part of an ongoing series of columns I’ve written, reprinted from the TU Rambler.
This week, let’s talk about food. Most “go green how-to” articles will tell you to shop locally at farmer’s markets, to choose organic, pesticide-free produce, and eat ethically-raised, free-range meat. This is fine, but for a poor college student, it’s Expensive! Yes, pesticides in food are bad, but I believe that what are even worse are the foods and drinks which are essentially nothing but chemicals. Don’t even get me started on corn syrup. Have you looked at an ingredients list recently? A box of my roommate’s chicken-flavored pasta and rice has almost the same things in it as a pouch of instant vegetable soup. What the heck are thiamine mononirate or disodium inosinate or maltodextrin? The reason these exist is preservation: our current industrial food system means that food packaged in California might be shipped to Maine, where it may sit on the shelf for months; the mysterious additives ensure a long shelf-life.
As an Anthropology student, I’ve a whole lot of my time at Transy talking about pre-agricultural societies. And I’ve come to the conclusion that humans have never been healthier than we were about 20 or 30,000 years ago. After that, we discovered agriculture, and it all starts to go downhill. You see, back in our good ol’ hunter-gatherer days, our diet was varied, we got plenty of exercise, and we sure weren’t eating corn or bread. Take a look at The Food Pyramid (the 1992 one most of us grew up with, the one with horizontal layers, not that weird new one where everything radiates from the top). According to it, the foundation of our diet should be “6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, and pasta”: these didn’t exist until humans settled down, started farming, and built cities. The switch to agriculture led to nutrient deficiency and modern diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity (not to mention social stratification, organized religion, and state warfare).
So what can you do? I’m not saying that you should immediately revert to a hunter-gatherer diet (but if you want to try, get ahold of me and we’ll talk), and I’m definitely not advocating the status-quo diet of soda and Doritos. But start small—cut out the Twinkies and Gatorade. Try eating in the style of our ancestors, snacking on fruits, nuts and berries throughout the day, with one big, varied supper at night. Fiber and meat are great; a bit of dairy (another post-agriculture invention) now and then is good; even Ramen is fine, but pitch the flavor packet and throw the noodles in a hearty stew of meats and vegetables.
There’s a very different way of thinking that comes along with a healthy hundred thousand-year old way of eating. You start to feel more HUMAN.