For most of our 8 million years on the planet, we ate a very plant-rich diet. As hunter-gatherers, we ate about 800 different plant species, along with wild animals and wild fish.
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We didn’t eat grains or beans until about 12,000 years ago. We didn’t eat dairy (unless we could milk a saber tooth tiger, which was pretty hard).
We didn’t eat sugar unless we found a honey comb where the bees made honey. We found that only rarely (and when we did, getting the honey proved to be pretty painful.)
Our diet was much more nutrient-dense, much higher in fiber, had far more vitamins and minerals, and had higher levels of omega-3 fats.
And it was very, very low in sugar and starch.
Enter carbs and processed foods
As we have shifted to a diet that is predominantly carbohydrates — mainly from commodity crops like wheat and corn, combined with refined soybean oil — and that includes lots of processed foods, we have found ourselves in a pickle.
We are now in the midst of the biggest obesity and diabetes epidemic in the history of the human race.
We are wired to eat sugar whenever we get hold of it because sugar allows us to store fat.
That served us well as hunter-gatherers millions of years ago. But it doesn’t serve us well today.
Stopping the vicious cycle
Sugar is addictive. Our taste buds are highly stimulated by it. It activates the dopamine response in our brains, giving us a little bit of pleasure for a moment.
The bad news is that, the more overweight we are, the more sugar and starch we need in order to stimulate that pleasure center. It becomes a vicious cycle.
The good news is that, although it takes a little while, we can unhook from the sugar and starch.
Once we discover how well spices, herbs, condiments, salt (in moderation) and pepper bring out the natural flavors in our food, our meals begin to taste much better.
And we begin to reap the benefits of a nutrient-dense diet, not just for our weight, but also for our long-term health.