Food Now - and Then

Is food more nutritious than a thousand years ago? To answer this intriguing question, we must first journey back through time and find out just what, exactly, they ate during this period.

In 1,000 B.C. the dietary regimen of most civilizations were quite basic, and devoid of all the excess trimmings which we associate with later cuisines. The staples of the day were fresh nuts, fruits, cheeses and meats, as well as breads. Salts and other seasonings were used sparingly, and mostly for brining. Sugar, lard and other sparse necessities were the building blocks and foundation of the average diet at that time. There was not a wholly intricate integration of food items in complex dishes established as yet at this time.

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One of the problems facing food preparers back then was the ability to sustain the freshness of the foods they required to prepare their dishes. Brining was used to pickle certain meats and fruits were dried and preserved with salted cures, but one couldn't just walk out the door and go to the nearest grocer to procure items for easy preparation. Therefore, foods had to be simply kept and prepared.

shocked graphicBut in the 1890's, with the advent of modernized refining, also known as 'stripping' or 'bleaching', of foods in the American diet, the life expectancy of preserved foods increased. Unfortunately, so did the risk of heart disease, with the first recorded 'heart attack' occurring in 1912. Since then, the rate of heart disease and obesity has climbed in conjunction with increased consumption of refined goods.

However, cultures who don't draw the majority of their foods from heavily processed reserves, even with an abundance of fats and oils in their diets, still maintain lower heart disease and obesity rates; the French and Italians being prime examples. Also note that the Japanese, with their basic and simplistic eating habits, do not incur such rates either, maintaining perhaps the lowest mortality rates from cardiovascular diseases than any other country in the world. And despite the burgeoning increase in American diets strictly created to oppose the perceived root of obesity, the amounts of fat in the American diet, America still remains one of the nations with the largest obesity and heart disease mortality rates in the world.

Another problem in the preserving and refining of modern foods is that certain and toxic components begin to build up and refuse to break down in the body's digestive system. With very little means of being removed from the body's internal processes, such elements become rancid and begin interfering with certain biological mechanics.

Yet, as the modern advent of heavily processed and longer preserved foods began, the typical life expectancy of the average American also began to increase, and such life expectancies are still some of the highest in the world, despite the severe increase in damaging food products heavy in saturated fats, trans-fats and carbohydrates.

In effect, seeking the nutritional merits of food today vs. food back in the day, falls suspect to a multitudinous number of variables that move beyond the actual basic nutritional components of the very foods falling under examination themselves. While today's food manufacturers are required to implement a certain number of nutritional additives to make up for the general stripping of such nutritional material by all the heavy processing involved in today's food manufacture, a blanket statement determining today's food to be nutritionally inferior to the food products of a thousand years ago simply cannot be sustained with any reasonable amount of veracity.

In conclusion, perhaps the real question isn't whether or not today's food is more nutritious... perhaps the real question is whether or not proper education can make up for any food's inherent lack of nutritional merit. Going back to the Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden, Mankind's choices of what and what not to eat may very easily affect the longevity of his own life.


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