The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods|
by Michael T. Murray (Author), JOSEPH PIZZORNO (Author), Lara Pizzorno (Contributor)
From the bestselling authors of The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, the most
comprehensive and practical guide available to the nutritional benefits and
medicinal properties of virtually everything edible
As countless studies have affirmed, diet plays a major role in both provoking
and preventing a wide range of diseases. But just what is a healthy diet? What
does the body need to stay strong and get well? In The Encyclopedia of Healing
Foods, Michael T. Murray, N.D., and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., two of the worldıs
foremost authorities on nutrition and wellness, draw on an abundant harvest of
research to present the best guide available to healthy eating.
Make healthy eating a lifetime habit.
Let The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods teach you how to:
design a safe diet
use foods to stimulate the bodyıs natural ability to rejuvenate and heal
discover the role that fiber, enzymes, fatty acids, and other dietary
have in helping us live healthfully
understand which food prescriptions will help you safely treat more than 70
specific ailments, including acne, Alzheimerıs disease, immune system
depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, PMS, and rheumatoid arthritis
prepare foods safely in order to prevent illness and maximize health benefits
select, store, and prepare all kinds of healthful foods
Providing the best natural remedies for everyday aches and pains, as well as
potent protection against serious diseases, The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods is
a required daily health reference.
Chapter One: Human Nutrition: An Evolutionary Perspective
In order to answer the question "What is a healthy diet?," it is important to
first take a look at what our body is designed for. Is the human body designed
to eat plant foods, animal foods, or both? Respectively, are we herbivores,
carnivores, or omnivores?
While the human gastrointestinal tract is capable of digesting both plant and
animal foods, there are indications that we evolved to digest primarily plant
foods. Specifically, our teeth are composed of twenty molars, which are perfect
for crushing and grinding plant foods, along with eight front incisors, which
are well suited for biting into fruits and vegetables. Only our front four
canine teeth are designed for meat eating, and our jaws swing both vertically to
tear and laterally to crush, while carnivores' jaws swing only vertically.
Additional evidence that supports the human body's preference for plant foods is
the long length of the human intestinal tract. Carnivores typically have a short
bowel, while herbivores have a bowel length proportionally comparable to humans'.
To answer the question of what humans should eat, many researchers look to other
primates, such as chimpanzees, monkeys, and gorillas. These nonhuman wild
primates are omnivores. They are also often described as herbivores and
opportunistic carnivores in that although they eat mainly fruits and vegetables,
they may also eat small animals, lizards, and eggs if given the opportunity. For
example, the gorilla and the orangutan eat only 1 percent and 2 percent of
animal foods as a percentage of total calories, respectively. The remainder of
their diet is derived from plant foods. Since humans are between the weight of
the gorilla and orangutan, it has been suggested that humans are designed to eat
around 1.5 percent of their diet in the form of animal foods. However, most
Americans derive well over 50 percent of their calories from animal foods.
Since wild primates fill up on wild fruit and other highly nutritious plant
foods, those weighing one tenth the amount of a typical human ingest nearly ten
times the level of vitamin C and much higher amounts of many other vitamins and
minerals (see Table 1.1). How is this possible? One reason is that the
cultivated fruit in an American supermarket is far different from the wild fruit
of the primate's diet, having a slightly higher protein content and a higher
content of certain essential vitamins and minerals. Cultivated fruit tends to be
higher in sugars and, while very tasty to humans, it is not nearly as
nutritious. In fact, it raises blood sugar levels much more quickly than its
wild counterparts do.
There are other differences in the wild primate diet that are also important to
highlight, such as a higher ratio of alpha-linolenic acid -- the essential
omega-3 fatty acid -- to linoleic acid -- the essential omega-6 fatty acid. A
higher ratio of omega-3 fatty acid decreases the likelihood of the development
of inflammatory and chronic diseases as well as their severity. Finally, the
wild primate diet is very high in fiber, while the average American diet is not.
A high-fiber diet protects against heart disease and many types of cancer.
Determining what diet humans are best suited for may not be as simple as looking
at the diet of wild primates. Humans have some significant structural and
physiological differences compared to apes. The key difference may be our
larger, more metabolically active brains. In fact, it has been theorized that a
shift in dietary intake to more animal foods may have produced the stimulus for
human brain growth. The shift itself was probably the result of limited food
availability, which forced early humans to hunt grazing mammals such as antelope
and gazelle. Archaeological data support this association -- humans' brains
started to grow and become more developed at about the same time evidence shows
an increase of animal bones being butchered with stone tools at early villages.
While improved dietary quality alone cannot fully explain why human brains grew,
it definitely appears to have played a critical role. With their bigger brains,
early humans were able to engage in more complex social behavior, which led to
improved foraging and hunting tactics, which, in turn, led to even higher
quality food intake that fostered additional brain evolution.
Data from anthropologists looking at evidence from hunter-gatherer cultures is
providing much insight as to what humans are designed to eat. However, it is
important to point out that these cultures were not entirely free to determine
their diets. Instead, their diets were molded as a result of what was available
to them. For example, the diet of the Inuit Eskimos is far different from that
of the Australian Aborigines. Therefore, it may not be appropriate to answer the
question "What should humans eat?" simply by looking at these studies alone.
Nonetheless, regardless of whether a hunter-gatherer community relied on animal
or plant foods, the rate of diseases of civilization such as heart disease and
cancers was extremely low.
How is this possible? One reason is that the meat our ancestors consumed was
much different from the meat we find in the supermarket today. Domesticated
animals have always had higher fat levels than their wild counterparts, but the
desire for tender meat has driven the fat content of domesticated animals to 25
to 30 percent or higher compared to a fat content of less than 4 percent for
free-living animals or wild game. In addition, the type of fat is considerably
different. Domestic beef contains primarily saturated fats and virtually
undetectable amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. In contrast, the fat of wild
animals contains over five times more polyunsaturated fat per gram and has
desirable amounts of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids (approximately 4 percent).
What conclusions can we draw from the evidence of the wild primate and
hunter-gatherer diets about how we should eat today? Overwhelmingly, it appears
that humans are better suited to a diet composed primarily of plant foods. This
position is supported also by a tremendous amount of evidence showing that
deviating from a predominantly plant-based diet is a major factor in the
development of heart disease, cancer, strokes, arthritis, and many other chronic
degenerative diseases. It is now the recommendation of many health and medical
organizations that the human diet should focus primarily on plant-based foods,
comprising vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
The evidence supporting diet's role in chronic degenerative diseases is
substantial. There are two basic facts linking the diet-disease connection:
1. A diet rich in plant foods is protective against many diseases that are
extremely common in Western society.
2. A diet providing a low intake of plant foods is a causative factor in the
development of these diseases and provides conditions under which other
causative factors became more active.
The Pioneering Work of Denis Burkitt and Hugh Trowell
Much of the link between diet and chronic disease originated from the work of
two medical pioneers: Denis Burkitt, M.D., and Hugh Trowell, M.D., editors of
Western Diseases: Their Emergence and Prevention, first published in 1981.
Although now extremely well recognized, the work of Burkitt and Trowell is
actually a continuation of the landmark work of Weston A. Price, a dentist and
author of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. In the early 1900s, Dr. Price
traveled the world observing changes in teeth and palate (orthodontic) structure
as various cultures discarded traditional dietary practices in favor of a more
"civilized" diet. Price was able to follow individuals as well as cultures over
periods of twenty to forty years, and he carefully documented the onset of
degenerative diseases as their diets changed.
Based on the extensive studies examining the rate of diseases in various
populations (epidemiological data), including the groundbreaking work of Dr.
Price and their own observations of primitive cultures, Burkitt and Trowell
formulated the following sequence of events:
First stage: In cultures consuming a traditional diet consisting of whole,
unprocessed foods, the rate of chronic diseases, such as heart disease,
diabetes, and cancer is quite low.
Second stage: Commencing with eating a more "Western" diet, there is a sharp
rise in the number of individuals with obesity and diabetes.
Third stage: As more and more people abandon their traditional diet, conditions
that were once quite rare become extremely common.
Examples of these conditions include constipation, hemorrhoids, varicose veins,
Fourth stage: Finally, with full Westernization of the diet, other chronic
degenerative or potentially lethal diseases, including heart disease, cancer,
osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout, become extremely common.
Since the publication in Western Diseases of Burkitt and Trowell's pioneering
research, a virtual landslide of data has continually verified the role of the
Western diet as the key factor in virtually every chronic disease, but
especially in obesity and diabetes. In 1984, the Food and Nutrition Board of the
National Research Council established the Committee on Diet and Health to
undertake a comprehensive analysis on diet and major chronic diseases. Their
findings, as well as those of the U.S. surgeon general, the National Cancer
Institute, and other highly respected medical groups brought to the forefront
the need for Americans to change their eating habits to reduce their risk for
chronic disease. Table 1.2 lists diseases with convincing links to a diet low in
plant foods. Many of these now-common diseases were extremely rare before the
Trends in U.S. Food Consumption
During the twentieth century, food consumption patterns changed dramatically.
Total dietary fat intake increased from 32 percent of calories in 1909 to 43
percent by the end of the century; carbohydrate intake dropped from 57 percent
to 46 percent; and protein intake has rem...
Paperback: 912 pages
Publisher: Atria (September 20, 2005)