutrition


Nutrients are substances that our bodies need for their maintenance, repair, and growth. Our foods contain the following basic nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water.


A. The Four Macronutrients


1. Carbohydrates are the body’s most efficient way to get everything it needs. Produced by plants through photosynthesis, carbohydrates are made from compounds of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen called sugars or saccharides. Molecules of these simple sugars attach together to make long branching chains called complex carbohydrates. These large carbohydrate molecules are commonly referred to as starch.

When eaten, enzymes disassemble these chains back into the simple sugars. These simple sugars then pass easily through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream for distribution to all the cells in your body. Metabolic processes change these simple sugars into energy.

Dietary fibers are even longer chains of complex carbohydrates – so complex that they don’t get entirely digested. Most fibers eventually end up in the colon and form the bulk of your stool. Many people think fibers are only the husks of grains and the long stringy components in fruits and vegetables, but dietary fibers are present in all plant tissues. Even peeled potatoes, for example, contain lots of fiber.

2. Fats are also complex molecules made up of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. While not as easily digested as sugars, fats remain an important nutrient and source of energy. Fats are divided into two categories: saturated fats (solid at room temperature), most commonly found in animal tissues, and unsaturated fats (liquid), most commonly found in plants. Our bodies can synthesize most fats from carbohydrates. These are said to be “nonessential” fats because we don’t need to get them from what we eat. There are only a few unsaturated fats we need to be healthy that our bodies can’t make by themselves. To get these “essential” fats, we have to eat them.

3. Proteins provide the raw materials for a large part of the functional and structural components of our bodies. Only as a last resort are they used as a source of energy. All proteins are built from various combinations of the same 22 relatively simple molecules called amino acids. Think of amino acids like the letters of an alphabet that can form a whole dictionary of words with different meanings. Those “different words” are all the different proteins found in nature. Proteins are found in all foods, both plant and animal, and our bodies can make most of them from scratch.  Only eight of the 22 amino acids are “essential.” Just like the unsaturated fats above, we have to get these eight essential amino acids from our food for us to enjoy good health.

4. Water makes up a large part of our foods, too. Although it yields no energy, water is an essential element for life. It’s not just a passive solvent in which salts, compounds and gasses interact; water participates actively in forming building blocks of cells and is the environment in which cells live. About 60 percent of your body is actually water!

Because these four nutrients make up the largest portion of any food by weight, they are often referred to as macronutrients. Our foods also contain two micronutrients – vitamins and minerals – that make up only a tiny percentage of our food by weight.


B. Micronutrients


Vitamins are organic compounds that are synthesized for the most part only by plants and bacteria (though humans and most large mammals can synthesize vitamin D with the help of sunlight). Because of this, our supply of vitamins must come from plant foods and our own bowel bacteria. “Vita” means life, and as the name indicates, vitamins are essential for our existence. Without them we get sick.

Minerals are micronutrients that come from inorganic matter, primarily the earth, and are also essential in our food for good health. Minerals participate in thousands of metabolic reactions that take place throughout the body. For example, iron in the enzyme hemoglobin transports oxygen in our red blood cells. Some minerals are important elements in our structural material, like calcium which is a large part of bones and teeth.


C. Non-Nutrients


Our foods also contain various non-nutrients, substances that are not necessary for life or good health. Many of these substances, such as cholesterol, pesticides, herbicides, and additives, present real threats to our health. Even though these non-nutrients make up a small amount by weight of our foods, their health significance can be great, causing problems like heart disease and cancer.


Carbohydrates: A Closer Look

Carbohydrates are made by plants and stored in their leaves, stems, roots and fruits. Plant foods contain both simple and complex carbohydrates in various amounts. Fruits are often more than 90 percent carbohydrate, but most of their carbohydrates are the sweet-tasting simple forms of carbohydrate, such as glucose and fructose. Green and yellow vegetables store most of their calories as complex carbohydrates, but since they contain very few total calories, the amount of complex carbohydrate they provide in the diet is small. Whole grains (rice and corn), whole grain flours (wheat and rye, as well as whole grain pastas made from them, such as wheat and soba noodles), tubers (potatoes and yams), legumes (beans and peas), and winter squashes (acorn and hubbard) contain large quantities of complex carbohydrates and thus are known as starches. Rice, corn, and other grains, as well as potatoes, typically store about 80 percent of their calories in the form of complex carbohydrates. Beans, peas, and lentils are approximately 70 percent complex carbohydrates.

Starches contain sufficient calories to easily meet the energy requirements of an active person, and they’re also abundant in essential amino acids (from proteins), essential fats, fibers, and minerals. Many starches, such as the much-maligned potato, have a full complement of vitamins as well, whereas grains and legumes need the help of fruits or green and yellow vegetables in order to provide adequate vitamin A and C.

You’ve probably heard that marathon runners and other endurance athletes “load up” on carbohydrates before an event in order to store energy-providing carbohydrates for the long race. They do this because it works. Loading up on carbohydrates several times a day will give you the energy to race through your busy life.

The only food from animals in which a carbohydrate is found in significant amounts is milk which contains a simple sugar called lactose, but lactose can’t be digested by most adults, and consequently, can cause assorted evidences of indigestion, such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, and hurtful amounts of gas.

In general, Americans eat far too few calories from carbohydrates – only about 40%. To make things worse, the kinds of carbohydrates eaten most commonly are “empty calories” in the form of white sugar, corn syrup, and fructose. A healthy diet, like the McDougall diet, is closer to 80% carbohydrate from nutritious foods: starches, vegetables and fruits.

Percent of calories found as carbohydrates in various foods

Almonds
13
Beans (kidney)
72
Beef
0
Bread (whole wheat)
75
Brussels Sprouts
74
Cabbage
85
Carrots
92
Cheddar Cheese
2
Chicken
0
Corn
94
Eggs
2
Grapefruit
93
Lobster
1
Milk (whole)
30
Oatmeal
71
Oranges
88
Peanuts
16
Peanut Butter
15
Pork
0
Potatoes
90
Rice (brown)
89
Spaghetti (whole wheat)
81
Sugar*
100
Sweet Potatoes
92
Tofu
23
Tomatoes
85
Turkey
0
*When we hear or read the word sugar, most of us think of granular white table sugar. Unlike the simple sugars found in ripe fruit, this kind of sugar should be eaten only in limited quantities. After the refining process, it contains no fibers, proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals. It is purely concentrated sugar. Nothing could better deserve the descriptive term “empty calories,” because calories are all it provides. Although refined sugar can provide energy, too much refined sugar in the diet can lead to tooth decay, obesity, and high levels of triglycerides. When “empty calories” make up a substantial part of the diet, the result is a nutritional imbalance that weakens the body’s defense and repair systems, making us susceptible to diseases from infection to cancer.

Fibers are made only by plants and found only in vegetable foods. There is no fiber in beef, pork, chicken, lobster, cheese, egg, or other animal-derived foods.


Grams of fiber present in portions of food that yield 100 calories

Beans (kidney)
1.5
Bread (whole wheat)
0.7
Brussels Sprouts
4.4
Cabbage
4.3
Carrots
2.3
Cauliflower
3.7
Corn
0.7
Green Beans
4.0
Grapefruit
0.8
Kale
3.4
Oatmeal
0.3
Oranges
0.9
Peas
2.4
Peanuts (with skin)
0.8
Peanuts (without skin)
0.3
Potatoes
0.6
Radishes
4.1
Rice (brown)
0.2
Scallions
2.0
Soybeans
1.4
Spaghetti (whole wheat)
0.6
Sweet Potatoes
0.6
Tomatoes
2.3
Tofu
0.1
Yams
0.9


Want to know more? Watch The Men Who Made Us Fat- A Food DocumentaryIf you don't have time, you can bookmark it and watch it later.

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