Is the western diet causing malnutrition?

Updated 2 November 2006 see note at the end of this article

The government and media are so concerned with obesity that it seems absurd to think that we in the western world may be malnourished. The terms malnourished and malnutrition are reserved for poverty stricken third world countries.
Most think that the cause of obesity is too much food and malnutrition is thought to be caused by too little food.

Malnutrition is signs in the body of bad nutrition, whether it is too little, too much or of poor quality.

The body’s design is that it should function fully and properly. So what is happening when the body ceases to provide the required functions? Just like a car, you cannot put unleaded fuel into a diesel engine, the engine eventually gives up and the car breaks down. So in the same manner you cannot expect your body to function fully if you are not feeding it the right fuel.

It is not enough to consume a few nuts when we are hungry or eat a piece of toast despite it being organic wholemeal bread. We need to be responsible and put a balance of good nutrients in our bodies at every meal. The nutrients we need to consume are: Water, carbohydrates, proteins, fat/oils, vitamins, minerals and fibre.

So what is the right food for normal body functions?

I’ll start by telling you what I think the Wrong Food is:
Finely graded white flours
White sugar
Table salt
Low fat spreads, cheeses, yoghurts
Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk
Processed cheese
Hard vegetable fat
Cooking oils like refined sunflower oil
White rice
Instant mash
Vegetables and fruits without their skins
Fruit squashes
Coca cola and fizzy drinks

Basically all the foods we live off today. I have put cereals as not a right food because generally they are highly processed with so little nutrients left in them after processing that nutrients have to be added. Much better to make your own muesli using wholegrains and nuts with freshly chopped apples and bananas.

These are the symptoms of malnutrition
Oedema (water retention)
Large abdomen and spleen
Dry hair
Hair loss
Spoon shaped nails
White spots on nails (lack of zinc)
Weight loss
Red gums
White ‘fur’ (fungus) on tongue
Brown and/or white marks on teeth
Muscle loss

Are these the diseases of malnutrion?:
Thyroid disease
Kidney, Heart and Liver disease
High or Low blood pressure
Anti-social behaviour

So what is the Right Food for proper body function?
Whole grains
Flour ground from WHOLE grains
Whole grain rice (not brown rice which can be stained white rice)
Whole organic milk
Olive Oil
Unrefined sugar
Sea salt
Matured cheese in its rind
Whole milk plain yoghurts
Freshly butchered meat (not processed)
Fresh fish
Fresh vegetables keeping skins on where appropriate
Fresh fruit keeping skins on where appropriate
Please note that grains and whole grain flours can go rancid and should be kept in an airtight tin in the fridge. They should be bought from stores with a high turnover of these products and consumed within 3 months or the eat by date.

What foods are really good for you?
Milk has gone out of fashion but it is a really good food. It is a complete food which is why it is good for babies if they can tolerate it. Organic milk seems to have more quality nutrients in without the pesticides and it could be the pesticides causing milk allergy.
Lactose intolerance can be improved and eliminated, click on the link.
Whoever coined the phrase that cow’s milk is for calves only, is wrong. We eat the meat of animals so why not the milk? Unfortunately due to poor or bad – mal – nutrition the immune system can weaken and allergies can result; milk being the Number One allergen.
However in people that have improved their nutrition, their allergy has improved and sometimes disappeared. So bring on the whole grain rice milk puddings; and the glass of cold milk and wholemeal biscuit for children after school that was popular in the 50s.

Protein is another food source that is misunderstood. Good protein sources are: fresh meat, fresh fish, eggs, cheese, milk, grains, rice and nuts. We need protein but we do not need too much. On average we need about 54 grams of protein a day depending on what we weigh and what we do. An 8 oz steak has 56 grams of protein. Calcium is used for protein assimilation and if too much protein is consumed and not enough calcium then the calcium is robbed from our bones.

Seeds, anything that is a seed whether it is frozen peas or whole grains or pulses are full of good oils, protein, vitamins and minerals.

In the days when milk was fashionable, we all had enough calcium and protein. Now many leave without breakfast or even a glass of milk in the mornings and snack on crisps or chocolate bars with no nutritional values. Then supplements are consumed to make up for the deficit.

Supplements can never take the place of good food.

Supplements are in effect like medicines.

The potent part of a medicine has been taken from a plant or animal but because it is not with the components it is grown with and because it is in such potent concentrations it has an effect in the body that can result in contraindications causing more problems in the body.

A supplement is not in such potent strengths and is generally in a more natural form but it is still a substance that has been separated from the components it naturally grew with. They are useful substances with little or no contraindications and sometimes little effect.

The nutrients in food work exceptionally well in the body when they arrive in the form they grew in.

In a supplement the specific nutrient has been separated from the elements it grew with and that isolated nutrient doesn’t perform as well in the body without its full complement of the elements it was grown with.

Which is probably why supplements work for one person and not another.
One person taking a supplement may inadvertantly have the complementing elements from their food sources for that supplement to work fully, as opposed to someone taking the same supplement without the complementing elements in their diet therefore the supplement doesn’t work as well.

Scurvy is a disease caused by the deficit of fresh fruit. Sailors at sea for months at a time eating foods preserved in salt and no fresh foods got scurvy. Scurvy was eventually controlled when vitamin C from a brew from certain leaves in India in the 16th century and lemon juice for sailors in the 18th century was introduced.
Is it the isolated Vitamin C that kept scurvy at bay or the lemons containing the vitamin C?

Does it matter? Well not for the scurvy argument it may not but for the malnutrition argument I think it does. We are undernourished because of the foods we eat and to compensate we use supplements when what our bodies desperately need is good wholesome food.

Please perservere and read this article about BeriBeri, the symptoms are startling similar to many other ‘illnesses’ including ME/CFS and thyroid disease. I am not suggesting that illnesses have been misdiagnosed I am suggesting that those with an illness are malnourished. The symptoms of being malnourished are different in everyone. I think a disease is named based on what is shown to be lacking in blood tests and other tests. The diagnosis’ may be different in individuals, but I think the solution is the same. Good whole grain foods and no refined, preserved or overly purified foods.

Will eating properly cure all diseases? Well … ‘wouldn’t that be loverly’! I don’t know. But it will strengthen the immune system which will help to fight disease.

So how do I nourish myself properly?
The short answer is:

By eating a balanced diet.

The long answer is:

Whole grain muesli with milk or yoghurt
Freshly squeezed fruit juice
Glass of water

Wholemeal sandwich with freshly cooked chicken or egg or fish with lettuce and tomato.
Apple and banana

Wholemeal biscuit or fruit cake (made from the Right Food list) or handful of nuts
Cup of Green tea

Fresh meat or fish 4 – 6 ounces
Wholegrain rice or potatoes with their skins or wholemeal pasta
Green vegetable, carrots and another vegetable

You may be interested in this article by Patrick Holford slamming milk. I have written to Patrick Holford to ask him if any studies or comparisons were conducted on Organic Milk. I have pointed out that organic milk is a better and cheaper food source than junk food. That I think the nation is suffering from malnutrition because milk has been substituted with junk food. There was no need in his article to mention again that breast milk is best for babies. Of-course it is but there are occasions when breast milk is not available and animal milk has to be used. I have pointed out that it is production methods which make milk bad not the milk itself and that organic milk is still a cheap and valuable form of nutrition.

I would be interested to hear what you think.

7 thoughts on “Is the western diet causing malnutrition?

  1. Hi Dave
    Other calcium rich foods are green leafy vegetables and bottled mineral water such as Evian. Check the labels of bottled water to see which is higher in calcium.

  2. Hi Dave
    Your email address isn’t working so you won’t get the comment alert. This is an update on calcium rich foods. Calcium is a mineral and should be found naturally in the soil, so anything grown will have calcium in it. Seeds and nuts inparticular some being richer than others – almonds for example. Hope this helps! Marianne

  3. Hi Marianne – I’m interested that you don’t feature the all-pervading soya in your recommendations. I do have soya milk with added calcium etc but increasingly am having organic semi-skimmed milk and yoghurt, as I read an article that says that soya that hasn’t been fermented (anything except tamari, tempeh and miso) hasn’t had the phytic acid taken out so will leach calcium from our bones! However others say that high protein diets mean a greater need for calcium…
    Also, I don’t see what’s wrong with marge if it’s the non-hydrogenated and non-trans fats type like Olivio.
    I also have a problem with grains as I don’t digest them very easily – ie can’t have loads of beans with brown rice – but I do have beans mixed with veg and potatoes, and I do have hummus, and tend to have spelt bread as slightly wheat intolerant, though I also have wholemeal bread as well. But generally nice to have someone who has pretty similar diet to me and recommending it!

  4. Click on the word Soya for some disturbing facts about this ‘food’. I think this warrants another article in itself. Lecithin is a good fat but it is generally from soya. I can’t eat anything with soya in as it makes me ill. Soya is found in bread, biscuits, pastries, cakes, gravies, sauces, margarines, spreads, mayonnaises, chocolate, sweets infact the food industry is saturating us with it!

    Olivio, is owned by Princes which also owns Flora. I was once told by Whole Earth that where you read mono and di-glycerides of fatty acids read trans fats. Olive Oil is naturally runny. So how did they make it thick and spreadable? I don’t eat anything when the product has ingredients in that I don’t understand which includes plant sterols (do they grow in the garden?).

    I do believe that we need to get back to a natural diet. It will mean a lot more food preparation on our part (not all the time) but that is what makes eating fun and sociable which is the point of eating – a family/friend time where we actually listen to each other while cooking and eating.

    I cannot tolerate pulses (beans etc) because they take a lot of digestion by the gut and my gut is in a poor state. In most people they generally remain partly digested and then ferment in the gut. I can tolerate some grains: wholegrain buckwheat, wholegrain quinoa and wholegrain rice. I make a porridge out of these grains and add fruit for breakfast. I am hoping that with a back to basic diet I will build up my immune system and some healing will take place.

    I wonder if all foods (including medicines and supplements) not in their natural state pose a huge challenge to a healthy body and to a sick body they make life worse. Therefore when we need medicine or supplements, they should be taken as a short term measure and at the same time we should also implement a lifestyle change to a wholefood diet not rely on the medicine or supplements alone.

  5. fascinating article Marianne, I totally agree that whole foods are definately tolerated more easily by the body I was wondering if you have any thoughts on controlling candida by eating the right things and cutting out the harmful ones. I know about cutting back on sugar but are there any other natural ways other than drowning in live yogurt??

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