Variety is the price, not the spice, of life
Tens of thousands of years ago, when our body chemistry was evolving, humans had a choice of hundreds of different kinds of plant and animal foods. That is what nature has designed for us so why are we squandering such abundant variety? A more important question: can we afford to ignore the cornucopia that our bodies require for good health?
Our lack of nutritional diversity is obvious in the produce section of any supermarket. Count the vegetables. You’ll find between 30 and 40 – but not really. There are three or four varieties of carrots, lettuce and cabbage and perhaps four or five varieties of tomatoes. The differences between them are really pretty small compared to what our Stone Age ancestors enjoyed thousands of years ago.
Nothing illustrates this better than birds and their eggs. How many species of birds (and their eggs) would you have encountered back in the Stone Age? Certainly more than the only two in our modern markets: chickens and turkeys and only the former provide us with eggs. How boring!
Ninety percent of the worlds’ food supply comes from only 17 plant species. When we discarded the rest we also lost the diversity of protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that a varied diet produces, to say nothing of scores of different flavors. When the first farmers limited their food supply mostly to cereal grains that are easy to cultivate, harvest and store, they became more prone to disease, had smaller stature and shorter lifespans.
A first step in regaining diversity might be to explore genuine ethnic foods – Chinese, Indian, South American and Vietnamese. Take your time to explore your favorite produce department. I’ll bet that you’ll find at least three or four vegetables and fruits that you’ve never tried. It’s a start.
Continuing the Annoyances of Aging: loss of appetite.
If you’ve noticed that your interest in food has decreased or that you feel full earlier than a few years ago, the most likely reason is that you have become less active and your body just doesn’t need as many calories. Of course if your appetite has not changed in spite of your being less active, you’re likely to gain weight, something that is quite typical in the modern age.
Along with gray hair and wrinkles we begin to lose our sense of taste and smell, so food just doesn’t seem as appetizing. I consider that a plus; nature is accommodating our decreased need for calories.
Several different prescription medications can depress the appetite, including pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), opiates, blood pressure medications, antibiotics and chemotherapy.
Sometimes the loss of appetite is a sign of a medical problem and there are two that are rather subtle and have few other symptoms: thyroid disease and depression.
When there are other symptoms such as weight loss, increasing fatigue, a change in urinary pattern or persistent cough it’s time for a doctor’s visit. With early treatment conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer are likely to have a favorable outcome.