The typical Western diet is now thought to be the cause of most Western disease. The risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity and type 2 diabetes increases considerably if a Western diet is consumed. Most people assume that disease is a result of bad genes, bad luck or just the natural ageing process, but this is not true. Most disease is nutrition related, and what you put in your mouth has a massive impact on how your body can deal with stress and illness.
The Western Diet
The Western diet is a relatively recent phenomenon. Only since the agricultural and industrial revolutions has food been so readily available. As agricultural practices have improved and food ingredients become more widely available, food manufacturing has increased and with it the need for profit. The fact is, Western food is both addictive and profitable, and where there is demand there shall be supply. However, with these profits come disease, and with the disease comes death.
So what did people eat before the Western diet became popular in the twentieth century? Well most of the World ate the traditional foods associated with their region. Foods were generally locally grown, underwent minimal processing, and all cooking was done in the home at the point of consumption. There was therefore little need for long shelf lives, preservatives or packaging. As a result foods were eaten in season, and diets were based on foods available at the time.
The Mediterranean Diet
The regions of Southern Europe adjacent to the Mediterranean sea share a common traditional diet. Meat comes mainly from fresh fish or fowl, and whole grains are used to make the bread that is eaten as an accompaniment to the main foods often by dipping it in olive oil. Plant foods are common in the diet, and so too is red wine that is drunk liberally throughout the day. The Mediterranean diet is now well established as a healthy diet in the scientific literature.
The Okinawan Diet
Another well researched traditional diet is the Okinawan diet. This diet originates from the Ryukyu islands off the coast of Japan. The diet comprises of small amounts of fish, green and yellow vegetables including some legumes, and the main carbohydrate sources is the sweet potato. Unlike other Asian countries rice is not a staple food. The Okinawan population like those in the Sicily have large numbers of centenarians and disease and disability do not greatly affect the elderly.
The Eskimo and Massai Diets
Both the Eskimo and Massai diets are different to the Mediterranean and Okinawan diets in that they are based on meat and fat. In the case of the Eskimo diet, the meat and fat come mainly from fish and whale blubber. In contrast, the Massai eat mainly milk, along with the blood and meat of their sheep and goats. In common with the Mediterranean and Okinawan diets, both of these meat based diets are devoid of refined carbohydrates and sugar.
Sugar And Refined Carbohydrates
Traditional diets vary in their composition, but they are all associated with improved longevity and a decreased risk of disease. The common defining parameter that links all of these diets is the absence of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Refining carbohydrates is problematic because it causes blood sugar problems that drive disease. Switching to a traditional diet has been shown to reduce the risk of disease, even in those who have eaten Western foods most of their lives.