The Distorted Perception of Food: Macronutrients
Once there was a time when humans ate whatever was necessary to live. Eventually, the elite were able to choose the more glamorous foods, and the common folk were welcome to moderate quantities of the less exciting options. Now most citizens of industrialized economies have plenty of readily available food choices. Abiding by enough scientific and political influence, business have chosen to present food on the foundation of the three macronutrients which humans need to function: Fats, Carbohydrates, and Proteins.
Fats have the most fascinating history within the evolution of the food industry. With a raise in the occurrence of obesity, the FDA decided to inform people of the dangers of eating too much “fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol” with the “healthy eating” campaign of 1980. With the substantial rise in obesity rates, the FDA continued to update guidelines up to and beyond the food pyramid of 1992, and signaling the danger of fat has persisted to this day. 2% milk replaced whole milk, and if skim milk didn’t taste so ridiculously bad, it probably would have replaced 2% milk. Margarine nearly replaced butter, and the movement for lower quantities of processed vegetable oil to replace natural fats reached nearly all available options.
Excessive quantities of modified food products including modified (hydrogenated, heated, and/or refined) oils, and fat substitutes are detrimental to the human body. Unfortunately, proof is still pending since they haven’t been readily available during much of the process of civilized evolution. Contrary to popular government and marketing promotions, the ingestion of healthy fats including unprocessed saturated fats (coconut oil) are not a primary cause of obesity or unhealthy cholesterol (high LDL) levels in the human body. After practicing the ketogenic diet for 2 years using coconut as my primary source of caloric intake, blood tests confirmed healthy cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and body fat levels during or after the process. The toxic overload of modified food products, especially sugar/fructose loaded options, directly relates to the internal stress markers of the human body which correlate with high LDL levels, metabolic inconsistencies, and the initiation/maintenance of fat storage.
Proteins are the glorified trophy of macronutrients from ancient times as well as present culture. Hunters returning with their prey would receive an immense amount of praise from their village. The entire fish, animal, or bird would be prepared to fulfill the needs of the village, and every aspect of the fish, animal, or bird was useful and respected. Rather than isolating the most lean and tender region of meat, the food source was balanced with fat, macronutrients, fiber, and also protein. Today the staple food of any plate is the premium cut of lean meat.
Meat was the trophy for generations and was consistently expensive and/or difficult to attain. Meat became the goal, and food industries readily created the protein idol within that goal. Certain grains and beans had enough protein to be marketed as an inexpensive meat replacement. Fat could be removed from dairy leaving the ever-important protein. The egg yolk could be overlooked, or a half-gallon of pure egg whites could be purchased from the local grocery. Protein shakes loaded with whey protein and soy proteins, fitness bars, and the most recent PB2 evolution have glorified protein as the fitness macronutrient of choice. Based on advertisement proclamations, ingesting large amounts of protein results in the body of an attractive model: a model with a low body fat percentage, a perfect tan, and a stellar muscular physique.
Although fruits have evolved to become the idealistic size and shape to initiate human salivation, it is easier to cultivate large quantities of sugar from other sources. Sugar Cane is the easiest for large-scale farming, and refining the sugar is also easiest from that source. There aren’t many valuable nutrients to strip from sugar cane, but it might as well be the pure white color the human eye desires. From here the sugar can simply be mixed with ingredients including emulsifiers, stabilizers, and/or flour to make an ideal mass of sweetness. The motivation to purchase comes from the additional beauty of food coloring, texturing, packaging, and marketing. The candy and cake aren’t eaten all the time; only on special occasions, like daily treats of pleasure after eating a healthy meal.
Fruit and sugar are not the only carbohydrate sources. Whole grains, like corn, are often fully processed before ingesting. Excessive levels of heat are used to condition the product for processing. Chemical solvents are used to extract the oils from the grain. (The oil is then neutralized, deodorized, and bleached to yield vegetable oil.) Excessive levels of heat are again used to evaporate the solvent from the grain. The remaining grain can then be degerminated and ‘polished’ before it is milled into the wonderful corn flour it was meant to be. This process removes the pericarp and tip cap which are the outer fibrous coverings of the kernel. The internal germ containing vitamins, enzymes, and minerals necessary for seed growth is also removed. All relevant sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber must be removed for the sake of a longer shelf life and business profitability.
The current movement influencing personal choice
The current ‘choose my plate’ government promotion continues the idiocracy of the American diet. The only slightly positive remark I have regarding this image is the recommendation for a large portion of the plate to contain vegetables. However, based on the chronic over satiation of corn and deep-fried potatoes which conveniently fulfill the vegetable intake recommendations, I do not foresee health improvements in the near future. As schools promote this choose my plate model, a visually assumed macronutrient ratio of close to 65% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 5% fat remains the common perception. Fat is still demonized, and the dairy industry is still cashing in on excessive lobbying bias to define public policy.
Over time, processed food tastes better, and unmodified foods look, smell, and taste worse. Unpackaged foods are uncomfortable and messy. Unprepared foods take too long to make and don’t last long enough before and after cooking. The carbohydrate overload readily fuels the physical and psychological dependence on easy access foods. More is purchased, more is eaten, and businesses attain higher profit margins. Sweeter tasting foods continue to replace the previous trend. Quick fix sugar replacements pretend to solve the problem of excessive caloric intake. The processed foods become more different, and the processed foods distort natural human perception beyond repair.
That being said, the population has experienced some progress in a few isolated areas. Blatantly toxic choices are frowned upon. Most agree that eating an entire cake is unhealthy since the trend will likely be linked to obesity and diabetes. Most agree that smoking is unhealthy since the trend will likely lead to lung cancer, peripheral artery disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder to name a few. Unfortunately, most unhealthy choices remain normalized. Consistently eating candy from the vending machines in schools is OK because the lunch meal almost follows the choose my plate guidelines. Consistently drinking excess alcohol at a local bar is OK because a higher blood alcohol levels always support positive human interaction. Hopefully my logic for the last half of the paragraph was interpreted as sarcastic.
I hope that one day food will be perceived as a necessary component supporting the physiology of the human body. The logic of eating foods which are not processed will simply make more sense than the constant overload of modified junk food. Foods won’t be obsessively categorized into good/bad macronutrient categories (Fat Free! Sugar Free! High Protein!). The average human body will regain an ability to accurately monitor levels of hunger, and a balanced plate of natural foods will allow hunger to be satisfied until the next meal.