It really shocks people when I let them know what the junk food they've eaten all their lives is doing to them. They begin to panic, and understandably so; as victims of the Food Giants' propaganda, they have always been willing participants in their own abuse. They have been brainwashed into believing that garbage is good food and sickness is healthy, or at least normal. After so many years, it's a real jolt to find out that most everything you thought you knew about food is dead wrong.
"But, Paul," they ask me, "what can I do? Isn't there anything I can eat? I don't want to be sick; I don't want to die leaving behind exorbitant medical bills. Is there really any hope?"
The wonderful good news is that there is something you can do. You don't have to knuckle under to the disease-mongers. Instead, you can begin to take control of your own life, your own future. You can eat more than you do now and choose from a world of delicious, satisfying, lifegiving foods. You can start today to feel better, stronger, sexier, more vibrant and more alive than you've ever felt before. And you can do your part to end the growing horror of world hunger.
How? By living right, and eating naturally.
Before we talk about natural foods, though, we must first ask the question, "What is food?" Many people distinguish between natural and "regular" — meaning processed — foods. I couldn't agree less with that distinction. Food is not everything that fits into the mouth. In fact, the food in your supermarket basket should have to meet a very simple and very high standard. It must nourish the human body. In chemical analysis, it must be shown to contain significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, essential fatty acids and all the other growth factors which are so vital to life. But, as we have seen, chemical testing can't tell the whole story. So all processed foods should undergo animal or human testing, to see if organisms can actually thrive on the product. Naturally, animals which live solely on the test product need not always be every bit as healthy as those on a varied diet. Nevertheless, there is no excuse for selling, for human consumption, a food fabrication (Like Puffed Wheat and many others) which actually kills test animals. The public must be warned of the dangers of these killers at least as sternly as they are warned about cigarette smoking.
True nourishment — that's my definition of food, and I won't budge on it. Neither should you.
Now you see why I don't accept the distinction between natural and "regular" food. The truth is that most of the garbage sold in supermarkets isn't really food at all. Some of it is really candy, most of it is really poison. But it's not food. Don't get me wrong — it's not that I want to see the government take all the processed foods off the shelf, although for some of the most deadly of them I might want to make an exception. Instead, these products should be revealed for what they truly are, so that people can decide for themselves. For instance, Kellogg's Sugar Smacks, a product that's more than 56% sugar, should not be called a cereal. The word "cereal" denotes a food made from grain, but Sugar Smacks isn't a food and what little grain is left in it has been robbed of its nourishment. Sugar Smacks is a candy, and that's what it should be called. When mothers across the nation find out they've been giving their kids candy for breakfast, Kellogg's—and all the other pre sweetened-breakfast producers — will soon be out of business. And when the government decrees that only a product that has earned the name could be sold as "food," the rest of the Food Giants will quickly follow.
The only real foods are natural foods. Natural foods are foods that have been "minimally processed." By this definition, the most "natural" foods are fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables, and, not surprisingly, these foods happen to be the best for you. Of course, some foods must be processed as you would do in your home in order to make them fit for human consumption. Whole wheat must be cooked, whether it is prepared as a cereal or ground and baked into bread, so that it can be digested. Potatoes have to be cooked as well; their starch granules can't be metabolized until they are broken down. But in most cases, processing is harmful. Excessive milling removes the most nutritious parts of grain. Heat destroys vitamins or dissolves them into the cooking water. So the best and most natural foods are those in which processing has been kept to an absolute minimum.
Natural foods are not just good for you — they are what you must eat in order to live the life you were meant to live. Only natural foods give you a full supply of nutrients, both those we have already talked about and those we have yet to discover. The nutrients in natural foods are in forms your body can use best. The carbohydrates are complex, and even the sugars are more complex than those found in over-processed foods. The fiber content of natural foods helps you absorb nutrients at the proper rate. What's more, the nutrients in natural foods are balanced: For instance, there are enough vitamins and other micronutrients in a fresh, whole apple to help you make full use of its rich load of fructose. There's no doubt about it — your body was built to run on natural foods.
The fiber in natural foods does more for you than simply regulate nutrient absorption. Since it cannot be digested and passes through the digestive system, it helps keep the large intestine free of compacted waste matter. When an individual eats processed foods, which have had the fiber content removed so they can be eaten more quickly, waste materials build up in the intestine. This waste eventually begins to putrefy and excrete poisons into the bloodstream. These poisons are often responsible when people feel lousy, but just can't seem to put their finger on what's wrong. Foods that are high in fiber prevent this waste buildup, and fight off constipation at the same time.
The taste of natural foods is far superior to artificially-flavored foods. The reason is that natural foods have a very complex flavor profile. Each mouthful has just the right balance of sweetness, saltiness, tartness, fruitiness, and so on. On the other hand, artificial flavors are just simplistic caricatures. I like to compare artificial flavors to a child playing Chopin on the piano. About the best he can hope to do is hit all the notes. Even if he does, the performance is flat and clumsy. But when a symphony orchestra plays Chopin, you get a full, dynamic blend of bold, expressive phrases and subtle, delicate nuances. The orchestra's performance is a rich, satisfying experience. The difference between artificial and natural flavors is just as extreme. Artificially-flavored strawberry jam may remind you of the real thing, but it simply can't have the intricate, mouth-watering taste of real strawberries. Be warned: Once you've tried natural foods, you'll never again settle for the taste of junk.
Aren't natural foods more expensive than processed foods? Not on an annual or lifetime basis. Because natural foods must be grown, harvested, prepared, shipped and merchandised with far more care than junk food, their cost-per-pound is often higher. But natural foods are more filling. They contain all those things which signal the appestat that hunger has been satisfied, and they contain no addictive ingredients. So if you're used to eating two white-bread sandwiches for lunch, just one sandwich on whole-wheat-and-flax bread will probably be enough for you. One glass of pure orange juice will give you more satisfaction than many cans of Pepsi. A bowl of natural snack mix will go a lot farther at a party than a bag of Fritos. In the end then, natural foods cost less because you need less to be satisfied.
Natural foods are better for you, better tasting, and a better bargain than processed foods. One of the most unfortunate stereotypes of the last few years is that of the "health food nut," the individual who eats unappetizing and strange concoctions and claims to get all sorts of preposterous benefits from them. In fact, sensibly-made natural foods are taste-tempting and their benefits are a matter of scientific record. If western society had the slightest idea what was good for it, it would be the junk-food addicts who would he considered "nuts."
Of course, even food itself isn't the whole story of good health; it is only one very important part of a better, more vital lifestyle. Two most important factors in total health, I believe, are fresh air and clean water. Your body is more than two-thirds water, and at rest you use 250 millilitres of oxygen a minute, or nearly 100 gallons of oxygen a day! Clearly, even a tiny trace of pollutants in our air and water can seriously affect health. You owe it to yourself to breathe the cleanest air and drink the purest water you can. But you'll have your work cut out for you: The National Wildlife Federation reports that our water quality has been declining throughout the century, and that, while the air over most of the country is getting cleaner, in many urban areas it's actually getting worse. It's time again to take up the fight to keep the two most fundamental building blocks of the body—air and water — free from filth.
Next to air and water in a wellness lifestyle come good food, food supplements, and moderate exercise. I list food before exercise because it is only nourishment that can give us the energy and soundness of body we need to jog, swim, cycle or play tennis. A great many people fail to realize this. They try to live on processed junk foods and then, when they finally decide to do something about their inevitable weight problem, they wonder why they don't have the strength to stay with an exercise program. When you begin to make natural foods and food supplements a part of your diet, you'll find you have energy to spare, and exercise becomes a joy instead of a torture.
How do you begin to eat right? For Americans, the first step is to take extra vitamins and trace minerals. Dr. Ranjit Chandra l at Johns Hopkins University found that if elderly subjects took a modest physiological amount of vitamins and I race minerals, within the first year the number of sick days due to colds, flu, etc. were cut in half (from 48 to 23 days per year). The subjects were living in Newfoundland and probably had a better diet than the average American, but still, the effect of a modest supplement was enormous. We can only speculate that if the people were given a strong, optimum-level supplement and improved their diet and lifestyle also, the results would have been even more effective. Regardless, Dr. Chandra has proven that a modest supplement can have a dramatic effect. All the various antibody responses improved significantly.
One of the problems in this country is that our attitude toward food has grown from enjoyment to outright worship. We turn to food for entertainment, for comfort, for friendship, for status, or merely for something to do with our mouths while we watch a movie. As a result, many times we eat far past the point where our hunger is satisfied. We've got to learn that every bite we eat "just for the heck of it" is really stolen out of the mouth of a hungry child. In food, as in so many other things, less more.
There really need be no set "menus" for a natural-food diet. You're free to choose from a galaxy of fruits and fruit juices, vegetables, nuts and seeds. You should avoid white sugar, white flour, foods with artificial preservatives, colorings and other additives, and any foods that have been highly cooked or otherwise over-processed. You should keep coffee and tea to a minimum, and instead try some of the many delicious herb teas on the market. Outside of these restrictions, the sky's the limit, and once you get started you'll be amazed at the huge assortment of natural recipes there are for you to enjoy.
The cornerstone of a natural diet must be the whole grains, wheat and flax, and in America the most important source of whole grain is bread.
Our society's attitude toward bread is shameful. Bread was once called the "staff of life," and it should be that today. But today, bread is merely something to keep jelly off the fingers. We like it white, soft, and moist, so it doesn't take too long to gobble down a sandwich. In reality, whole-grain bread can play an enormous role in nutrition. It is the best and most economical source of vitamins, minerals, protein, essential fatty acids and other nutrients. If test animals can live for years on nothing but whole wheat, think of how well you can live with whole grain breads as an important part of a varied diet!
But we've got to change the demands we make of bread. Bread that rolls easily into a doughball is a one-way ticket to colon cancer. Bread should be crumbly, so it can be easily digested. Bread should be chewy, so it is more satisfying and provides needed fiber. The flour from which it is made should undergo only coarse grinding, rather than the nutrition-stealing pulverization that white flour gets. We should no longer demand bread that can sit for a week on the grocer's shelf, unless we are willing to accept the chemical poisons that go into that kind of bread.
Americans must learn that, unless they begin to eat more whole grain, the will be responsible for world starvation and obesity in America. Because we think we must get all of our protein from meat, millions of bushels of life-giving grains are fed to domestic animals rather than to people. If people in the western world would switch to eating only three ounces of meat per day as the Beef Industry Council recommends, and to using whole grains, thousands of tons of precious nutrients now lost in the animal cycle would be available for the undernourished. If this world is ever going to escape mass starvation in developing countries and obesity in developed countries, the western nations must begin the conversion to a whole-grain diet.
Keep your meals simple. Because natural foods are easy to prepare and need only light cooking, if they are cooked at all, they are really more convenient than most "convenience" foods. Don't buy the line, handed out by many in the food industry, that if you give up junk food you'll have to spend hours every day cooking. The simple, satisfying meals you can create with natural foods will actually liberate you from the Kitchen.
A very good breakfast could be something as easy as whole-wheat toast and fruit. Eggs, oatmeal, and flax and oat pancakes are a good idea for breakfast, too, because your body needs a good supply of nutrients to get going in the morning. But try to keep things light — not too greasy or sweet. Once you cut out the coffee and sweet rolls, you'll realize how great you feel in the morning.
If you must have a large meal in the day, lunch is the time to have it. You've still got the better part of the day to use all those extra calories. If you eat your big meal at night and then spend the evening watching television, your body can only turn those calories into fat, so it's best to have your biggest meal earlier in the day. A very healthful lunch can be something like whole-grain bread with vegetables, nuts and things of that sort. You can have a small amount of lean, unprocessed meat at this meal if you wish, but it's certainly not necessary. In fact, after you've been I enjoying natural foods for a while, I'm sure you'll find, as I have, that your appetite for meat diminishes.
In the winter of '92 I attended a conference in Boston put on at the Harvard School of Public Health. The purpose of the conference was to find the ideal diet of the past. The scientists discovered that the ideal diet of all centuries is the Old Mediterranean Diet. That diet consisted of 50% bread, 20% vegetables, 20% fruit and 10% meat or fish. Wine was popular at meals and cooks used olive oil. People ate by alternating a bite of food, then a bite of bread. This is the ideal ratio. Sometimes, they dipped their bread in olive oil to keep the calorie consumption high enough for doing their load of work.
Someone commented that this kind of eating puts a major workload on the housewife, and today the housewife works outside the home. Then I was asked to comment.
I told them that my company had found the solution to this problem. Have the employer provide a nutritious meal at noon, as does my company, Natural Ovens. I told them how we furnish a large array of salad fixings, lots of fresh fruit, plus a main dish every day for our employees. The main dish might be a pasta dish, Spaghetti, hearty soup or stew or meat loaf, with lots of bread. (Recipes we use are included in the appendix.) I told them how this free-lunch program had increased employee morale and productivity and cut sick days in half. The meals cost the company only $1.60 per person per day according to the accountants, but the employees know that it would cost them $5 to $10 to eat (not nearly as well) in a restaurant.
The participants at the conference were amazed at such a simple but effective solution to America's eating problems.
Snacking during the day is OK—as long as you stick with natural snacks. We provide our employees with unlimited vegetable sticks and fruit during the day.
Mixtures of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, raisins and other dried fruits, nuts, and even a few carob chips are wonderfully satisfying and nutrient-packed, and you won't be prey to the Can't Eat Just One Syndrome. Drink fruit juices instead of energy-sapping colas and soft drinks; better yet, drink lots of water. Munch on a piece of fruit — if it's ripe, it makes an excellent, tasty snack.
For supper, one should do just that — "sup." Soup, crusty bread and other light entrees are perfect for this time of the day. Supper should be the smallest meal of the day, but it should also be the most prolonged. It is, after all, the only time in the day when most families find themselves all in the same room, and so it should be special. Enjoy a leisurely supper, have a bit of wine if you like. But keep the meal light, unless you're planning to work during the evening.
As I said before, though, nutritional needs vary with the individual. It is impossible to get a specific diet that's right for you out of a book or magazine—you must develop it for yourself. To do this, you have to begin to do something you've probably never really done before; something, in fact, that you've been discouraged from doing all your life. You must begin to rely on your own body wisdom.
The concept of body wisdom is founded on the simple assumption that your body knows what's best for it, what it needs, what it's getting too much of, that it can tell you when something's right or wrong with you. The existence of body wisdom should be self-evident; after all, homo sapiens has thrived on this planet for tens of thousands of years, whereas men in white coats calling themselves doctors have been with us just for a short time. This biological success would be impossible if the human body were not a finely tuned, highly sensitive organism, capable of sensing physical distress and responding to it constructively. If this built-in body wisdom has kept us going for all these centuries, it is our current ignorance of body wisdom that is now bankrupting us before we die.
Where did this ignorance come from? The Food Giants and the medical establishment have had a big hand in it. The food industry started things off by destroying our knowledge of what is good to eat. They tell us to "Come alive with Pepsi" and that "Coke adds life," that the latest sugar-encrusted kids' cereal is "an important part of a good breakfast," that men who wish to be physically active must "go for the gusto" by swilling can after can of Budweiser. The industry has spent billions of dollars encouraging us to link positive mental images with products that can only make us sick. It is little wonder that most of us have no idea of what truly good food is.
The medical establishment, and especially the major over-the-counter drug manufacturers, strike a second blow by convincing us that every pain or ache or discomfort we feel is to be feared and suppressed.
You've surely seen the television commercials in which people appear and describe the preposterous things they've been eating: sugar-laden coffee and stale, greasy donuts, grease-laden salads, and huge, greasy hamburgers. Suddenly they change color, start to waver and undulate before our very eyes, and groan "Indigestion!" Does the commercial tell you to eat sensibly, and inform you that indigestion is a sign that you're doing damage to your digestive tract? No — just take Pepto-Bismol and carry on. And the drug industry doesn't stop there. They've turned us into a nation of pill-poppers. We are encouraged to turn to aspirin-like pills for relief from the agony we inflict on ourselves with addictive food, no exercise and too much stress. We are not told that pain, even minor pain, is the body's way of telling us that we are being physically damaged and that we must respond, not by "killing the messenger," but by removing the cause of the injury and healing the wound. Nor are we told that aspirin is a very powerful chemical that can cause internal bleeding even in very small amounts and that can lead to damage of the body's connective tissues and contribute to such ailments as arthritis, while possibly preventing heart attacks.
Rolaids, Milk of Magnesia, Alka-Seltzer, Ibuprofen, Tylenol and all the rest prescribed to help us silence our bodies they complain of the daily abuse we give them. If the complaints grow too loud, we can always go to the doctor, who is only too happy to prescribe something stronger and even more dangerous. Caught between the physical escapism of the drug companies and the nutritional balderdash peddled by the Food Giants, we have lost touch with ourselves. We have silenced body wisdom.
In fact, many of the messages of distress that our body sends us are now simply taken for granted. We think that drowsiness after meals, indigestion, frequent headaches and eventual arthritis are all we can expect from life. The truth is, these are signs that something is wrong.
Barbara J. Reed, whose remarkable nutritional program for probationers we discussed in the last chapter, developed a test to help people take stock of their body's warning signs.2 How many of these urgent signals is your body sending you? Answer the following questions with Yes or No or Sometimes.
1. At times does your mind go blank?
2. Are you easily confused?
3. Are you forgetful?
4. Do you occasionally have difficulty with concentration?
5. Are you an underachiever now in school or at work?
6. Do you lose your temper easily?
7. Do you have difficulty in controlling your emotions?
8. Do you have excessive sexual desires?
9. Males: Are you impotent? Females: Are you frigid?
10. Do you neglect cleanliness and appearance?
11. Do you have difficulty in keeping jobs?
12. Are you impatient?
13. Do you have trouble getting along with others?
14. Do certain things irritate you very much?
15. Are you depressed, blue?
16. Have you lost interest in your work?
17. Are you tired of living?
18. Are you very nervous?
19. Has your life become aimless?
20. Are you anxious and afraid but do not know why?
21. Do you have a feeling of impending danger?
22. Do you feel very tense?
23. Do you have groundless fears, phobias?
24. Do you have crying spells?
25. Do you feel very restless?
26. Do you have suicidal tendencies?
27. Do you become violent easily?
28. Do you have a desire to cause damage to others?
29. Do you want revenge on society?
30. Does your vision occasionally become blurred or double?
31. Does sunlight hurt your eyes?
32. Do you feel dizzy or black out, especially when you stand up?
33. Are you dizzy in the morning or before meals?
34. Do you have fainting spells?
35. Are you very exhausted, especially in the morning?
36. Do you generally feel very tired and weak?
37. Are you very weak both in the morning and mid-afternoon?
38. Do you feel best after a good meal?
39. Are you sleepy after eating sweets or other starchy foods?
40. Are you very sleepy during the daytime?
41. Do you sleep poorly at night?
42. Do you wake up and cannot go back to sleep?
43. Is your sleep deep but not refreshing?
44. Do you have cold sweats during the night?
45. Do you have no muscular strength upon awakening?
46. Do you need the stimulation of alcohol, coffee, cigarettes or other drugs?
47. Do alcohol, sweets and coffee make you feel very bad?
48. Do you have constipation?
49. Do you have alternating constipation and diarrhea?
50. Do you have abdominal distress?
51. Do you suffer from motionsickness?
52. Sometimes have you lost your appetite entirely?
53. Are you occasionally ravenously hungry?
54. Are you overweight?
55. Do you suffer from continuous indigestion?
56. Do you experience bloating?
57. Does a little alcohol make you drunk?
58. Do you crave salt?
59. Do you have terrible head
60. Do you sometimes feel a pain cross your left shoulder in the direction of our collarbone, or in the back of your neck?
61. Do you suffer from heat exhaustion?
62. Do you have swelling in your hands and feet?
63. Is your mouth very dry?
64. Do you have a skin disease?
65. Do your hands and legs feel cold?
66. Do you sweat exceedingly?
67. Do your hands perspire when you are excited?
68. Is your skin dry and scaly?
69. Do you perspire little except for underarms and the palms during stress?
70. Do your limbs feel numb?
71. Do you get a tingling feeling in your lips or fingers?
72. Do you sometimes wake up in a sweat at night?
73. Do you have allergies, asthma?
74. Does your heart occasionally beat very fast?
75. Do you sometimes tremble inside?
76. Do you catch cold easily?
77. Are you very susceptible to infectious diseases?
78. Do you have aching joints?
79. Do your muscles twitch occasionally?
80. Do you sometimes have cramps?
81. Have you occasionally had convulsions?
82. Women: Were you depressed after childbirth?
83. Women: Did you have miscarriages or premature births?
84. Do you crave sweets and cakes, or pastry?
85. Do you drink very little water?
86. Do you drink much coffee or tea every day?
87. Do you drink much cola or other soft drinks?
88. Do you drink alcoholic beverages daily?
89. Are you a chain smoker?
Although this test focuses on hypoglycaemia, the list of symptoms also can indicate other serious nutritional deficiencies. Even a fully healthy person will complain of a few of these symptoms. But if you answered "Yes" or "Sometime" to more than 15 of them, it is a sign that you are seriously malnourished. If you are in this category, it's important that you abandon high-fat/low-nutrient foods immediately, and turn instead to body wisdom.
To regain body wisdom we must begin to re-educate ourselves. The source of body wisdom, like the source of all wisdom, is sound knowledge. You must discount half of what you see on television and all of what you see in advertisements. Instead, you should find out about nutrition for yourself. This book can be a good start, but it is by no means exhaustive. There are many fine books on nutrition and health on the market, and in the back of this volume I include a list of books that I think you'll find especially helpful. Once you've read a few, you'll wonder how you ever accepted the lies the Food Giants have spread all these years.
The second step is to get rid of all of the harmful things in your diet. Some have found that the best way to do this is simply to make a clean break, and they go through their refrigerators and cupboards, throwing away everything containing sugar, white flour, and artificial additives. Others, especially families with children, have had more success with a gradual approach, as explained in the last chapter. However you choose to do it, you must begin now to take the garbage out of your meals and replace it with whole, natural foods. You'll find that the more natural your diet is, the more stable and healthy your physical and mental condition becomes. Once you've reached this stable state, you can best begin to determine what diet is best for you.
Perhaps you'll find that you still have a craving for one particular junk food. Try to hold out as long as you can. Even though the junk-food manufacturer has made his wares as addictive as possible, all addictions disappear eventually. If, however, you find you just can't seen to shake the craving, you may want to try gorging yourself on the product you miss, buy a large bag of Oreo Cookies, for instance, and eat them all in one sitting. The physical revulsion you'll feel afterwards may just break you of your habit forever! After you've rid yourself of the junk in your diet, it's time to start determining those foods you most need to eat and those you should avoid. Keep a careful record of what you've been eating and how you feel afterward. That milk you had for lunch —did it refresh you or did you have a negative reaction to it? Do you crave citrus fruit? That coffee you had while watching television — how did that make you feel? Is there some natural food you seem especially hungry for? Do you feel better when you eat more of it? Does too much afternoon snacking make you feel tired? Try modifying your diet to maximize those things that make you feel good, and avoid those things that give you trouble. In this in way, you'll be using body wisdom to develop the optimum diet for you.
There are some things to watch out for as you begin to develop body wisdom, however. First, sometimes the body's most positive messages will be delivered in silence. When your body ceases to complain about the abuse of processed foods, it's easy to forget how quiet it's being. For instance, if you eat a satisfying, nutritious breakfast based on fresh fruits and whole grains, the chances are very good that you won't feel that ravenous mid-morning hunger or the coffee-break blues. The problem is that most of us don't take time to say, "Gee, I don't feel hungry and drowsy!" We just go on with our work. Actually, this body silence is very good; it means you're working to your full potential, even though you may not take note of it at the time.
Also, there are some transitional effects that many people experience when they first switch to natural foods. Many people are so used to the fake taste of artificial foods that they may find natural flavors somewhat strange. Since they've been taught to reject the unfamiliar, they may not even like the taste of natural foods at first. It takes time to adjust to the natural sweetness and the subtle flavor of real food, but once you do you won't go back.
People who have lived on low-fiber foods may also experience some unpleasant transitional effects when they switch to high-fiber, natural foods. Since their digestive systems are not used to handling any real bulk, and since their intestines are so clogged with impacted fecal matter, they may experience a bloated feeling if they immediately raise the fiber content of their diet. If this happens to you, it's a sign that you should slow down, increase the fiber content gradually, and give your system time to adjust.
Probably the most annoying transitional effect is simply having to change our expectations of what food should be like. Since we think that "normal" bread must be soft and gummy, we are shocked by bread that has some texture and bulk. If we've learned to like our vegetables mushy, it takes time to get used to them lightly steamed or microwaved. Don't worry, though — you'll soon adjust, and realize that there are hundreds of exciting new eating experiences in store for you.
When you adopt a natural lifestyle, you'll soon make another discovery: The supermarket can be a dangerous place. The shelves are taken up by so much junk, you'll wonder if anything is safe to buy. So protect yourself — become a compulsive label reader. Once you start checking the labels of those cans and boxes you've been absentmindedly tossing into your shopping cart, you'll see for yourself how widespread the Food Giants' addictive poisons really are, and you'll get some idea of what to avoid. Do most of your shopping in the produce section.
Actually, it's best to start out by avoiding almost all processed foods of any kind. You already know about those ingredients listed on the package that can kill you. But what are really dangerous are those additives for which the government requires no labeling at all. Your bread, for instance, can contain oxides of nitrogen, chlorine, nitrosyl chloride, chlorine dioxide, benzoyl peroxide (better known as the active ingredient in a famous acne medicine), acetone peroxide, azodicarbonamide, and even plaster of Paris, and the manufacturer is not obligated by the Code of Federal Regulations to warn you of these. Nor is bread the only product that can have hidden additives. When General Mills began packaging Tang, they had trouble getting it to empty quickly enough from high-speed mixers into bottles. They found that there was one additive which could speed up the packaging process substantially: silicone. General Mills went to the FDA and asked if they had to list silicone as an ingredient on the label. The FDA told them not to worry; as long as silicone comprised less than 3% of the product, there was no need to list it. Now, as far as medical science is able to determine, there is nothing harmful about drinking silicone — it should pass right through the digestive system. But who really knows?
One hears a lot of talk these days about the Delaney Clause, a section in the American Food and Drug laws that requires a manufacturer use no additive which has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Many people say the Delaney Clause is too tough, but I maintain it doesn't go nearly far enough. Food manufacturers should be required to show that an additive will actually be beneficial to human health before they are allowed to use it in their product. There is no reason to think that the tons of exotic chemicals dumped into our food supply should be considered innocent until proven guilty. After all, human health is at stake.
I know from my years as a food manufacturer that the physical volume of labelled ingredients in products matches the descending order listing on the packages. And I seriously doubt that any inspector is doing this for all products, because I have never heard of any company being fined for lying about how much of certain ingredients are in their products. Of course, the FDA has reason to despair of ever keeping close tabs on the content of most processed foods; the ingredients change so frequently that it would be impossible to keep up with them all. Nevertheless, the consumer has to face up to the fact that if he eats any processed foods — even the "safe" ones — it is at his own risk.
This danger even extends to some of the new, so-called "natural" products with which the Food Giants themselves have swamped the market. Sensing the growing wave of public suspicion toward processed foods, the food industry has found devious ways to call highly processed garbage "natural." Take, for instance, Langendorf Natural Lemon Flavored Creme Pie. This product (which, by the way contains no cream) is doped with sodium propionate, artificial food colors, sodium benzoate, and vegetable gum. How can it possibly be called natural? Because, the company explains, it's got real lemon oil in it. There's Lever Brothers' Autumn Natural Margarine, an irony in itself because margarine is completely created from vegetable oils and chemicals. Then there the "natural granola" snacks and cereals (such as Quaker 100% Natural Cereal), that are heavily sweetened with brown sugar and laden with hydrogenated fat. Many people are under the impression that brown sugar is a less refined, more "natural" sugar, but this is not the case. Brown sugar is a highly processed product. Real brown sugar, which is a mixture of sucrose and molasses, is much sweeter than white sugar, so less is needed to make a product sweet. Because of this, brown sugar can be quite beneficial if used wisely, although it can still be dangerous if overdone. But much of the brown sugar on the market is just white sugar with artificial brown coloring, and this can be just as deadly as pure sucrose.
Artificial coloring is also a prime ingredient in many of the so-called "wholewheat" breads on the market. In reality, the whole-wheat content in these breads is usually quite low, and most of their bulk is made up of refined white flour. The end result is perfect for duping the shopper. It has the soft, gummy texture they've been trained to like, but it has a nice brown color to make them think it's good for them. The FTC has proposed doing something about this sort of fraud, but no action has been taken as yet. In the meantime, don't take a product's claims of being natural at face value. Read the label; if processing has not been kept to a minimum, and if there are any additives not absolutely necessary for human nourishment, it's not natural.
It's best to be as wary as you can of "buying clubs" for fresh fruits and vegetables,
Supermarkets which sell "cheap" produce usually buy merchandise that has been picked before it's ripe and then stored in a warehouse until the market is right. Such produce has lost a great deal in nutritional content, and it must be doctored with waxes, dies and other chemicals to give it a fresh appearance. As biochemist Robert J. Benowicz puts it, "These warehouse impostors are a kind of subtle junk food that delivers 'empty' calories as surely as the processed kind." 3
Not all supermarkets play this kind of game. Some of the better ones go out of their way to find ripe produce, and have it rushed by truck or flown in to their stores to insure maximum freshness and best nutritional value. Such produce is very good for you, but you must pay a higher price for it. Cheap fruits and vegetables are no bargain.
Your best bet for food is to grow it yourself. In the winter months, be sure to buy frozen produce rather than that which has been canned or otherwise processed. Buy your whole-wheat bread from the nearest baker who produces it. Breads which must be shipped long distances may also contain chemical preservatives.
If you must have meat, it's a good idea to buy branded meat that has been kept frozen. That way, you can avoid the nitrites found and other additives found in processed meat, and usually save some money in the process.
You needn't despair of the supermarkets, either. Grocers tend to be very sensitive to public desires — that's how they stay in business. If enough people demand whole-grain breads, flours and cereals and the freshest possible produce, they're sure to see some results. It was just such badgering that had supermarket buyers in three states clamoring for my products. Citizen action does make a difference, so don't be afraid to speak out.
To stick to a natural diet you have to become independent, skeptical and alert. That's not easy for some people. They've let the food manufacturers make their food decisions for them. But if we are to escape the exploitation of the Food Giants, we must learn to think for ourselves and rely on our own judgments about what's right for us. Ralph Waldo Emerson said self-reliance leads to self-respect. He might have added that it also leads to good health.
After you've been on your natural diet for a while, you can begin to determine whether you still need vitamins or other food supplements. That's right, I said "after." There's no way, while you're still living on processed foods, that you accurately determine your body's extra nutrient needs. The reason is simple, we've said before, each nutrient affects the way the body uses every other nutrient. For instance, vitamin E enhances the activity of vitamin A. Two B-complex vitamins, choline and inositol, work together to utilize fats and cholesterol. On and on it goes, each vitamin and mineral needing other vitamins and minerals to work properly. In addition, some ingredients frequently found in junk foods — such as caffeine — actually work to inhibit the effectiveness of certain nutrients (especially the B vitamins). Only when you're on a diet of nutrient-balanced whole foods will each nutrient be able to do its full share of work. Not only will your vitamin deficiencies be fewer, but you'll have an easier time spotting where those deficiencies lie.
Even after they have adopted a natural food diet, many people still find they need more of a certain nutrient than they can get from food. If I wanted to get my personal vitamin C requirement from oranges, for instance, I'd have to eat 100 a day! Many of these special needs come from the abuse our bodies took when we were still hooked on junk. Others come from the special problems of modern living: air pollution, too much stress, the use of oral contraceptives, and so on.
If certain undesirable symptoms still linger on after you've gone natural, it's probably a sign that you still need a food supplement. For instance, if you continue to have a high incidence of colds, allergies, infections, cold sores, or other diseases of the mouth or throat, you may need more of vitamins A and C. A persistent sense of nervousness, tension and unease may be a sign that you need more of the B vitamins (nor would this be very unlikely; studies have shown the American diet to be deficient in the B-complex vitamins.) If your hemoglobin level is low and you feel tired all the time, it's a pretty good indication that you need to take more vitamin C so you can absorb the iron in your food. You probably don't need to take more Iron.
There are other signs to watch for. If you're not getting enough vitamin A, you maybe plagued with skin problems: rashes, pimples, etc. If you have chapped lips, you need more Omega-3. Flax is the best source. If you suffer from muscle spasms, it could be a sign that you're low in calcium or magnesium. Hair loss can be a sign of inositol deficiency, and circulatory problems can indicate a lack of vitamin E. There are many other signs of vitamin deficiency, and I recommend that you read one of the fine vitamin books I have listed in the back of this volume.
Many people are puzzled about whether to take synthetic food supplements or "natural" food supplements.
Natural food supplements are much easier utilized by the body. Whatever type of supplement you take, be sure they will break down in a glass of water. Hard shelled vitamins are worthless.
Just as only you can determine your best diet, only you can determine the food-supplement dosage you need. Your supplementation level depends on your individual situation, and the best way to determine that level is to depend once again on body wisdom. You should take a careful, trial-and-error approach to nutrient dosages. Let me turn to vitamin C once again for an example. Most Americans don't get nearly enough complex vitamin C with bioflavinoids. It's used for many things in the body, from helping in the formation of collagen to fighting off blood clots, and it aids in the absorption of other nutrients as well, especially iron. When taken with iron-containing food, I feel a person needs at least 3,000 mg of complex vitamin C a day, and some with special requirements should have up to 10,000 mg. You should begin to determine the dosage you need by starting out with 1,000 mg a day, spread out in two or three dosages to maintain absorption throughout the day. By the way, it's a good idea to take all of your vitamin supplements with meals throughout the day. This way, you give your body nutrients at the same rate your body uses them. If you take you whole day's supplementation in one dose, your body will simply excrete what it can't use at that moment. If the initial complex vitamin C dosage makes you feel good, increase the dosage until you no longer notice improvement. Then cut back to the last level in which you noticed improvement, and you've found your proper dosage. But don't think the amount you need will remain stable; chances are you'll have to adjust it continually throughout your life.
Once you've determined the right diet for you, and have made up any special deficiencies with food supplements, you'll be well on your way to a healthier, more exciting, more natural lifestyle. You'll have escaped the addictive grasp of the Food Giants, and be clear of the life robbing effects of processed foods. You'll know the joy of being fully functional, fully alive. And you'll have many enjoyable, active years of that life left to live.
The next chapter details how to change your life in one easy step at a time.
Chandra, Effect of Vitamins and Trace-Element Supplementation on Immune
Response and Infection in Elderly Subjects." Lancet, Vol. 340,
Nov. 7, 1992, p. 1124-1127.
2. Barbara J. Reed, "Food, Teens and Behavior." Natural Press.
3. Roberta. Benowicz, "The Age of Vitamins," Family Health, September, 1988, p. 30.