When your computer starts running slowly, applications are crashing left and right and you can’t even move the cursor anymore,
what do you do? Control-alt-delete. Or if you’re a Mac user, you hold down the power button to restart.
Sometimes we need to do the same thing with our bodies. They’re under constant assault in the modern world. Refined, processed food, environmental toxins, stress, sleep deprivation, and chronic infections can all wreak havoc on our health.
The evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky said, “Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution.” What did he mean by this? All organisms are adapted to survive and thrive in a particular environment, and when that environment changes faster than the organism can adapt, the mismatch occurs. This is a fundamental principle in biology, and it applies as much to humans as it applies to any other organism in nature.
Our ancestors, as well as contemporary hunter-gatherers that have been studied, were lean and fit and remarkably free of chronic inflammatory disease. They were also superior to us in the industrialized world in every measure of health and fitness, from body mass index to blood pressure to insulin sensitivity to oxygen consumption to vision to bone density. They didn’t get obesity. They didn’t get heart disease. They didn’t get diabetes, gout, hypertension, or most cancers.
So what happened? What transformed us from a healthy, vital people, free of chronic inflammatory disease, to a sick, fat, and unhealthy people?
The first major blow was the Agriculture and farming Revolution. Scientist Jared Diamond calls the worst mistake in human history was “Agriculture”. Hunter-gatherers were virtually guaranteed a healthy diet because of the diversity and nutrient density of the foods that they ate, but once humans settled down and started farming, there was a major shift in our diet. Average carbohydrate intake shot up and protein intake plummeted. The quality of protein that we ate also decreased.
The new agricultural diet relied heavily on a limited set of crops, like wheat, rice, and corn. They use Pesticides and Fertilizers. It was lower in more nutrient-dense products, and this led to a wide range of diseases that weren’t common prior to agriculture, like beriberi, pellagra, rickets, and scurvy. Our ancestors in the agricultural period also started to experience tooth decay and anemia due to iron deficiency, increases in infant mortality, and decreases in average bone density. Modern agriculture method used Pesticides and artificial fertilizers that further reduces nutrition density of Food.
We know from the archaeological record that all of these diseases were rarely experienced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
The second major blow was the Industrial Revolution. There’s no doubt that Modern agriculture led to a significant decline in our overall health, but the Industrial Revolution was really the knockout punch. It brought us to where we are today, when white sugar, flour, and vegetable oil make up over 50 percent of calories that the average person living in the industrialized world consumes each day. We’re more sedentary than we’ve ever been before. We sit while we work, and we sit while we play. We’re chronically sleep deprived
Finally, this profound mismatch between our genetic heritage and the environment that we live in is responsible for the epidemic of modern disease, and it also explains why the paleo diet and lifestyle has helped so many people.
Your immune system becomes activated when your body recognizes anything that is foreign—such as an invading microbe, plant pollen, or chemical. This often triggers a process called inflammation. Intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders protect your health.
However, sometimes inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader. That’s when inflammation can become your enemy. Many major diseases that plague us—including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s—have been linked to chronic inflammation.
One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Choose the right foods, and you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. Consistently pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.
Foods that inflame
Try to avoid or limit these foods as much as possible:
- refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
- French fries and other fried foods
- soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
- Process Meat
- Margarine, Vanaspati Ghee and Trans fat
- Refined Vegetable oil high in Omega 6
Not surprisingly, the same foods that contribute to inflammation are generally considered bad for our health, including sodas and refined carbohydrates, as well as red meat and processed meats.
“Some of the foods that have been associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease are also associated with excess inflammation, It’s not surprising since inflammation is an important underlying mechanism for the development of these diseases.
Unhealthy foods also contribute to weight gain, which is itself a risk factor for inflammation. Yet in several studies, even after researchers took obesity into account, the link between foods and inflammation remained, which suggests weight gain isn’t the sole driver. “Some of the food components or ingredients may have independent effects on inflammation over and above increased caloric intake,”
On the flip side are foods and beverages that have been found to reduce the risk of inflammation, and with it, chronic disease. Particular fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens that are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols—protective compounds found in plants.
Studies have also associated nuts with reduced markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation, as well.
To reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet. If you’re looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils.
In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health. “A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic