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Hundred Years Diet

March 16, 2009

“Eat as they did a hundred years ago.”

 

This was the advice a doctor recently gave a business associate of Duane’s. The man was suffering from a myriad of health problems—diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, to name a few. In today’s world of pharmaceuticals and designer diets, it was an intriguing and refreshing piece of advice.

 

The doctor told him that essentially he needed to eat nothing that was not readily available a hundred years ago. “If you could not easily lay hands on it 100 years ago, rule it out,” he said. “Think about wild game, unsalted butter, milk, water, chicken and beef in moderation, because people weren’t wealthy enough to eat them everyday, fruits and vegetables, sweeteners such as molasses and cane sugar, and a lot of beans—in the bag, not the can.”

 

The man did as he was told, and within four months had lost twenty-five pounds and had all but gotten rid of all of his health problems. He still has to be somewhat careful of the diabetes, because once there that is a problem that does not just go away, but everything else is close to perfect. (And of course, as with anything, moderation is key.)

 

Intrigued, I called my eighty-four year old grandmother up to ask her about what she used to eat when she was a child. She laughed. “I may be old, but I’m not a hundred!” She then amiably proceeded to describe her childhood table as the daughter of a sharecropper. Essentially, “we raised everything we ate.”

 

She described taking corn and wheat to the mill to be ground, curing pork in the smokehouse, growing and canning vegetables, eating tons of beans and potatoes…the list went on and on. “We would strain sugar cane…we had this wooden thing…I can’t remember what it was called, and horses, and it went round and round and pressed and strained all the juice out of the cane. And I remember Mama drying apples on the roof in the summertime…we’d peel and slice ’em, and then she’d spread a clean tablecloth on top of this little low roof and we spread all the apple slices on top of that and let ’em dry. Then we’d make apple turnovers with ’em…ooh, they were good!”

 

It’s really an interesting concept when you think about how different it is from many of the diets that are presented to us today, and yet how much sense it makes in the grand scheme of things. Most diets are concerned with low fat foods and artificial sweeteners; many are wrapped up in pre-packaged and measured, processed food portions or fads like low carbs or high glycemic index. Conversely, eating as the population did a hundred years ago seems to be a return to simple common sense. Food at this time was organic in the strongest sense of the word—whole, natural, untreated, and unprocessed. “Organic” has been embraced by corporate America today and has subsequently been diluted in practice. It has become, in many instances, just a label. You know, though, when you’re eating fresh fruits and vegetables, bagged dry beans, and whole grain breads (preferably made fresh) that you’re not introducing free radicals into your system, but rather helping to protect and preserve it.

 

The biggest enemy to this sort of dietary change is, of course, the convenience that we’ve gotten sucked into. This is by no means an easy and convenient way of eating. This is getting up in the morning and having a plan for the day—remembering to put some beans in a pot of water to soak, and to put the bread ingredients in the bread machine before you leave for work, and maybe the chicken in the crock pot. The trade-off, though—health—is well worth the extra time that goes into changing the habits of a lifetime, I think.

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 20, 2009 11:46 am

    I don’t know if you’ve heard of it or not, but you might be interested in reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” Basically it’s a memoir detailing how her family goes and tries to spend a year living off of strictly local foods. Most of which they grow themselves. I’m about halfway through and it’s a pretty good read.

  2. hintonrae permalink*
    March 20, 2009 3:56 pm

    Sounds good! Thanks, Linds.

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