What if I told you that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” was a marketing tactic used by the apple industry to promote a fruit that nobody wanted to eat?
What if I told you that the apples you eat aren’t actually apples? And that if you had access to real apples, you probably wouldn’t eat them?
All of this is true, yet the truth in health and fitness is rarely brought out of the shadows.
Say this with me: There are whole foods, but no Whole Foods.
This will all start to make sense as we work through this mind-spinning topic.
But before we get to apples, let’s talk about lies and myths in general, namely the lie that you should be eating nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
What does “fruits and vegetables” mean?
There are up to 10,000 different species of plants that are readily eaten under normal conditions around the world.
One of the best kept secrets in nutrition is the concept of “nutritional diversity.” Rather than focusing on the quantity of plants you eat, you should focus on the quality (nutrient density) and the variety. That promotes real health.
In order to do that, you must understand what you’re eating and what’s available to you. Otherwise, you box yourself into eating a plethora of low-quality plants from the same species (almost certainly what you’re doing right now).
Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m suggesting that you’re eating low quality plants. You’re trying to eat healthy, you’re choosing a variety of fruits and vegetables, you shop at Whole Foods—what’s the problem?
Do you remember me saying that there are up to 10,000 species of readily consumed edible plants on the planet? How many of those do you think make it to your local Whole Foods?
On any given shopping trip, you’re choosing from 20 to 30 species of plants. And if you don’t know what those different species are, your selection of plants may all be from a single species.
Let’s say you load up your cart with cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, savoy, kohlrabi and Chinese kale. Such diversity! A huge win, right?
Actually, there’s no diversity there whatsoever. All of those plants are from the same species. That’s a problem.
Don’t worry, the story gets worse.
Those plants you’re choosing aren’t “natural foods,” as advertised.
The real food movement is in full swing. People are realizing the power of going back to eating “natural” foods—whole foods.
A note before we continue: what I’m about to tell you can easily make you want to throw up your hands and say, “I give up.” For now, just consider this “educational.” I’m not saying you have to immediately make more adjustments to your lifestyle. But there’s value in knowing the truth.
Here’s the deal: the fruits and vegetables you eat today, primarily, are not natural. They’re not even close to natural.
The meat you eat today is not natural, either. We’re told by Whole Foods (and others) that they’re focused on supplying these “natural” and “healthy,” “whole” foods.
What they’re really supplying you with is a minimal choice of heavily domesticated, genetically selected plants. The meat they’re supplying you with is also genetically selected, heavily domesticated, and from a very narrow species window.
The domestication of plants and animals marked the death of nutritional potency and diversity.
To be clear, this discussion has nothing to do with hating the idea of not eating natural foods. It has everything to do with the decline of human health.
Hippocrates famously said, “let food be thy medicine.” Most people think that shifting back to eating “real food” is a great way to abide by Hippocrates’ suggestion.
It is. But at the same time, it isn’t.
Only truly natural food can be thy “medicine.” Domesticated foods aren’t medicine because their potency has been dramatically reduced through the domestication process.
This is especially true with plants. A good rule of thumb is that bitterness is positively correlated with nutritional value (this is not an absolute. It’s a rule of thumb. If you don’t know the difference, don’t leave a comment).
Nutritional plants are bitter so you won’t eat too much of them. And because they’re so potent, you don’t need to eat a lot to get the medicine.
You can sit down at Whole Foods and eat a gigantic bowl of salad full of domesticated lettuce. You’d be hard pressed to sit down and eat a bowl of dandelion.
100 grams of Dandelion has over 10,000 IU of Vitamin A while your precious iceberg lettuce hovers somewhere around 500 IU.
In fact, Dandelion trounces all domestic lettuce in nearly every important micronutrient category.
Dandelion trounces a lot of things. It has seven times the phytonutrient content of spinach, yet it’s sprayed down as a menace while we fight tooth and nail with chemical and economic warfare to keep lettuce alive on modern farms.
You can’t eat a lot of dandelion because it’s quite bitter and bitterness isn’t desired in today’s food culture. It’s also not desired by your brain. We’d much prefer to eat foods that taste sweeter. Or, at least, not bitter.
We’ve achieved this flavor manipulation through our system of agricultural domestication, which affords us the opportunity to make genetic selections in the breeding process.
Over time, we take natural, wild foods and make them much more palatable (and larger). But we’re not just changing the flavor, we’re changing the entire nutritional profile. And we’re creating foods that can’t survive without us.
We do the same with meat. Most people hardly eat wild game anymore. And even the domesticated cow, which is still decent when fed a diet of grass, is knocked down ten more notches when we pump it full of hormones and feed it grain.
What’s prized in beef? Marbling (occurs from grain feeding). Mild flavor. Less “gaminess.”
Animals are genetically selected and bred to produce meat we prefer to eat because our own domestication process has softened us. If you haven’t noticed, humans are doing a wonderful job of domesticating themselves.
Along with cows, pigs and chickens are both domesticated, un-natural animals. And like cows, both eat un-natural diets. Chickens are supposed to eat bugs. Yours eat corn and soy.
Wild game and wild plants trounce their domesticated counterparts in all aspects of nutrition. We need to eat more calories (and more sugar) in a domesticated diet to give our bodies what we need. It turns out that has severe consequences.
Don’t worry, it gets worse.
Have you ever wondered why we need to spray our foods with pesticides?
Natural foods are hardy. They survive on their own. In fact, our domesticated society has to work to keep these plants in check when they get too close to our societal boundaries.
If you planted wild cabbage in your front yard, it would take over everything without a care in the world. We have to purposefully kill fields of dandelion because they will continue to spread and overtake our “real” plants.
Now contrast that with domesticated plants. Farmers have to be like plant doctors. They have to treat the land a special way, they have to coddle the plants, they have to protect the plants from insects and weeds, and they have to provide water from external sources. Domesticated plants are delicate. They’ll never threaten to overgrow and steal more position.
To produce shiny plants that are clean and appealing in Whole Foods, we spray them with chemicals and genetically engineer them to last longer after they’re picked and on their own.
Organic doesn’t mean “natural.” Organic means that this un-natural, delicate, domesticated plant had even more coddling from the farmer so that the harsh pesticides could be avoided.
That doesn’t mean organic is bad, I just don’t want you to be confused. You should still buy organic because you don’t want the pesticides, but don’t think that organic means “natural.”
The entire “food” supply is a farce.
Even if you try really hard to eat healthy, everything you eat is domesticated. It’s less nutritious, requiring you to eat more calories and more sugar overall.
Remember, this is just for educational purposes. Success is a scale. I’m telling you that it’s REALLY hard to be a 10. The good news is that you don’t have to be a 10.
Right now, most people are a 2. You can easily get to a 6 or 7 with basic adjustments and have a body and life you love. With a little extra effort you can be an 8 or 9 and supercharge that.
But it only takes a few pictures to tell the story of our bogus food supply. Compare the wild version of each food with the domesticated version. Could you even recognize the wild version if you came upon it? And rest assured, the taste and nutritional profile is about as different as the appearance.
You would never eat the apples on the left. They’re only “good” for making cider. The apples on the right, which you’re told to eat every day for “health,” are not natural. They’re large, less nutritious, and have exponentially more sugar.
Have you ever seen that thing on the left? It’s like alien food, isn’t it? Look how pretty and big the bananas on the right are!
If you were out in the wild, would you be able to spot wild celery?
Wild rice has less carbs, more fiber, and more nutrients. White rice has to be “enriched” to provide nutrition.
Would you recognize a wild strawberry? Look how big and shiny the one’s on the right are. Definitely not “natural.”
Similar…but very different.
How did cabbage get so pretty?
Fatter, less able, practically hairless, wowzers.
A lot of the foods we consider “natural” like oranges, broccoli, and cauliflower are virtually unknown in the wild. Onions, garlic, scallions, leeks and all other “alliums” are all hybrids of the wild onion and garlic plant.
Remember “food be thy medicine?” Wild lettuce is a narcotic. All the lettuces bred from that? Not so much.
What you should do with this information…
Learning that the entire food supply is a farce can be quite a depressing thing. Or, it can be motivating and inspiring.
Learning about actual food and reconnecting with food and nature is enlightening and empowering. When you learn about what real food actually looks like, you have a clear answer to the question, “What should I be eating?”
The answer to that question also answers “How much?” and “When?” automatically.
When you learn about what real food actually looks like, you see right through concepts like Veganism, Vegetarianism, and Fruitarianism, which are ways of eating that are only afforded to modern culture because of domestication and a very *un-natural* agricultural system.
Again, my intention isn’t to have you obsess over this stuff. It’s just educational. By no means are you going to fail if you don’t implement this information. But this is fascinating stuff, isn’t it? How do you feel about it?
Founder of Rebooted Body and host of The Rebooted Body Podcast. Kevin helps men and women finally get a body and life they love with his unique blend of real food, functional movement, and psychology. To work with him personally, choose a program.