Our Bedrugged Lives

Well, for a while it became just that. But this was only the care required for a strategic weapon, the management of strategic foods like milk and vegetables, to help England weather the nutritionally difficult years of World War II. After that, food was no more the care of statesmen than equitable education or sound medical care.

Today, with the proliferation of chemically and hormonally treated food plants, processed foods, junk foods, genetically altered foods, and so on, the care of statesmen about our food supply is more crucial than ever. But that is also wishful thinking, or as the Greeks would say, pious yearnings. Social revolutions came and went, but Professor Armstrong’s dietary throes were thrown away together with the last food rations.

“Most of our food isn’t food in the ordinary sense but just fuel,” wrote Armstrong in 1934. Since then so many good things were taken out of our foods, and so many bad things added, that our food is not just fuel, but the wrong fuel. Eating largely against the instructions of our genes, has filled our stomach, our blood vessels, and our body cells with chemical drugs.

“The primary meaning of the word ‘drug’ is dry. The ancient medicines were dried herbs. Very few herbs are in medicinal use today; instead their active principles are extracted,” lamented the good professor. Understandably. Herbs, dry or fresh, cannot be the objects of exclusive patents. Extracted principles can, and are. Besides, “not often can an exact picture be formed of the effect of a drug,” continued Armstrong. This is the long story of drug side effects, which can only be reasonably appreciated by reading through the pages of Physician’s Drug or Desk Encyclopedia or similar publications. It is also partly the story of about 100,000 deaths a year in the US alone, caused by medical mistakes. Large part of that is directly attributable to drug side effects. Non-fatal effects such as pain, morbidity, general misery, incapacitation, and so on are not counted. They are simply too many, and are not marked by what the health professions euphemistically call “end-events,” where there can be no mistake in the counting.

What can you do to avoid going on the drug ride? Simple answer: Eat right. But is that so simple? No, the answer is simple; the process is not. But if you are still a reasonably healthy person, and you start by eating natural foods, like wholegrain cereals, legumes or pulses, green vegetables and fresh fruits in season, olive oil instead of butter, fatty fish which has the eminent advantage of being both easily available and inexpensive, yogurt and low-fat cheeses, dry fruits, seeds and nuts, if you limit your intake of red meat to once a week, and drink some wine in moderation together with your meals, you are hardly likely to go wrong.

In other words, if you adopt the traditional Mediterranean diet and cuisine, you will have taken an intelligent first step towards keeping your health while enjoying delicious meals.

You may have to change a few of these things, if you find you are allergic to some of them, or because they do not become your blood group, your ancestry, or your genetic code. But that is no great problem. Others can take their place. Human beings are highly adaptable, for otherwise they would have disappeared long ago.

Then discussing the vitamins and minerals we need, Armstrong added: “One great fact that stands out in connection with all the minute components of our food is that, little as man may want of each of them, to produce a complete effect, the mens sana in corpore sano, they must be used together and in proper balance.”

“We are necessarily wedded to Nature and committed to her care,” wrote Armstrong in conclusion. “Our great task in the future is to produce, cook and use natural foodstuffs to the complete satisfaction of Nature’s demands.” Amen.