fbpx

How to Grow (or Buy) Healthy Food – Chapter 4

The [Grow] Network is pleased to publish Colin Austin’s 10 part series, How to Grow (or Buy) Healthy Food. This article is Chapter 4 of 10. You can read the other chapters here:

Chapter 1 – Diet and Health, a Personal Experience
Chapter 2 – Statistics and the Diet Controversy
Chapter 3 – Eat Right, Not Less
Chapter 4 – Finding a Diet by Self-Experimentation
Chapter 5 – Essential Nutrients for Good Health
Chapter 6 – The What and Where of Minerals
Chapter 7 – The Rhizosphere
Chapter 8 – Transferring Nutrients and Biology to Growing Beds
Chapter 9 – From Garden to Kitchen
Chapter 10 – Community Action


Chapter 4 – Finding a Diet by Self-Experimentation
colin-and-xiulan
To recap where we are, so far I have been a bit dramatic on how diet affects our health, and I have begun trying to unravel the opposing views on dietary recommendations, which led me to be a bit tedious on the subject of the statistics on which much of our health advice is based. In chapter 3, we left off with my assertion that, basically, the answer is to forget about calorie restriction and eat food that will control your hormones – so that you no longer feel hungry.

What’s to Come in Chapter 4
I will talk about my experiments to find which foods best operate my control system. And I will discuss eating food from plants grown in nutritious soil. But when I say nutritious I do not just mean nutritious for the plants – I mean soil which grows plants containing the necessary nutrients and trace elements we need in order to allow our bodies to regenerate themselves.

Finding the base minerals is pretty easy, but making them available to the plants is another issue. Soil biology can do this for us, but we can’t just buy soil biology in a bottle. We have to learn how to cultivate it – how to grow the good bugs while keeping the bad bugs at bay – not a simple task.

Finding the base minerals is pretty easy but making then available to the plants is another issue. Soil biology can do this for us but we can’t just buy soil biology in a bottle – we have to learn how to farm it – how to grow the good bugs while keeping the bad bugs at bay – not so easy.

Dumb and Dumber, but Perhaps Not So Dumb

There is a widely used but hidden assumption – that the body can be treated as some dumb machine which can be analyzed like an engineer analyzes heat engines.

However the truth is that we have evolved over millions of years, and our bodies have developed a sophisticated control system to keep us alive when things get bad. I hate to use the word “intelligence,” as that implies active thinking, but certainly we have an adaptive control system which determines how we eat.

Just look at the hormones we know of which are in the body controlling our appetites. For example, we have Leptin, Cholecystokinin (CCK), Oxyntomodulin, Peptide YY (PYY), Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1), Adiponectin; all of these reduce our appetites.

On the other side, we have Insulin, Ghrelin, Cortisol, and Glucagon which enhance our appetites.

In addition to these hormones we have bacteria in our guts which are sending out signals to our brains to eat the food which they (not us) need to eat. They are making us want the food that they need.

I am blown away by the sophistication of our chemists and physical chemists. They seem to be able to analyze and give the molecular structure of complex chemicals at the drop of a hat. They analyze the hormones in our bodies, and the phytochemicals in plants. There are over 10,000 phytochemicals which have been analyzed so far – a tomato plant alone contains over 1,000 of them. To an engineer who struggled as a kid to work out how a carburetor worked, this is amazing.

But we seem to have very little understanding of how our brain uses these chemical signals. We know it receives the chemical signals as information from all over the body, and it sends chemical signals back to tell the body what to do – as controls.

We have a sort of hypothetical valve in our bodies to manage fat – switch it one way and it goes into our tum and bum; switch it the other way and out it goes as poop and pee. But we have no idea how our brains control this magic valve. Wouldn’t a lot of people like to know how this works?

fad-diets-dont-workWe may try to lose weight by using calorie restriction, but this doesn’t work because we are fighting against this intelligent control system in our bodies which is there to protect us from times when available calories are few and far between. Failure is assured.

Just as a somewhat silly analogy, thinking about the human body as a dumb creature is a lot like thinking about a modern airliner as a giant paper airplane; as if we get airborne by lining up all the passengers and having them run down the runway and pushing the plane until it lifts off. Much like crude calorie counting dietary control, this would never work.

But put the passengers back on board and use the sophisticated controls, and up she goes with no problem. We need to learn to manipulate the hormonal control system that operates our bodies, much like a pilot manipulates the controls of the aircraft.

There are Veggies, and then there are Veggies

Despite the apparent battle among the experts, there is unanimous agreement that highly processed foods full of sugars and fat are harmful – so I do not even talk about those here. Just avoid them.

spaghetti-squashThere is agreement on the health benefits of a plant-based diet. But there are veggies, and then there are veggies. You can buy a perfect looking vegetable that has been force fed with synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and grown in soil which has become depleted of micronutrients. It may look great, but it is lacking in basic nutrients.

Or you can buy a vegetable which has been allowed to mature naturally in soil rich in micronutrients, and has possibly suffered from an insect attack or two. It may not look so good, but it is packed with nutrients!

Under attack from insects, plants defend themselves by producing chemicals which are known as salvestrols. There is evidence that these salvestrols are beneficial for us, and they may well be anticarcinogenic. Ask my good friend Mr. Google, he knows all about salvestrols. He’s smart – almost as smart as Monsieur Carnot, who created thermodynamics.

Why are the Correlations So Small?

The body is much more sophisticated than a simple heat engine model. The brain and hormones have a much greater degree of control than we commonly assume.

However, the way these controls works varies greatly from one person to another. This is obvious when we look around – some people stay thin regardless of what they eat, while others get fat even on a highly restrictive diet.

Let’s see what this could mean in a real life situation. Take the controversial case of fats, and say for the sake of argument that there is a 15% correlation in some official study saying that fats are harmful. This does not necessarily mean that all people are equally effected. It could be that 85% of the population could actually benefit from eating fat, having a positive benefit factor of 3.5%. And 30% of the population could have severe problems, having a negative benefit factor of 100% (meaning that their arteries clog up and they die). All of this from different people eating the same amount of fat.

This can explain why experienced doctors can come to drastically different conclusions, and why correlations – on average – are so low.

Some surveys are conducted on large populations which are large enough to be considered random, but with no control around what the people regularly eat – these are not very good statistics. Other surveys are done in clinics with very strict controls, but these ignore the fact that people who go to clinics probably already have a health problem – so these use a biased sample – it’s better science, but even worse statistics.

So what does this mean for all of us? And, specifically, what does this mean for Xiulan? Xiulan and I needed to start experimenting on ourselves to learn how we reacted to different diets, so that we could choose appropriate diets for our bodies.

Self-Experimentation

There are some 7 billion people in the world, and the food industry has been attempting to develop a standard diet which can make all of these diverse people healthy. They have failed. They have not even reached the starting blocks, really, as they can’t even agree among themselves about what a healthy diet is, let alone how to implement one in society.

Now, let me be totally selfish for a moment. I don’t care what the perfect diet is for 6,999,999,998 of those people. I just want to know what the perfect diet is for Xiulan and myself.

Actually, I do care, or I would not have taken the time to write this – but I am using author’s privilege to make a point. I do not think that there is one perfect diet which suits everyone.

To find the perfect diet for myself, I have to learn how my body works, and how I react to different foods. I need to experiment on myself, finding out how my body – and particularly my control system – responds to various foods.

This is an easy experiment for me to do. I can start off by finding out which foods make me hungry shortly after eating, versus which foods make me feel satisfied. It does not take long for me to work that out. When I eat pizza, I just want to keep on eating. Even worse with cheese cake – I just love the stuff and I could eat it until I burst. But, as it triggers my control system, I know that I should avoid it.

This does not mean that I should totally deny myself – if I am at a party and I am offered a piece of cheese cake by a group of very sexy hostesses, I fully understand that I must not offend them – and I can have just one sneaky piece. But I know that this will make me crave for more, so I really must say no the the second (and third, and fourth) slice.

In further experiments, I went on a totally vegetarian diet. I knew I had to keep going for several weeks to let my gut bacteria and my body acclimate. I did not feel that this was really the right diet for me – I found it boring and I didn’t really feel satisfied. I didn’t have the energy levels I wanted to have, and I kept on craving for a piece of cake.

But I did not give into my cake cravings. I wanted to maintain the scientific integrity of my experiment, so I modified the diet. I wanted to keep the carbohydrates down, so I looked at the option of adding some fat. Xiulan buys these little Chinese sausages which are absolutely delicious, and they are full of fat. So I started putting just one sausage in with my stir fry vegetables. This had a dramatic effect on how my body (and psychology) worked. It made the vegetables far tastier, so that I actually looked forward to eating them.

I also ate a lot of fruit after each meal. I know that fruit is full of fructose, but it worked for me, and I ate as much as I liked. I stopped feeling hungry and stopped wanting to pick on naughty snacks after the meal, and I felt much better about myself. But this is just a diet that works for me.

I also found that a piece of chocolate after a meal would make me feel full. I am not sure that this is totally scientific and not psychosomatic, but it sure is nice.

Conclusion

So, the conclusions are pretty simple – experiment to find which foods trigger your control system, and eat food from plants grown in nutritious soil.

But, again, when I say nutritious I do not just mean nutritious for the plants – I mean soil which grows plants containing the necessary nutrients and trace elements we need in order to allow our bodies to regenerate themselves.

Coming Up in Chapter 5
It is pretty clear that for me, I need a diet which is largely vegetarian but is supplemented by some fats (and of course chocolate and red wine). But I need fruit and vegetables which are nutrient-dense. So now we will get to the real heart of this story – how to grow nutrient-dense fruit and vegetables. Finding the nutrients is pretty easy, but making them available to the plants is another issue. We’ll discuss this in the next chapter.


Chapter 1 – Diet and Health, a Personal Experience
Chapter 2 – Statistics and the Diet Controversy
Chapter 3 – Eat Right, Not Less
Chapter 4 – Finding a Diet by Self-Experimentation
Chapter 5 – Essential Nutrients for Good Health
Chapter 6 – The What and Where of Minerals
Chapter 7 – The Rhizosphere
Chapter 8 – Transferring Nutrients and Biology to Growing Beds
Chapter 9 – From Garden to Kitchen
Chapter 10 – Community Action

© 28 July 2015 Colin Austin – Creative Commons – This document may be reproduced but the source should be acknowledged. Information may be used for private use but commercial use requires a license.

TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter

(Visited 58 times, 1 visits today)

Categorised in: , , ,

This post was written by Colin Austin

COMMENTS(4)

  • Alice Haslam says:

    Colin is absolutely correct when he says to focus on controlling the hunger regulating hormones instead of calories or fat grams. After a lifetime of traditional diets, I found myself 100 pounds overweight at the age of 62. After much research, I concluded that the modern food supply was at the root of my weight problem. I switched to a nutrient-dense raw vegetarian diet and eliminated all processed food. I lost the weight and it has stayed off for 8 years. While learning to eat this way involved some effort, I no longer have to think much about it — it is just the way that I eat. Nowadays I do eat some prepared foods, but always things that I prepare from scratch using carefully selected ingredients. I consume minute quantities of food compared to most folks so I can afford quality ingredients.

    1. Michael Ford says:

      Thanks Alice – I think your story is a great testament. We love sharing stories about people who have found health through their diets. Congrats on 8 years! Michael

  • Bonnie says:

    Love this series. I see where many people play follow the leader when diets appear and never experiment with their own body to see what works for them. What is good for the goose is not always good for the gander. Thank you

  • I agree with Colin re: how we need to find what’s best for our own bodies. I lost 10 lbs this year by cutting out bread, butter, my glass or two of wine each evening, and my 3-4 bottles of beer on weekends. I never was much for sweets, and vegetables and salads have always been my favorite. I am 69, 5 ft tall, and weigh 127 and would still like to loose 5-7 more pounds.

    Here’s what I find happens to me each year though… I do yard work, walk my dogs more, etc. I have a small garden and eat fresh veggies and salads. Four months ago I started to make my own kefir, and I drink some every day. I never liked milk, but I do like all the other dairy products. I quit eating ice cream, cream, cut way down on cheese etc. But SOON… probably this coming October or so when the weather begins to cool down, my body starts to tell me I’m hungry and I start to crave food, food I don’t crave at all now. Then I will have a much harder time loosing weight or keeping my body at weight. It happens each year. Do most people experience this? How do we control that? I always wonder – if I lived in a year-round warm climate, would I still have the same problem? I live in Minnesota. Too hot in the summer, perfect autumn, too cold in the winter, perfect springs.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.