TELL ME WHAT YOU EAT
In December 1825, just two months before he dies a French doctor by the name of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin publishes a book he authors titled “Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante” (The Physiology of Taste). In it, he wrote what has now become a famous phrase, “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” – Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.
When the quote is used outside the parameters of its original context, people tend to expand its applicability and sometimes, in many absurd even comical ways. For example, if you eat nothing else but beef then you must be a cow. If you eat fruits then you are one. Being a doctor, however, Brillat-Savarin wrote it to mean one and only one thing alone – which is, if you are healthy it is only because of what you eat.
Those of us choosing to follow a healthier, lighter style of eating can find a firm foundation for natural nutrition in the 800-year-old writings of Maimonides, the great scholar and physician. One of the foremost preventive-health advocates of all time, he prescribes a synthesis of good health and a nutritional lifestyle. He emphasized the importance of preventive medicine and disease prevention and foreshadowed today’s “discovery” of the effect of proper lifestyle, discussing the role of diet and exercise. Mind-body interaction was primary in his approach to illness and wellness.
The preservation of good health rests on the avoidance of overeating, which Maimonides referred to as “the poison of death” and the cause of most illness. Likewise, in every food that a person eats there is a combination of good and evil. Food physically consists of either good (i.e., nutrients) or bad (indigestible mat ter) counterparts. It reflect the fundamental nature in all of Creation which is, it is composed of a mixture of both good and evil.
Our eating style reflects and affects who and what we are. It identifies our ap proach to life. If we examine various societies and cultures, we can see what that obviously implies. “I am Italian. I often eat spaghetti, lasagna, or pizza,” or “I am a real American. I eat hamburgers, hot dogs, steak, coke, and french fries.”
The French indulge in crepes, Belgians ingest waffles, Chinese eat rice, Ethiopians swallow their teff, the Swiss munch on chocolate, Israelis gulp down felafel, Filipinos and Pacific Islanders love munching on coconut-based foods. In short, the “way we eat” reveals how we identify ourselves. It reflects and often deter mines our world view, our values, and our entire approach to life.
But which of these foods do you think is healthier?
A SUSTAINABLE RESOURCE
For nearly most of the past 4,000 years, use of the fruits of the coconut palm as a food, a pharmaceutical and building material has all been good. It was used as a sustainable resource for tropical communities, but most importantly its fruit – the coconut flesh, water, milk and its oil in particular were used as a natural elixir to promote mental vigour, lose weight, prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes and beautify skin and hair.
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The role of diet in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is continued to make strong headlines in 2011 as hundreds of millions of dollars in drug research have yet to produce any significant cure. One of the latest studies published appeared in the European Journal of Internal Medicine: “Nutrition and Alzheimer’s disease: The detrimental role of a high carbohydrate diet and its uptake in the brain. The brain represents only 2% of the body’s total mass, but contains 25% of the total cholesterol. Cholesterol is required everywhere in the brain as an antioxidant, an electrical insulator (in order to prevent ion leakage), as a structural scaffold for the neural network, and a functional com ponent of all membranes. Cholesterol is also utilized in the wrapping and synaptic delivery of the neurotransmitters. It also plays an important role in the formation and functioning of synapses in the brain. The lipid theory of heart disease started by the work of David Kritchevsky and later, Ancel Keys in the 1960s, led to dietary beliefs that cholesterol was to be avoided in the diet, and with that belief came the “over-zealous” prescription of cholesterol-reducing medications over the same decades in which there has been a parallel rise in AD prevalence.
Its uses were so respected that they were documented by Ayurvedic medicine in Sanskrit from 1500 BC in all areas relating to the mind, body and spirit. Early European explorers including Captain Cook wrote affectionately about the beauty of communities across the Pacific using coconut oil as an integral part of their daily lives. During WWII, Filipinos doctors used the water of the young green coconut successfully as a substitute for a saline drip saving the lives of many allied soldiers across the Pacific. After the war, in England coconut oil was sold as “margarine” and in the USA as “coconut butter”.
But that all changed in 1954. It was then that the well-oiled (pardon the pun) marketing machinery of lobbyists funded by the US soybean, safflower, sun flower and corn seeds industry supported by the American Heart Association committed themselves to change the American Diet, calling among others, for the substitution of saturated fats for polyunsaturates.
To bolster this claim in a social environment in which coronary heart disease (CHD) was becoming the primary cause of mortality in the adult population in the US, the lobbyists aggressively promoted the work of an obscure young researcher – David Kritchevsky, who published two academic papers on the sub ject. The first paper described the effects of feeding cholesterol to rabbits and indicated that this ‘may lead’ to the formation of blocked arteries and thus con tribute to potential heart disease.
JUST AS BAD FOR HUMANS?
Curiously enough, there was no indication in Kritchevsky’s research papers that testing on human subjects was ever done. By some logic of analogy or worse yet, some slight-of-hand, arguments were raised supporting that what was bad for the poor rabbits were obviously just as bad for humans too.
Kritchevsky’s theory, however, fuelled support for the lobbyists’ lipid hypothe sis, which argued that saturated fat and cholesterol from animal sources raise cholesterol levels in the blood, leading to possible deposition of cholesterol and fatty acids as pathogenic plaques in the arteries.
Then came Kritchevsky’s second paper which went on to describe ‘The Prudent Diet’ in what he believed were the beneficial effects of consuming polyunsat urated fatty acids derived largely from, you guessed it, the oil of corn, soybeans, safflower and sunflower seeds for the lowering, at least ‘temporarily’, of choles terol in the blood.
Although many other studies at the time had also shown research to the con trary, the conspiratorial ‘dirt’ stuck and by the mid-1960’s the reputation of all saturated oils in America (including those extracted from coconuts) had been destroyed.
So determined was the pursuit of the lobbying American seed oil industry in converting their claims into magnificent billboards and advertisements of health and wealth in all forms of other media that even small island nations in the South Pacific were converted by this powerful marketing juggernaut to change cen turies of dietary traditions of consuming tropical oils that were growing in their own backyards to importing colourfully-packaged polyunsaturated fats harvest ed from the fields of the heartland of America.
STILL HAUNTS US TODAY
Fifty years on and The Prudent Diet has left a detrimental legacy which still haunts us all today. This shift in the eating habits of Americans has negatively influenced and changed the dietary regimes of societies all around the world that were initially not even affected by America’s particular meat, potato and milk diet before the 1960s.
Today heart disease is still on the increase and obesity, linked to the “new” American diet is a major social problem worldwide. It has governments worried about the healthcare cost of future generations. Even the U.K., Canada, New Zealand and Australia are all catching up with their American counterparts now experiencing a larger percentage of their populations defined as being over weight. The love of and addiction to American-inspired fast- and junk foods cooked in oceans of polyunsaturated fatty acids derived largely from the oil of corn, soybeans, safflower and sunflower seeds have taken its toll.
DIVERSE AS NATURE ITSELF
Is saturated fat really bad for you? It depends, seems to be the answer.
The travesty of an action taken 50-years ago was that one of nature’s most amazing natural resources – tropical oils, and especially coconut oil with all its functional, nutritional and pharmaceutical possibilities, has been lost to modern medicine for decades.
Current medical research is now in agreement that at least 30% of our daily nutritional intake should be made up of fats or oil. However, the structures of different oils are as diverse as nature itself and even some basic knowledge of what defines the different classification of fats will help us understand why this classification is so important when choosing oil to augment and support a healthy lifestyle for our children, families and ourselves.
It is important to remember that all coconut oil is not the same. Natural coconut oil (not the hydrogenated version often found in processed foods) is a saturated fat, but it is not one your doctor has warned you about. Although saturated, coconut oil is structurally, pharmaceutically and behaviourally different to any other natural oil or fat. Still, some cheaper oils from coconut are extracted under high heat and thus become denatured and not suitable for consumption.
Coconut oil is in many ways a unique gift of nature from the ‘Tree of Life’, as generations of Filipinos worldwide like to call it. It contains 92% saturated fatty acids, giving coconut oil important properties often lost under the dusty political cloud of the cholesterol debate. Natural coconut oil is quasi immune to light oxidation and highly resistant to rancidity. It is functional as a safe nutritional source in most climates without the need for refrigeration or special storage conditions. So it is no wonder that the finest certified natural coconut oils come from the Philippines.
Recent studies are revealing (actually, rediscovering) that this uniquely curative oil actually has innumerable health benefits ranging from disease prevention to anti-aging, allowing anyone to experience the healing miracles of what is now being deemed in the West as the “perfect food”.
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Coconut oil, by contrast, is highly saturated, and in its natural unrefined form has a shelf life of more than 2 years. Unlike unsaturated oils, it is not prone to oxidation.As coconut oil’s use becomes more accepted and widespread, and as people begin to realize the dangers of the low-fat dietary belief, we are starting to see more testimonies in relation to diseases like Alzheimer’s. One of the most widely published reports is from Dr. Mary Newport as reported by the St. Petersburg Times on October 29, 20086. Dr. Newport’s husband had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and was watch ing her husband quickly deteriorate. After using drugs that slowed down the effects of Alzheimer’s, she looked into clinical drug trials and found one based on MCTs that not only slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s, but offered improvement. Not being able to get her husband into one of these trials, she began to give him Virgin Coconut Oil, and saw incredible improvement in his condition.
When taken as a supplement, used in cooking, or applied to directly to the skin, coconut oil has been found, among others, to promote weight loss, help protect against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and many other degenerative diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s, strengthen the immune system, improve digestion and prevent premature aging of the skin. There is even a website on the Internet that lists 160 uses for coconut oil.
We have reached a critical time in our history when society is in dire need of a cost efficient, abundant, natural and effective anti bacterial and anti viral remedy. Modern medical research has allowed us to scientifically dispel many of the theories of the recent past and show the complexity of our modern lifestyle and diet. More importantly however, this critical research into coconut oil has pinpointed the one aspect that makes the case for coconut oil to be reaccepted, not only as a legitimate part of our daily diet, but also as a potent natural anti-ageing, anti-viral and anti-bacterial remedy of the future.
The reality is that benefits arising from the consumption of coconut oil within a healthy diet have been documented for over 4,000 years. The tree is beautiful and abundant and the question to be answered is whether the rest of the world can afford to continue to ignore its potential.