Sometimes, I shake my head in disbelief at the level to which we have messed with our food. We flounder in an ocean of degenerative disease, most of which we created, and most of which can be countered (74% of what kills us most commonly is based on diet and lifestyle).
We Are What We Eat - Diet, Disease and Decisions
Despite our lofty creations, our concrete mega cities and digital delusions, we are, essentially, the same physical beings that foraged and hunted for our food just a few blinks back. That food was direct from its natural source, unprocessed, fresh and often raw. Whole foods are simply what we were designed to eat and the embrace of fresh, unspoiled food can be truly regenerative. We must recognise that we have never, ever improved any food through processing. We may have extended the shelf-life and profit potential of that food, but we have always bastardized the original, often to the point that it becomes a shadow of its former self. A classic example of this denigration involves the most popular food in the western world – bread.
Our Daily Bread
When we take wholemeal flour and convert it to white flour, we remove 80% of the nutritional value of this food. The bread then technically becomes an “anti-nutrient”. The most energy-intensive process in the human body is digestion, and this process is fueled by nutrients. When there is so little remaining nutrition in a food, but it must still be digested, there can actually be a net loss of nutrition. We are literally taking more than we gave! 89% of bread sold in Australia is white bread, and it is the staple ingredient in our children’s lunch boxes. This is a sad story when we recognise that these children are the first generation in the history of mankind that will live for a shorter period than their parents.
However the bastardisation of bread doesn’t stop there. There are five other indignities we have forced upon our favorite food.
1) A demineralised mutant
The hybridized, green revolution grains, upon which most of our modern bread is based, attracted a Nobel prize for Norman Bourlag. It can be easily argued that his slap on the back should probably have been a kick in the rear. He did not use traditional hybridization techniques to create this more squat variety, which was much less prone to lodging. Instead, he irradiated the original wheat varieties and selected a mutant that became our main food. The mutant solved the problem related to the yield loss linked to the difficulties in harvesting wheat that had fallen over in the wind (lodged). However, the compromise was a massive loss in nutrient density. In fact, the wheat varieties we largely consume today take up 50% less iron, 30% less calcium and magnesium and 20% less trace minerals than the original, open pollinated varieties.There is one mineral that this compromised cereal can no longer uptake at all. This is the rarely-considered trace mineral, cobalt. You might assume that this loss of cobalt in our diet is insignificant in the big picture. However, you would be wrong! Cobalt is the building block for an incredibly important nutrient called vitamin B12. A key reason that many of us are now lacking this energy vitamin relates to the loss of cobalt in our most popular food.
2) The soy flour folly
Ingredients in all food must be listed in order of their component percentage, present in that food. Check the labels on your supermarket bread and you will find that the second listed component is soy flour. It often comprises 30% of the loaf, but it is not soy flour grown in Australia. The Roundup Ready GM soy flour, imported from the US, is much cheaper, and it keeps the costs down for bread producers. Australia’s own soya bean crop is exported or turned into soy milk. This imported GM soy has been sprayed two to three times with glyphosate, because it has been genetically modified to survive this toxic herbicide. We have drenched a food crop with a chemical that is now often called “the new DDT”. Glyphosate has been directly linked to autism, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, kidney and liver failure. It has recently been identified as both a carcinogen (WHO research) and an endocrine disruptor. It may well prove to be the single most serious contaminant in our environment. It is the world’s most widely used chemical and it is in your child’s lunchbox, if you are buying the cheap soy-loaded, supermarket bread.
3) Stabilising stupidity
I will never forget my attendance one year at an Acres USA conference in the US, when the wonderful father of regenerative agriculture, Charles Walters, took to the stage. In the solemn tones of a southern baptist preacher, Charles suggested that he would like to deliver “The Lord’s Prayer”. He then proceeded to deliver a wake-up call, via Christianity’s most famous missive. Here is that thought-provoking version:
“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us dear lord for calling this stuff bread.”
Charles was, of course referring to the lunacy of food processing, where multiple additives and stabilisers are now added to our food. You really need to become a label Nazi when feeding processed, packaged food to your family, because when you research those three digit numbers adorning the reverse side of the packaging, you are often in for a nasty surprise.
4) Compromising core minerals and precious enzymes
The two most common mineral shortages in the Western World are magnesium and zinc, and it is important to understand the root causes of these ubiquitous deficiencies. There is a major link to our massive overconsumption of bread. Cereal grains contain a natural acid called phytic acid, which can bind to both minerals, effectively rendering them impotent. Zinc phytate and magnesium phytate are both insoluble and they are typically excreted rather than absorbed. Phytic acid is not a contaminant, it is a natural component of cereals and legumes. In fact, soy flour has a higher percentage of this acid than cereals.
The second compromising aspect of both the wheat and soy in your beloved loaf relates to the presence of enzyme inhibitors. We now understand that we are all gifted a unique, inherited capacity, enabling our pancreas and liver to produce a certain number of digestive enzymes during our lifespan. When we have exhausted this predetermined supply, our metabolic enzymes, responsible for every bodily function, from breathing to thinking, step in to fill the gap. This is a pretty handy phenomenon because we can’t do much without digestion. However, this stand-in workforce is no longer performing the specialised tasks for which they were designed. The wheels fall off shortly thereafter, and this is often a base driver of degenerative disease. When you understand how this system works, it becomes abundantly clear that we should be avoiding enzyme inhibitors like the plague. Think about the cereal and toast to start your day followed by cakes, biscuits, rolls and sandwiches for various meal breaks throughout the day. Then we often conclude that flood, with pasta for dinner. No organism was designed to eat this much cereal grain and we are paying a price for this with enzyme inhibition and mineral deficiencies.
Many of us are obsessed with bread and at this point, may be thinking “is there any way I can eat bread without paying this price? Can I have my cake and eat it too?” The good news is that you can! The massive spike in demand for sourdough bread reflects a nutrition awakening. A growing group of nutritionally-aware folk now recognise that the much longer, yeast-free, sourdough fermentation effectively removes these issues. The microbes at work here don’t only predigest the grains to increase their bioavailability, but they literally eat the enzyme-inhibiting biochemical, and they consume and neutralise phytic acid. If you soak your muesli overnight in water (Bircher muesli), you activate the multiple species of Lactobacillus found in the grains. If you were to soak that muesli in our popular probiotic drink, Bio-Bubble™, then that whole process is dramatically magnified. Here, the huge number of diverse probiotic organisms multiply overnight, and your breakfast cereal literally becomes a DIY probiotic medicine by morning. You can even make a yeast-free Bio-Bubble bread, a unique sourdough which is really something special. Many of you who have attended our 4-day course will remember breakfasting on this delicious probiotic treat.
5) An acid-forming life shortener
Our acid/alkaline balance is much more important than many realise. There is compelling research suggesting that most of us are too acidic, and this condition is a recognised precursor to disease. There is often a misunderstanding amongst the medical community regarding this issue. They will rightly claim that blood acidity is self-balancing, because there is little room for movement, if the organism is to survive. This issue of metabolic acidity is a completely different story. It is measured via saliva and urine, not blood. Both of these bodily fluids should have an ideal pH of 6.4, first thing in the morning. The vast majority of people are below pH 6 and as a result, they are significantly more vulnerable. There are a variety of factors creating this acidity epidemic, including stress, a lack of fruit and vegetables, overconsumption of protein, a deficiency of the most alkalising mineral, magnesium, and an oversupply of refined carbohydrates, the most acid-forming of which are refined sugar and bread.
Conventional bread impacts three of these determinants. It is highly acid-forming, and it ties up the great alkaliser, magnesium, which is also the most powerful stress-reducing mineral. One of the most alkalising of all substances is chlorophyll. Part of the reason for the prolonged popularity of green smoothies relates to the alkalising impact of these chlorophyll and magnesium-packed drinks (magnesium is the dominant mineral component of chlorophyll). I formulated Green Defence™ (from NTS Health) to be a chlorophyll-packed, enzyme-rich, nutrient dense alkaliser. It is a powdered concentrate containing gently dehydrated, organic sources of wheatgrass, kelp and spirulina in a probiotic base. When monitoring saliva and urine with a pH strip, I find this to be one of the most effective tools to reclaim alkalinity.
The Solution – Bake your own Spelt Bread
Sometimes, the only path forward is to reclaim responsibility for your own health, One way to escape the treadmill of a glyphosate-contaminated, acid-forming, chemical-packed, nutrient-depleted food staple is to make your own. It is absurdly simple. If you invest $200 in a bread maker, you can spend two minutes before bed scooping the ingredients from their containers into the bread maker, setting the timer and forgetting about it. The next morning you may stir to the sounds of the mechanical beating of the dough. More importantly you will awaken to a house filled with one of the most delicious of all smells, freshly baked bread. You can skip the issues relative to wheat by selecting organic spelt grain, which is now available in most health food shops in canvas or paper bags. Spelt is an ancient grain, which has never been messed with. It is higher in protein than wheat and it is one of the very rare cereals that is actually alkalising. It is also much more nutrient-dense than its mutant sister, and it has significantly less gluten content. It is rare to see a freshly baked spelt loaf uneaten beyond lunchtime. You can even make a sourdough base by hand and place it in the bread maker to ferment overnight. In this case you will skip the dough making cycle, and wake to the smell of freshly baked sourdough bread. Now the loaf won’t make it past the morning tea break!
It is not that difficult to escape bastardised food, but it is an essential strategy if we aim to thrive and survive in this strange, commodified world. The percentage of processed food in your supermarket trolley is often a direct indication of your good health and longevity. We are designed to consume whole foods and when we embrace natural eating, it is inevitable that we are much more likely to experience food as medicine.