Dietary monotony — bad for your health

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

September 2013

America's supermarkets and specialty food outlets carry tens of thousands of items that range from the mundane to the truly exotic. Visit an ethnic grocery store and you'll find thousands more. Yet except for gourmet cooks and the truly adventurous food enthusiasts most Americans have an astonishingly boring diet.

Planet earth is blessed with a mind-boggling array of plant and animal foods. Your corner supermarket is not. The produce section might have a dozen types of fruit and perhaps 30 kinds of vegetables but the average American eats only a couple of servings a day of plant foods. Among adolescents it is a pitiful 0.9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day! The most common vegetables in our diet are potatoes (mostly in the form of French fries), tomatoes and lettuce. When was the last time you had collard greens, parsnips, okra or turnips, all of which were regular fare in colonial times? Bananas are our favorite fruit with apples a close second. Many adolescents, in actual surveys, have never tasted cantaloupe, cherries or figs.

Early humans could choose from many types of game, both large and small. Native Americans brought down bear and bison, deer and elk and other large game. Your local supermarket stocks only three kinds of "large game": beef, pork and lamb. Scores of wildfowl species were everyday menu items as recently as Colonial times. Our poultry choices are but two: chicken and turkey. Except for hunters' families, few have feasted on duck, goose, quail or pheasant. Stone Age children were probably sent out to find birds' eggs and had their pick of a hundred species. We have only one kind of egg available, although it comes in brown and white. And insects? Don't even ask!

Variety matters. Every kind of plant has unique nutrients including thousands of antioxidants. That is no celestial accident. As plant species involved they were subjected to free radicals, cell-damaging chemicals that were produced by solar radiation and atmospheric toxins. The animals that ate plants absorbed these protective antioxidants. In order to obtain all the nutrients and antioxidants that we have evolved to require we need a more varied diet than most of us consume.

For starters try something besides iceberg lettuce. Most supermarkets display several kinds of cabbage and a variety of tomatoes. Add one new vegetable and one new fruit to your shopping cart on every trip. Even the kids might like them.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.