A balanced diet. All nutritionists, most doctors and other experts (like my grandmothers and yours) have always advocated eating a balanced diet. Most still do today. Why? So we have the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats giving us the nutrients and vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Yet in the 1930s it had already become an established fact that eating carbohydrates deplete the many and vital B vitamins from our bodies. The flip side of this fact is that eating carbohydrates increases your need for these vitamins to maintain health. Simple. Eat carbohydrates and you need to eat more vitamin B complex. Sadly, many just swallow a daily pill instead of removing the offending carbs.
Then there’s vitamin C. Having high levels of blood sugar (and we’re not just talking about the many diabetics and pre-diabetics: latest stats = almost 20% of the population have high blood sugar levels and are classified pre-diabetic) mean the body’s requirement for vitamin C goes up. Diabetics have 30% less vitamin C in their bodies because of the high levels of blood sugar, or so says Gary Taubes in his fact-filled tome ‘The Diet Delusion’. Any non-diabetic who eats a carb-rich breakfast or a bread-dominated lunch will have high blood sugar for a time – high blood sugar means your vitamin C levels will go down. The reason is simple. The vitamin C molecule is somewhat similar in construction to the glucose molecule. Glucose muscles the vitamin C out of the way and is taken up preferentially by the cells. The vitamin C that is not absorbed into the body’s cells is wasted, peed out with the urine. That means you need to eat more vitamin C rich foods to flood your system – but only if you are eating carbs.
A famous experiment in 1928 saw two men, both well-known Scandinavian explorers who had lived with meat-eating Inuit tribes, confine their food to that of fatty meat only – about two pounds a day, 2600 calories more or less – for an entire year. I can’t imagine a more unbalanced diet. The men were supervised by scientists from such impressive universities as Harvard, Cornell and Johns Hopkins – and the scientists performed frequent checks of psychological and physical variables including the analysis of the men’s urine to make sure the men weren’t breaking the meat-only diet. But they stayed the course for the year as instructed. Both men took off some weight with their meat and fat-rich diet, as we would expect with no carbohydrates, but, to the surprise of many, they did not develop scurvy. You’ll remember scurvy is caused by too little vitamin C, a deficiency disease that killed sailors and explorers regularly unless sources of vitamin C, like the pickled veggies/sauerkraut used by Cook, or the limes of the British navy, were added to their diet.
Doctors also predicted Stefansson and Anderson would develop a severe depletion of magnesium and calcium (vital to many activities within the body) because the acid-rich diet promotes excretion of minerals, but they did not. And those B vitamins: they were not eating the husks of rice or barley, the traditional preventatives of vitamin B1 deficiency (beriberi), just fatty meat. Yet Stefansson and Anderson remained healthy. The amount of vitamins and minerals found within the meats they were eating was perfectly adequate to maintain their health. Their blood pressures were good and they had masses of energy in spite of a rather sedentary life style.
Stefansson and Anderson got away with eating such an unbalanced diet because they were eating no carbohydrates.
Do I recommend a meat-only diet? Nope. It’s expensive and it lacks variety. So I recommend some carbs? Not particularly, but all veggies include carbs and I recommend a variety of vegetables, a small piece of fruit every day (half a pear, for instance, or a handful of berries) – eaten with something fatty like butter, olive oil or cream, and protein – eggs, meat or fish. What I don’t recommend is anything sugary or made from flour; white or whole grain, it still raises your blood sugar to unacceptable heights. And depletes you of vitamins.