A Blueprint for Life
When HETN’s onetime CEO, Geoff Douglas, was a child growing up in Zambia, the people grew millet, sorghum and maize, which was pounded at home by the women. They also grew cassava, ground nuts, sweet potato, pumpkin and cabbage. Pumpkin is a wonderful vegetable because it is possible to eat the fruit, the leaves and the seeds. Land preparation was mostly done by hand, which precluded deep ploughing. The women used to forage for herbs, roots, shoots, fruits and wild spinach. Geoff remembers his mother’s indignation as all the young hibiscus shoots disappeared from her carefully tended garden hedge. Intake of protein was modest and consisted of chicken, eggs, dried kapenta (a lake sardine), caterpillars and flying ants (termites), when these were in season. The important point is that the people were consuming a balanced diet, and they were healthy.
Enter the agricultural experts. Africans were told that they had no clue. They were taught to grow one crop – maize. This is what is meant by monoculture. They were taught to deep plough and to use NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) fertilisers to maximise yield. Over time, this ensured soil depletion and a steady decline in the nutrient content of the maize. They were discouraged from pounding the maize at home and eating it whole grain. Instead, they were introduced to the perfection of refined white maize meal, from which most of the nutrients have been removed. Today, this is the staple food of Southern Africa. The other staples are bread, which is mostly refined, white sugar, traditional margarine and cooking oil. Most people in urban areas cannot afford much protein, but sweets and sugary soft drinks are popular. Consumption of fruits and vegetables is minimal. And, surprise, surprise, all manner of chronic degenerative diseases are on the increase.
When you look at what is in supermarket trolleys in the UK today, you soon realise that this problem is global. The current UK medical advice is that the ideal daily diet should contain five servings of fruit and vegetables, a moderate amount of unrefined carbohydrate and protein, and that it should be low in fat, sugar and salt. It is important for the reader to understand that this ‘sensible’ advice is predicated on purely observational data. It has never been tested in any sort of scientific trial, so it ought to be roundly rejected by the rationalists. On similar ‘flimsy’ evidence, we now believe that vegetable protein is healthy and that the fat should contain some omega oils. The ‘experts’ now tell us that modern margarine is healthier than butter, but that trans fats are extremely dangerous to health. They omit to tell us that this trans fat, or hydrogenated oil, is the traditional margarine that they used to insist was so healthy. Doctors remain adamant that we do not need any supplements; the 5-a-Day idea being their attempt to cope with all those micronutrients that they only vaguely understand.
Few people follow any of this advice, and there is so much conflicting information out there, it is no wonder that the general public is confused. What is not in doubt is that there is an explosion in the prevalence of chronic degenerative diseases, including obesity and diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease (CVD), mental illness and dementia, and disorders of immunity, including cancer, asthma and arthritis. All of these are disorders of lifestyle. We are told that we are living longer – but few of us are living more healthily.
Modus Vivendi is HETN’s attempt to present the truth, remove the confusion, and empower the reader to take responsibility for his or her health and wellbeing.
So, let us embark together on this journey of radical lifestyle change. We begin with our food. Come back often, and click on whatever interests you in the menu items under this heading.