Beginner's Mind - The Buddhist Diet

Hi Everyone!

I've written many times on this site about the common sense logic of diet and nutrition and how what we choose to eat transcends all the years of expensive "scientific research" to determine the healthiest way to eat (even if people did listen to scientists...).

There is a Zen Buddhist saying: "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's there are few."

There are a lot of nutrition "experts" out there.

Experts have already got it all figured out, so they don't really need to pay attention to what's really happening anymore, and that's a shame. Because truth and reality wait for no one.

In corporate America, I saw the experts' minds at work all the time - PhD scientists running about "proving" how this or that "active ingredient" was the "magic bullet" that made a food "healthy." Not very much useful ever came out of all that "expert" activity. Humans are increasingly overfed and malnourished, because we (collectively) are putting garbage into our (collective) bodies. We don't eat "magic bullets." We eat food.

Transcending all the "expert" opinions about diet, which never seem to reach a consensus anyway, is the fact that human beings evolved on this planet eating a whole food natural diet scavenged from nature with little processing. Set aside the organic, unprocessed nature of the diet, and common sense tells you that human beings are still around because our ancestors "adapted" to the natural environment around them, including the nutritional environment of available foods.

That's a reality not even a scientist would dispute.

A beginner's mind is open to the idea that if we evolved on an omnivorous all natural whole food diet, containing fruit, vegetables, nuts, and lean meat (and very little grain and refined sugar/fat), perhaps such a diet is best suited to our current genetic makeup and biochemistry.

Evolution is a slow process and our ancestors were hunter-gatherers for most of the time that Homo sapiens roamed the planet trying to survive and prosper. We are opportunists by nature and this helped us survive in different habitats and climates. Even though the species of food animals and plants may have differed from place to place, some basic features of the diet remained consistent. Game animals were low in fat and rich in nutrients, because they too were feeding off the available food in the natural environment. Before agriculture, humans collected food from the environment, and besides cooking there was little other processing. Grains were virtually non-existent in the diet because they were difficult to collect in the wild, and the human digestive system cannot handle grains without significant processing (grinding to flour to make the available nutrients accessible in the digestive tract). Our ancestors had no use for grains when plenty of other foods were available. In fact, it is ONLY through agriculture that human populations have been able to grow so quickly.

Many "experts" will argue that from a purely Darwinian perspective, the human race is doing great. The human population of the Earth is exploding and humans now inhabit almost every niche on the planet. "Survival of the fittest" is a misnomer. It is basically only concerned with how well species reproduce themselves. The health ("fitness" in the sense most people think of it when they go to the gym...) of individual members of a species is irrelevant. As long as the species is procreating and multiplying, it is considered "fit" in the view of Darwinists.

Those experts...

But a population that over-populates also eventually exceeds the ecosystem's ability to support it. Just look at the current mass die-off of honey bees. Honey bees are a great example of the dichotomy between population "fitness" and individual "fitness." Most honey bees are sterile worker bees (they lack Darwinian "fitness" notwithstanding their physical "fitness" for flying around and making honey all day long...). It is the queen and a handful of select males that are responsible for reproducing the entire species. The queen doesn't do a lick of useful "work." She just sits around getting fat and laying eggs. Most individual bees are completely UNFIT from a Darwinian perspective. And the honey bee crisis we are now seeing illustrates that eventually even a population's "fitness" goes down the tubes.

Human beings have been surviving on the surface of what I call a "diet bubble" that is a non-renewable resource. It will eventually burst, as most bubbles do. Because of the relatively recent prevalence of fossil fuels, humans have been able to MANUFACTURE a synthetic diet based largely on vast monocultures of corn and soybeans, foods that are not suitably matched to the Paleolithic origins of modern day human biology. Such foods would not exist on such a scale in nature. It requires the huge energy inputs possible with fossil fuels to maintain this "diet bubble" based on corn and soybeans.

Humans can survive on such a diet long enough to reproduce, but they often die of chronic diseases in later life. Chronic diseases are a direct result of the malfunction of human biology in response to an incompatible diet. In the few populations of hunter-gatherers still around, you never find heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or other chronic diseases until these populations adopt a "Western" diet. Then they get these diseases in epidemic proportions.

Some insect larvae metamorphose into adults that lack a functional digestive tract. Their goal is simply to mate and lay eggs before they die of starvation in a matter of hours or days, then the cycle starts again. This system works great for the insects as a species. Their Darwinian "fitness" is through the roof. Just ask the spawning salmon who eat them as they race upstream to mate before they too die a sudden, post-coital death.

In a sick way, modern humans often die the same way, just over a much longer period of time. We have plenty of food and a great lack of actual nutrition in the diet. People consume more calories than ever, but the food is so devitalized and low in nutrition, that they are essentially starving themselves. But not before they are able to mate and start the next generation of malnourished humans.

It is only since the industrial revolutions in both agriculture and energy that human populations have sky-rocketed. The current human population could not be supported if the synthetic, fossil-fuel based food system were to disappear, and it eventually will.

I hope you were not looking for a happy ending. There isn't one. Try to shrink your ecological footprint as much as you can and enjoy life to the fullest while you still can. You can eat a whole food diet and enjoy a long healthy life as a "fit" individual.

Unfortunately, humanity as we know it is doomed.


1. Cardiovascular Disease Resulting From a Diet and Lifestyle at Odds With Our Paleolithic Genome: How to Become a 21st-Century Hunter-Gatherer. (FREE FULL TEXT)
2. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. (FREE FULL TEXT)
3. The paradoxical nature of hunter-gatherer diets: meat-based, yet non-atherogenic. (FREE FULL TEXT)

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