All living beings (both human and animal) have an evolutionary heritage. It is now clear that our persistent disregard of this is the root cause of the chronic disease epidemic we face today. This is evident in the dysfunctional way we live, rear animals and grow produce for food. In this age of spin, words are used so indiscriminately that they cannot truly be ascribed to much of what is sold in supermarkets today. In this article, I will highlight the criteria to look out for whilst shopping for food so that you can be better informed on the purchases you make.
I like to think of food as something that nourishes, sustains or supplies and everything that does not fit this description - but is promoted as such - as a food-like substance. For the purpose of this article, food is also produce that has been thoughtfully grown and animals that have been reared and fed in a species-appropriate manner.
What follows is the state in which food was given to us by nature so that we could thrive rather than merely survive.
Meat, animal fats and dairy: sheep and cows evolved to spend most of their time outdoors and - once weaned off their mother's milk - to feed exclusively on grass. Pigs thrive outdoors foraging for their food and should not be fed any soy. Studies show that the meat, fat and dairy from cows reared as described above has a superior nutrient and fatty acid profile to those from cows fed in a manner which is at odds with their evolutionary heritage. In addition, animals that have been routinely given antibiotics and growth hormones store these substances in their adipose (fatty) tissues. It is, therefore, best to trim and discard the fat from such animals. In contrast, fat from pasture-reared animals has a 2:1 ratio of anti-inflammatory omega-3 to inflammatory omega-6 fats making it a wonderful addition to one's diet.
Fish and seafood: wild-caught and sustainable fish and seafood are best as they are lower in toxic pollutants, higher in vitamin D (as well as other nutrients) and with a superior omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. It is important to note that larger fish - like certain varieties of tuna - are more prone to high levels of accumulated mercury and are best severely limited in one's diet or avoided altogether. The risk of mercury toxicity is greatly minimised by choosing smaller fish and certain varieties of seafood. Opting for wild-caught varieties increases the likelihood of a higher selenium content which is thought to be protective when it far exceeds mercury levels.
Poultry and eggs: birds evolved to roam freely on organic pastures. This enables them to forage for insects, worms, grass, seeds and the odd small rodent. Eggs and meat from such birds provide a rich supply of important sulphur-containing proteins, fat-soluble vitamins (A and D), vitamin B12, folate, antioxidants, omega-3 fats, choline and iron.
Fruits and vegetables: local, seasonal and organic fruits and vegetables - sourced directly from the grower(s) - tend to be fresher and higher in nutrients. In contrast, supermarket equivalents (organic or otherwise) are often grown without respect for the seasons and are typically picked before they are fully ripened. This, combined with weeks in transit (and yet more weeks in warehouses before delivery to retail outlets) means that there is little or nothing of any value left in them by the time they are purchased. Signing up to an organic fruit and vegetable box scheme provides the opportunity to eat a much wider range - and therefore, a broader spectrum of nutrients - that simply is not available in supermarkets.
I have included the information above - and more - in a handy guide. You can download it here.