Globally, we centre our culture & tradition around food. It joins family, friends, & neighbours, makes us strong, brings us joy, & nourishes. It's provides opportunity & excuse to gather. We show our love by sharing it. Regardless of where you are raised, how little or much is on the table, or whom sits there with you, this basic anthropological condition is fact.
In comparing our food habits in varying regions, they may appear, at first glance, as different as the people consuming it but closer evaluation reveals common trends across.
When dietary practices are examined more closely, however, we increasingly discover that many of the rules of proper food selection are universal. Cross-cultural comparisons reveal certain food combinations that have been chosen independently in many cultures & that have sustained healthy, robust populations for many generations. We can feel confident in applying these rules to the selection of our own food, at leas until we have the opportunity to utilize the methods of laboratory science to verify their validity. (Ballentine.)
An example of this is comparing Japanese & Chinese diets that generally consist of rice & vegetables with a small amount of soybeans or meat, to the Indian diet of rice, fresh vegetables, & dhal (lentils). French cuisine tends to consists of vegetables, soup or salad, with bread & often meat or cheese (in small amounts). All three of these also include some sort of fermented food or beverage. The commonality is generally a grain, a protein, a vegetable, & something fermented. These populations traditionally live long, healthy lives. Examples of similar diets are found in all the oldest cultures, all over the world. They are more difficult to characterize in North-American-European-decedents, it being such a young culture. However, a look at Native diets here show similar parallels.
Canada's Food Guide came out in 1942 during war-time rationing as a way to prevent malnutrition. The layout prioritizes minimum necessities to meet energy & nutritional needs. Serving amounts range based on conditions such as activity-levels & life-stages such as pregnancy. Over the decades, this war-time list evolved to a wheel. Each food group: Grains, Vegetables & Fruits, Dairy, Meats & Alternatives, was given an equal piece of the wheel, again with recommended daily requirements.
It wasn't until the latest revision in 1992 & the adoption of the 'Food Rainbow' that pieces were smaller or larger depending on the priority each group needed to hold in our diet. Emphasis was finally placed Grains, Fruits & Vegetables, with less on Dairy, Meats & Alternatives. We did however keep the '4 food group model'.
Countries such as Australia have adopted a 'Five Food Group' model which puts Fruits in it's own category, with Legumes & Vegetables together. However, they continue to focus on Meat & Dairy products, suggesting that these are requirements to human health. While some constitutions may have a difficult time adapting to a vegetarian or vegan diet, these models are somewhat incomplete & short sighted.
Returning to the above mentioned universal diet, we witness certain common trends that compose an ideal '5 Food Group' model. These are listed below in order of quantity priority:
Grains tend to be consumed in the largest quantity. They should be whole grains, sprouted when possible, & as unprocessed as possible.
- Legumes are usually paired with grains. If you recall our earlier post about Protein Pairing we wrote a general rule of thumb is 2:1, grains:legume for a complete amino acid (protein) profile. They are also best when sprouted for easier digestion & optimal nutrition.
- Vegetables are essential for their dense vitamin & mineral content & may include food such as squash, beans, & peas. These can be cooked.
- Raw Food is often fruit when in season & available. It's often prized & consumed on its own but can also be included in main meals as sprouts or salads.
- The fifth & final group is the B12 group. It can include foods like meat & dairy but does not need to. B12 is an essential nutrient we will go into in depth, in a coming post, but what's important to remember, is that it does not come directly from its food sources. B12 is the result of micro-organisms, so while animal products are the most direct way to it, it is far from the only way. Furthermore, we only need the smallest amount to maintain optimal health. Vegan B12 sources include fermented food such as miso, sauerkraut, & fermented wine. These sources are not always reliable however, so it's important to read all associated labels to be certain.
By keeping these universal guidelines in mind while making your food choices, you will be able to maintain the robust health, cultures around the world have enjoyed for generations.