At my university, every student has to take the required course “Lifetime Fitness”. It’s just like PhysEd and Health class from high school, except we also have to work out in the “fitness center” (read:gym) every week. One of the projects in the course is to keep track of what you eat and do (activity-wise) for three days, and then plug it all into an objective computer program and see what it reveals about your diet. As soon as I saw the assignment on the syllabus the first day of class, I thought, “Oh, this is going to be interesting.”
You see, when I first got into rewilding, I started with diet. As a result, I’ve been purposefully ignoring The Food Pyramid for several years. When I finished this project, I really expected the first page of the report to just tell me to “Eat more bread!” a few hundred times.
According to DINE (for future use, the name of the food analysis program), my diet received an arbitrary score of “Good” with 65 points—high marks on protein (high percentage of calories), and saturated fat, added sugar, and cholesterol (all low). Of course, the analysis suggested that my diet needed improvement in several areas: total calories (apparently I wasn’t getting enough), mono fat (too much), complex carbs (not enough), and fiber (no idea why, as I eat plenty of fibrous things).
The DINE program suggested that my intake of animal fat was greater than recommended, which would reflect a high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol (“associated with increased risk for heart disease and certain cancers”). However, the two areas of my diet on which I received extra points for being within or even significantly below the recommended range were…saturated fats and cholesterol. It’s just further evidence that a high-meat/high-fat diet can be extremely healthy, if combined with an active lifestyle. Civilized agriculturalists may have had as much meat in their diets as hunter-gatherers, but their sedentary lifestyle and crowded conditions led to the same diseases that plague our modern world. In addition, the little meat I actually ate during this period was local venison—clearly a healthier alternative to factory-farmed, corn-fed beef or pork. If my Paleolithic ancestors could eat a diet composed of 20 to 30 percent wild game and be incredibly healthy, I can too.
The DINE system also said that I do not eat enough complex carbohydrates; the Nutrient Messages report suggested that I eat more breads, cereals, pastas, and grains, of course.. This is what I expected when I began this project, and this is one suggestion I will continue to ignore, as these foods have, since their relatively recent introduction, contributed to a decreased level of wellness, and are currently in the pocket of corrupt industries.
Every single one of these foods came into existence only after the Neolithic agricultural revolution. These were cheap foods that were easy to make; filling, but not terribly good for you in the long run; foods perfectly-suited to feeding the peasants upon whose backs the first civilizations (read: oppressive, stratified societies) were built. As Jared Diamond wrote, “Today just three high-carbohydrate plants—wheat, rice, and corn—provide the bulk of the calories consumed by the human species, yet each one is deficient in certain vitamins or amino acids essential to life.” To make things worse, these products are today heavily subsidized by the government, providing incentives to produce more wheat to make white bread, and more corn to be made into cheap, unhealthy additives for “food”. As a result of the absolutely corrupt special-interest groups (industry lobbyists) who essentially control our government, one cannot trust what The Food Pyramid (sorry, I forgot that now it’s the “MyPyramid”) which the DINE program is surely based upon. While it’s possible that the limited food database in DINE is simply the result of an out-of-date system, I cannot entirely discount the possibility that the program is backed by Monsanto, Syngenta, or some other multinational industrial food corporation—I was unable to find any organic foods, wild edibles, or provisions for homemade meals—and distorting one’s diet through the filter of “analysis” would lead one to head back to the grocery store to buy the foods that DINE prescribes will make one “healthy”, furthering the capitalist economy that created the problem in the first place.
I do feel that the DINE program is not giving a totally-accurate report, as—despite any apparent lacking in my diet—my sizable intake of organic or local products give me a edge on “wellness” (physical as well as emotional/environmental/intellectual, knowing that many of my meals have small footprints) over those zombies who may follow the program’s suggestions to the letter.
In the end, the project was somewhat interesting, but—as I suspected at the outset—found the analysis results were incompatible with my unconventional diet, way of eating, and philosophy, and I take the results with a large grain of salt.