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High protein or high carb diet?

Why do people follow a high-protein diet?

Salmon with spinach - a high protein/low-carb option

Salmon with spinach – a high protein/low-carb option

In order to lose weight, many people are following either a high-protein/medium-fat/low-carb diet, or a raw-vegan diet  (high-carb/low-protein/low-fat). The high-protein diets (Paleo/Atkins/Harcombe etc) are very popular as they almost guarantee weight loss without having to count calories or restrict portions. How does this work? We need to look at what happens to food when it’s digested.

Very simply:

  • When carbohydrates are eaten and digested, glucose is created, which goes into the bloodstream as an energy source. If there is too much glucose in the bloodstream at any one time, the pancreas injects insulin into the bloodstream. This allows the liver to turn the glucose into glycogen and store it for later use (in the liver and muscles). When blood sugar levels drop, the liver converts the glycogen into glucose and pushes it in to the blood stream. Glucose from carbohydrates can only be stored in limited quantities.
  • When protein is eaten it is broken down into bits called amino acids, ready to be reconstructed as the body needs these building blocks. Stored protein can be used as fuel in lean times, when it is broken down into glucose.
  • When fats are eaten they are broken down into fatty acids that travel about in the blood and get used by cells that need the energy. Fatty acids that don’t get used quickly get stored in fat cells (that have unlimited capacity), and when blood sugar is low, the pancreas produces a hormone called lipase which breaks the stored fat into fatty acids and puts them in to the bloodstream, ready to be used for fuel.

In summary: both carbohydrates and fats provide the body with energy, and if there is too much glucose or fatty acids in the bloodstream, these are stored as glycogen and fat for later use.

What this means is that if you sit down and eat a meal of carbohydrates and fat (bread and butter, potato with sour cream, fish and chips) the energy from the carbohydrates will be used first as this is immediately available as glucose, and the energy from the fats will be stored.

If you eat a high-protein/low-carb-medium-fat diet , you have very little glucose in the bloodstream for energy, so the fats you eat provide the energy you need. If you keep your fat intake fairly low, at some stage you will have burned up the fatty acids in your bloodstream, so your body breaks down the fats stored in your fat cells, and you lose weight.

But, before you rush off and buy a leg of beef, be warned – there are inherent dangers in this type of diet:

  • You can increase your risk of osteoporosis as high amounts of protein require high amounts of calcium to digest it, and if you don’t eat enough calcium-rich foods, your body will leach the calcium from your bones.
  • Your kidneys are responsible for filtering protein from the blood, so they can take strain if faced with having to filter high quantities of protein as well as the waste products created when protein is processed.
  • When your body turns fat into energy (whether this is fat you have just eaten or fat in your cells), this creates ketones. Some ketones are used by the brain and heart and other organs as energy. This is why it is important to eat some good-quality fat. However, the ketone acetone can be dangerous.  This normally gets expelled in the breath or urine, but too much in the system can cause death.
  • If your carbs and fat intake are low, your body will break down protein in your tissues, as well as fat in your fat cells, for energy.

Which is natural: high protein or high carb?

First, let’s look at this in a general natural sense. I will show you how animals tend to eat either a high-carb/low-protein/low-fat diet , a high-protein/low-carb/medium-fat diet, or a medium-protein/medium-carb/medium-fat diet, and what they eat has everything to do with their lifestyles and how much energy they expend in daily living and in getting food.

Lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, wild cats, panthers, wild dogs, foxes, wolves etc will hunt an animal to eat, taking some time over the process and not being successful each time they try. They may go for days without food. When they do catch an animal, they eat huge quantities at one time, and they eat the muscles, fat, skin, hair, blood, intestinal matter (which helps digest the food) and bones (which supplies them with calcium and prevents bone density loss as explained above). Their diet is high-protein/medium-fat/low-carb, and when they eat, which is not often, they gorge on food. They exercise vigorously when hunting, but spend the rest of the time being fairly sedentary. Here is a video of lions with their kill:

Horses, bison, elephants, cattle and  some species of baboon eat mainly grass and leaves and any grains and seeds that come with this. This is a high-carb/low-protein/low-fat diet and these animals keep on the move, eating often, yet take time to rest and digest food. This is a video of wild horses grazing:

Monkeys, mice, birds, squirrels and rodents graze all day on fruits, grasses, grains, insects, eggs, nuts and anything else they find edible as suited to their species. This is a video of a Spider monkey eating fruit:

Gorillas and orang-outangs eat leaves, fruits, roots and insects. Chimpanzees and baboons eat anything, including small mammals and birds, if they can catch them.

Those that eat mainly fruits (high-carb/low-protein/low-fat) tend to be very active and eat often. Those that eat a combination of foods and those that eat mainly nuts and seeds (medium-protein/medium-carb/medium-fat) tend to eat less often yet spend a lot of energy finding their food.

So this shows that high-protein and high-carb diets are natural.

Match the type of food you eat to your lifestyle and exercise regime

Orang-outang up a tree eating leaves

Orang-outang eating leaves

In nature, if food is easy to get, it probably has a low energy value, so animals need to eat a lot of it and often. Foods with higher energy values take either a lot of time or a lot of energy (or both) to get hold of, so less of it is eaten (they are not eating all day as do fruit eaters) ensuring that in the natural world, animals don’t eat more food than their bodies need.

This is how nature keeps a perfect balance. Think about it: you don’t see obese monkeys, lions or squirrels, yet they don’t diet. Nature makes sure that the amount of effort and time they are prepared to put into finding food is related to the energy value of the food.

Humans have bypassed this formula, though, and many people who rarely do any vigorous exercise have easy access to high calorie value foods, causing weight problems.

 

Which is the most ethical diet?

Our ethics, as we have seen, involve not killing, especially not killing animals. So, this makes it very difficult to eat an ethical high-protein/low-carb diet, since there is no low-carb plant food available. Thus, we are left with:

  • raw foods (fruits and greens) (high-carb/low-fat/low-protein)
  • grains/legumes/roots/starchy fruits and greens (high-carb/low-fat/low-protein)
  • all of the above plus oils, nuts and seeds (high-carb/medium-fat/medium-protein)

And here is some inspiration for those are still considering going vegan (natural/ethical):

How do you plan your meals as a vegan? Do you struggle with ill-health or weight problems? I would love to hear from you.

Next post: Is food combining natural?

 

Bibliography:

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/5-negative-high-protein-diet-effects.html#b

http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2011/mar/how-the-body-uses-carbohydrates-proteins-and-fats.html

Image credits:

“Hairy Orangutan Eating” by papaija2008

“Salmon With Spinach” by tiramisustudio

 

 

 

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24. High protein or high carb diet?

Why do people follow a high-protein diet?

In order to lose weight, many people are following either a high-protein/medium-fat/low-carb diet, or a raw-vegan diet (high-carb/low-protein/low-fat). The high-protein diets (Paleo/Atkins/Harcombe etc) are very popular as they almost guarantee weight loss without having to count calories or restrict portions. How does this work? We need to look at what happens to food when it’s digested.

Very simply:

  • When carbohydrates are eaten and digested, glucose is created, which goes into the bloodstream as an energy source. If there is too much glucose in the bloodstream at any one time, the pancreas injects insulin into the bloodstream. This allows the liver to turn the glucose into glycogen and store it for later use (in the liver and muscles). When blood sugar levels drop, the liver converts the glycogen into glucose and pushes it in to the blood stream. Glucose from carbohydrates can only be stored as glycogen in limited quantities.
  • When protein is eaten it is broken down into bits called amino acids, ready to be reconstructed as the body needs these building blocks. Stored protein can be used as fuel in lean times, when it is broken down into glucose.
  • When fats are eaten they are broken down into fatty acids that travel about in the blood and get used by cells that need the energy. Fatty acids that don’t get used quickly get stored in fat cells (that have unlimited capacity), and when blood sugar is low, the pancreas produces a hormone called lipase which breaks the stored fat into fatty acids and puts them in to the bloodstream, ready to be used for fuel.

In summary: both carbohydrates and fats provide the body with energy, and if there is too much glucose or fatty acids in the bloodstream, these are stored as glycogen and fat for later use.

What this means is that if you sit down and eat a meal of carbohydrates and fat (bread and butter, potato with sour cream, fish and chips) the energy from the carbohydrates will be used first as this is immediately available as glucose, and the energy from the fats will be stored.baked-potato-522482_640

https://rcm-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?t=naturalethicalfood-21&o=2&p=48&l=st1&mode=books-uk&search=vegan%20high%20carb&nou=1&fc1=000000&lt1=_blank&lc1=3366FF&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

If you eat a high-protein/low-carb-medium-fat diet , you have very little glucose in the bloodstream for energy, so the fats you eat provide the energy you need.

If you keep your fat intake fairly low, at some stage you will have burned up the fatty acids in your bloodstream, so your body breaks down the fats stored in your fat cells, and you lose weight.

But, before you rush off and buy a leg of beef, be warned – there are inherent dangers in this type of diet:

  • You can increase your risk of osteoporosis as high amounts of protein require high amounts of calcium to digest it, and if you don’t eat enough calcium-rich foods, your body will leach the calcium from your bones.
  • Your kidneys are responsible for filtering protein from the blood, so they can take strain if faced with having to filter high quantities of protein as well as the waste products created when protein is processed.
  • When your body turns fat into energy (whether this is fat you have just eaten or fat in your cells), this creates ketones. Some ketones are used by the brain and heart and other organs as energy. This is why it is important to eat some good-quality fat. However, the ketone acetone can be dangerous.  This normally gets expelled in the breath or urine, but too much in the system can cause death.
  • If your carbs and fat intake are low, your body will break down protein in your tissues, as well as fat in your fat cells, for energy.

Which is natural: high protein or high carb?

First, let’s look at this in a general natural sense. I will show you how animals tend to eat either a high-carb/low-protein/low-fat diet , a high-protein/low-carb/medium-fat diet, or a medium-protein/medium-carb/medium-fat diet, and what they eat has everything to do with their lifestyles and how much energy they expend in daily living and in getting food.

Lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, wild cats, panthers, wild dogs, foxes, wolves etc will hunt an animal to eat, taking some time ans spending lots of energy over the process and not being successful each time they try. They may go for days without food. When they do catch an animal, they eat huge quantities at one time, and they eat the muscles, fat, skin, hair, blood, intestinal matter (which helps digest the food) and bones (which supplies them with calcium and prevents bone density loss as explained above). Their diet is high-protein/medium-fat/low-carb, and when they eat, which is not often, they gorge on food. They exercise vigorously when hunting, but spend the rest of the time being fairly sedentary. Here is a video of lions with their kill:

Horses, bison, elephants, cattle and  some species of baboon eat mainly grass and leaves and any grains and seeds that come with this. This is a high-carb/low-protein/low-fat diet and these animals keep on the move, eating often, yet taking time to rest and digest food. They don’t run unless they need to, or in play or courtship. This is a video of wild horses grazing:

Monkeys, mice, birds, squirrels and rodents graze all day on fruits, grasses, grains, insects, eggs, nuts and anything else they find edible as suited to their species. They are constantly on the move, and they move quickly, and they eat almost continuously as they find food. This is a video of a Spider monkey eating fruit:

Gorillas and orang-utans eat leaves, fruits, roots and insects. Chimpanzees and baboons eat anything, including small mammals and birds, if they can catch them. They keep fairly active, though spend quality time resting. They tend to eat regularly but not constantly.

So this shows that high-protein and high-carb diets are natural, and that the respective animal types’s energy expenditure balances out the calories they gain from the food they eat.

Match the type of food you eat to your lifestyle and exercise regime

Orang-outang up a tree eating leaves

Orang-outang eating leaves

In nature, if food is easy to get, it probably has a low energy value, so animals need to eat a lot of it and often. Foods with higher energy values take either a lot of time or a lot of energy (or both) to get hold of, so less of it is eaten (they are not eating all day as do fruit eaters) ensuring that in the natural world, animals don’t eat more food than their bodies need.

This is how nature keeps a perfect balance. Think about it: you don’t see obese monkeys, lions or squirrels, yet they don’t diet. Nature makes sure that the amount of effort and time they are prepared to put into finding food is related to the energy value of the food.

Humans have bypassed this formula, though, and many people who rarely do any vigorous exercise have easy access to high calorie value foods, causing weight problems.

Which is the most ethical diet?

Our ethics, as we have seen, involve not killing, especially not killing animals. So, this makes it very difficult to eat an ethical high-protein/low-carb diet, since there is no low-carb plant food available. Thus, we are left with:

  • Raw foods (fruits and greens) (high-carb/low-fat/low-protein) for those who donlt exercise too hard.
  • Grains/legumes/roots/starchy fruits and greens (high-carb/low-fat/low-protein) for those who go tot he gym or play sport.
  • All of the above plus oils, nuts and seeds (high-carb/medium-fat/medium-protein) for those who do sport that burns lots of energy.

And here is some inspiration for those are still considering going vegan (or natural/ethical):

How do you plan your meals as a vegan? Do you struggle with ill-health or weight problems? I would love to hear from you.

Next post: Is food combining natural?

 

Bibliography:

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/5-negative-high-protein-diet-effects.html#b

http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2011/mar/how-the-body-uses-carbohydrates-proteins-and-fats.html

Image credits:

Hairy Orangutan Eating by papaija2008

 

 

 

 

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List of the most natural and ethical foods for humans

The big question: which foods are natural and ethical to eat, has undergone a fair investigation, and I’ve come up with a list. It’s been very interesting going through all these types of food that humans eat and trying to work out whether they are natural and ethical food for humans.

Natural means that the human primate does not need any weapons, tools or cookware to gather or prepare the food, other than sticks, stones and perhaps fire, and ethical means that the least harm has been done to the food source and its future sustainability, and that humans themselves are not harmed in any way.

“Hand Holding Red Apple”

“Hand Holding Red Apple” by mikumistock

 

The list

 

NATURAL ETHICAL FOODS

FOOD

If food
source is alive when food harvested

If food
source is found already dead from natural causes before harvesting

 

NATURAL

ETHICAL

NATURAL

ETHICAL

 

W

O

C

W

O

C

W

O

C

W

O

C

FRUIT

SEEDS

NUTS

LEGUMES

GRAINS

FLOWERS

LEAVES

PLANT STEMS

ROOTS

HONEY

EGGS

INSECTS

SHELLFISH

FISH

POULTRY/BIRDS

LAMB

PORK

BEEF

DAIRY

KEY
(W=WILD SUSTAINABLE; O=ORGANIC SUSTAINABLE FARMING; C=CONVENTIONAL FARMING)

NATURAL

NOT NATURAL

ETHICAL

NOT ETHICAL

 

For the person who wants to do the least possible harm, the only food to eat is fruits: apples, squashes, bananas, pineapples, beans, peas, peaches, raspberries, cucumbers, avocados … the list is too long. It is the food group that, according to fruitarians, gives humans all the nourishment they need.

The next step down is to include plucked leaves from living plants, allowing them to remain alive and still thriving. This includes many types of salad leaves, kale, brussels sprouts, spinach, chard and so forth. It’s also fine to eat nuts, seeds, grains and pulses from plants that have either already discarded the seeds, or plants that have died naturally.

Then, eating stems, flowers and roots of plants is also ethical if the plants have already died or, if by gathering these parts, the plant is not harmed and continues to live. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, elder flowers, celery and various other plants fall into this category.

Finally, eggs from poultry or birds that are wild or organically farmed and truly free range is ethical, providing sustainability is taken into account (the wild) and that no chicks are killed. In this day and age, it would be very difficult to find a source that meets these requirements.

Any other food is not ethical to eat unless it has already been found dead from natural causes. You will need to decide how high up the ethical ladder you want to climb.

The above list is very close to what our cousins the apes eat, and since their digestive systems are practically identical to ours, we are back where we started

What do you think? Do you agree that we should limit our foods to leaves, flowers, seeds, nuts, grains and fruit?

Next post: Is cooked food good or bad?

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21. List of the most natural and ethical foods for humans

Our blog about which foods are natural and ethical to eat has undergone a fair investigation, and I’ve come up with a list. It’s been very interesting going through all these types of food that humans eat and trying to work out whether they are natural and ethical food for humans.

Natural means that the human primate does not need any weapons, tools or cookware to gather or prepare the food, other than sticks, stones and perhaps fire, and ethical means that the least harm has been done to the food source and its future sustainability, and that humans themselves are not harmed in any way.

 

The list

 

NATURAL ETHICAL FOODS

FOOD

If food
source is alive when food harvested

If food
source is found already dead from natural causes before harvesting

 

NATURAL

ETHICAL

NATURAL

ETHICAL

 

W

O

C

W

O

C

W

O

C

W

O

C

FRUIT

SEEDS

NUTS

LEGUMES

GRAINS

FLOWERS

LEAVES

PLANT STEMS

ROOTS

HONEY

EGGS

INSECTS

SHELLFISH

FISH

POULTRY/BIRDS

LAMB

PORK

BEEF

DAIRY

KEY
(W=wild sustainable; O=organic or biodynamic sustainable production; C=conventional production)

NATURAL

NOT NATURAL

ETHICAL

NOT ETHICAL

 

For the person who wants to do the least possible harm, the only food to eat is fruits: apples, squashes, bananas, pineapples, beans, peas, peaches, raspberries, cucumbers, avocados … the list is long. It is the food group that, according to fruitarians, gives humans all the nourishment they need.

watermelon-846357_640

The next step down is to include plucked leaves from living plants, allowing them to remain alive and still thriving. This includes many types of salad leaves, kale, brussels sprouts, spinach, chard and so forth. It’s also fine to eat nuts, seeds, grains and pulses from plants that have either already discarded the seeds, or plants that have died naturally.

Then, eating stems, flowers and roots of plants is also ethical if the plants have already died or, if by gathering these parts, the plant is not harmed and continues to thrive, or if there are enough plants to ensure the sustainability of the species. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, elder flowers, celery and various other plants fall into this category.

Finally, eggs from poultry or birds that are wild or organically farmed and truly free range is ethical, providing sustainability is taken into account (the wild) and that no chicks are killed. In this day and age, it would be very difficult to find a source that meets these requirements.

https://rcm-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?t=naturalethicalfood-21&o=2&p=48&l=st1&mode=books-uk&search=ethical%20food&fc1=000000&lt1=_blank&lc1=3366FF&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

Any other food is not ethical to eat unless it has already been found dead from natural causes. You will need to decide on how high up the ethical ladder you want to climb.

The above list is very close to what our cousins the apes eat, and since their digestive systems are practically identical to ours, we are back where we started

What do you think? Do you agree that we should limit our foods to leaves, flowers, seeds, nuts, grains and fruit?

Next post: Is cooked food good or bad?

0

19. Seeds – is it natural and ethical to eat them?

Last post we discussed whether it is natural and ethical to eat flowers. The reason why we’re asking questions like this is because we, as conscious humans, can and should make decisions that could not only positively change the environment, but also, by association, elevate the level of compassion in the world, something that is sorely needed in this day and age.

So, seeds are the next topic under discussion. Seeds include:

  • grains (cereals)
  • pseudo cereals
  • pulses (legumes)
  • nuts
  • nut-like gymnosperm seeds

Seeds are embryonic plants inside protective coatings.

People eat all types of seeds: coffee, sesame seeds, sunflower, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, mustard seeds, cumin, caraway, peanuts, kidney beans, wheat, oats, peas, maize, rice, almonds, coconuts, pine nuts, buckwheat, quinoa, cocoa, walnuts, barley and so forth. Seeds contain complex carbohydrates, protein, good fats and various vitamins and minerals.

But, is it natural and ethical to eat seeds?

Investigation

Is it natural?

Can we (human primates, equipped only with our bodies and natural items such as rocks, sticks, soil, fire, etc) gather, prepare and eat seeds. This has been proven over millennia to be not only easy to do, but has evolved into a practice that has kept humans alive during hard times, as seeds can be easily stored for long periods, and not only serve as food, but also as a means to grow more food.

Gathering, growing and eating seeds is natural for the human primate. However, one must consider whether eating grains, pseudo cereals and legumes (many of which are cooked to turn them into food that humans today find palatable) is natural for humans [See the section below on Is this food good for us]. Ideally, natural food for humans is food that can be eaten raw, since the natural human primate will not have tools or utensils. As discussed below, these hard-to-digest foods can be sprouted or fermented to improve their digestibility, which means that these can be eaten raw.

Is it ethical?

a) Has it suffered the least harm?

Seeds probably feel no pain. When they are sprouted, they may experience a form of nervous or sense response, but nothing in the league of the pain an animal feels when it is slaughtered. For those who are concerned about and believe that plants could feel pain, read this post.

So, the harm that a seed may suffer is irrelevant other than that, as discussed in the post about eating flowers, care should be taken to ensure that plants are not killed to harvest the seeds, and/or that enough seeds are replanted or left to grow to ensure the continuous survival of the species.

So, let’s look at the different seed groups and see how feasible this is:

Grains (cereals)

Most grain crops like wheat, barley, maize, spelt, rye, millet and oats are annual plants, which means that they die after seeding in a single year. So, gathering the grain from them, even before the plant has died naturally, could be considered to be ethical. If one waited until the plant died, in all likelihood all the grain would have scattered.

Pseudo cereals

Pseudo cereals like amaranth, quinoa, sesame and buckwheat are not grasses, as are grains, but are also annuals, so can be harvested off the plant before it dies.

Pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds

Pumpkin and black and white sesame seeds by cbenjasuwan http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Pulses (legumes)

Pulses are seeds such as lentils, beans, peas and peanuts that consist of two parts and are housed in pods. They are also annuals, so no problem there with harvesting the seeds before the plants dies.

Nuts

Nuts are different entirely to the above groups. These include almonds, brazils, cashews, walnuts, coconuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, chestnuts and pistachios, to name a few. Nuts are borne on trees, which are not annuals. Fortunately for human primates, the nuts fall to the ground when the tree is ready to shed them for the growing season, and, because they are encased in sometimes very tough shells, do not rot or get eaten by animals too quickly. So, gathering nuts is ethical providing enough are left to assure the continuation of the species.

Nut-like gymnosperm seeds

Gymnosperms are plants like pine trees and cycads, and we get pine nuts from pine trees. Again, the tree drops these to the ground when they are ready, and can be gathered just as nuts are.

There are also other seeds that we eat that are not in the above groups, but also allow for gathering without destroying the plant, such as cocoa beans, coffee beans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds  and hemp seeds.

So, generally, it is ethical to gather and eat all types of seeds, providing enough are left for sustainability.

b) Has it had the best life possible?

Now we get to the difference between natural growing methods such as biodynamic and organic, as opposed to current standard commercial practices where plants are often poisoned by pesticides, fungicides and artificial fertilisers. Read this to see why these substances are bad for plants.

c) Is this food good for us?

Most seeds are good food for humans. There are problems, though, with allergens. Some people are allergic to gluten which is found in grains. This is becoming more common as it appears that grains such as wheat are now being bred with a higher percentage of gluten to aid in bread making.

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Other allergens include peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, tree nuts and poppy seeds.

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There are also problems with some seeds in that they are difficult for humans to digest. Grains such as wheat, for example, digest better once they have been sprouted or fermented. Cattle and other ruminants digest grains and grass by allowing them to ferment first in one of their stomach compartments. Even horses and rabbits digest grass and grain in part of their large intestine. Humans have no separate compartments, so must make another plan.

This is why bread, in the early days, was made from sprouted and/or fermented grains. You can buy or make Essene bread, which is made from sprouted grain, and Pumpernickel bread made from fermented grain.

Pulses, too, can be difficult to digest (many of you will ahem… understand this). There is a reason why – legumes contain phytic acid and some also have olligosaccharides that the human digestive system doesn’t agree with. So, for beans in particular, soaking, sprouting and cooking very slowly and eating them just as slowly helps humans digest them.

https://rcm-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?t=naturalethicalfood-21&o=2&p=48&l=st1&mode=books-uk&search=beans%20and%20pulses%20recipe&fc1=000000&lt1=_blank&lc1=3366FF&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

We will discuss the indigestibility of grains and other seeds when we deal with them one by one in the recipes section , coming soon!

See here how to make traditional sour dough rye bread:

However, for those who suffer no allergic reactions or digestibility problems, seeds are good food. They vary in nutrition with grains being high in carbohydrates, through to seeds like sesame and linseed as well as tree nuts being high in protein and good fats.

Final verdict in  my opinion

Seeds are natural food for humans. They are easy to gather and eat, and are nutritious. They are also ethical food since there is no need to kill the plant to take advantage of the bounty.

What do you think?

Next post: Fruit

0

Seeds – is it natural and ethical to eat them?

Last post we discussed whether it is natural and ethical to eat flowers. The reason why we’re asking questions like this is because we, as conscious humans, can and should make decisions that could not only positively change the environment, but also, by association, elevate the level of compassion in the world, something that is sorely needed in this day and age.

Pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds

Pumpkin and black and white sesame seeds by cbenjasuwan http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

So, seeds are the next topic under discussion. Seeds include:

  • grains (cereals)
  • pseudo cereals
  • pulses (legumes)
  • nuts
  • nut-like gymnosperm seeds

Seeds are embryonic plants inside protective coatings.

People eat all types of seeds: coffee, sesame seeds, sunflower, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, mustard seeds, cumin, caraway, peanuts, kidney beans, wheat, oats, peas, maize, rice, almonds, coconuts, pine nuts, buckwheat, quinoa, cocoa, walnuts, barley and so forth. Seeds contain complex carbohydrates, protein, good fats and various vitamins and minerals.

But, is it natural and ethical to eat seeds?

Investigation
Is it natural?

Can we (human primates, equipped only with our bodies and natural items such as rocks, sticks, soil, fire, etc) gather, prepare and eat seeds. This has been proven over millenia to be not only easy to do, but has evolved into a practice that has kept humans alive during hard times, as seeds can be easily stored for long periods, and not only serve as food, but also as a means to grow more food.

Gathering, growing and eating seeds is natural for the human primate. However, one must consider whether eating grains, pseudo cereals and legumes (many of which are cooked to turn them into food that humans today find palatable) is natural for humans [See the section below on Is this food good for us]. Ideally, natural food for humans is food that can be eaten raw, since the natural human primate will not have tools or utensils. As discussed below, these hard-to-digest foods can be sprouted or fermented to improve their digestibility, which means that these can be eaten raw.

Is it ethical?

a) Has it suffered the least harm?

The seeds in themselves probably feel no pain. Perhaps when they are sprouted, they may have a form of nervous or sense response, but nothing in the league of the pain an animal feels when it is slaughtered. For those who are concerned about and feel that plants could feel pain, read this post.

So, the harm that a seed may suffer is irrelevant other than that, as discussed in the post about eating flowers, care should be taken to ensure that plants are not killed to harvest the seeds, and that enough seeds are replanted or left to grow to ensure the continuous survival of the species.

So, let’s look at the different seed groups and see how feasible this is:

Grains (cereals)

Most grain crops like wheat, barley, maize, spelt, rye, millet and oats are annual plants, which means that they die after seeding in a single year. So, gathering the grain from them, even before the plant has died naturally, could be considered to be ethical. Should one wait until the plant has died, in all likelihood all the grain would have scattered.

Pseudo cereals

Pseudo cereals like amaranth, quinoa, sesame and buckwheat are not grasses, as are grains, but are also annuals so can be harvested off the plant before it dies.

Pulses (legumes)

Pulses are seeds such as lentils, beans, peas and peanuts that consist of two parts and are housed in pods. They are also annuals, so no problem there with harvesting the seeds before the plants dies.

Nuts

Nuts are a different story entirely to the above groups. We have almonds, brazils, cashews, walnuts, coconuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, chestnuts and pistachios, to name a few. Nuts are borne on trees, which are not annuals. Fortunately for human primates, the nuts fall to the ground when the tree is ready to shed them for the growing season, and because they are encased in sometimes very tough shells, do not rot or get eaten by animals too quickly. So, gathering nuts is ethical providing enough are left to assure the continuation of the species.

Nut-like gymnosperm seeds

Gymnosperms are plants like pine trees and cycads, and we get get pine nuts from pine trees. Again, the tree drops these to the ground when they are ready, and can be gathered just as nuts are.

There are also other seeds that we eat that are not in the above groups, but also allow for gathering without destroying the plant, such as cocoa beans, coffee beans, sunflower seeds and hemp seeds.

So, generally, it is ethical to gather and eat all types of seeds, providing enough are left for sustainability.

b) Has it had the best life possible?

Now we get to the difference between natural growing methods such as biodynamic and organic, as opposed to current standard commercial practices where plants are often poisoned by pesticides, fungicides and artificial fertilizers. Read this to see why these substances are bad for plants.

c) Is this food good for us?

Most seeds are good food for humans. There are problems, though, with allergens. Some people are allergic to gluten which is found in grains. This is becoming more common as it appears that grains such as wheat are now being bred with a higher percentage of gluten to aid in bread making.

Other allergens include peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, tree nuts and poppy seeds.

There are also problems with some seeds in that they are difficult for humans to digest. Grains such as wheat, for example, digest better once they have been sprouted or fermented. Cattle and other ruminants digest grains and grass by allowing them to ferment first in one of their stomach compartments. Even horses and rabbits digest grass and grain in part of their large intestine. Humans have no separate compartments, so must make another plan.

This is why bread, in the early days, was made from sprouted and/or fermented grains. You can buy or make Essene bread, which is made from sprouted grain, and Pumpernickel bread made from fermented grain.

Pulses, too, can be difficult to digest (many of you will ahem… smile at this). There is a reason why – legumes contain phytic acid and some also have olligosaccharides that the human digestive system doesn’t agree with. So, for beans in particular, soaking, sprouting and cooking very slowly and eating them just as slowly helps humans digest them.

We will discuss the indigestibility of grains and other seeds when we deal with them one by one in the recipes section , coming soon!

See here how to make traditional sour dough rye bread:

However, for those who suffer no allergic reactions or digestibility problems, seeds are good food. They vary in nutrition with grains being high in carbohydrates, through to seeds like sesame and linseed as well as tree nuts being high in protein and good fats.

Final verdict – my opinion:

Seeds are natural food for humans. They are easy to gather and eat, and are nutritious. They are also ethical food since there is no need to kill the plant to take advantage of the bounty.

What do you think?

Next post: Fruit

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18. Flowers – is it natural and ethical to eat them?

We’re working our way up the structure of plants, asking if it is natural and ethical to eat them. You can check my past posts for other investigations, starting with animal products, but I feel that even plants have to undergo the tests, to be fair.

People eat flowers. Admittedly, they’re not the classic style of flower that you turn into flower arrangements or grow in your garden but, nonetheless, flowers are popular on our plates. According to Mother Nature Network, we can eat 42 types of flowers.

The most popular varieties are cauliflower and broccoli, while some people add nasturtium, calendula and borage flowers to their salads, make wine out of elder flowers and turn pumpkin flowers into fritters.

So, the question is, is it natural and ethical to eat flowers?vegetables-659404_640

Investigation

Is it natural?

Can we (human primates, equipped only with our bodies and natural items such as rocks, sticks, soil, fire, etc) gather, prepare and eat flowers. Yes, without a doubt. This is a most natural thing to do, and flowers are palatable raw, so they are even easier food to eat than the roots or stems or even the leaves of some plants.

Is it ethical?

a) Has it suffered the least harm?

As we discussed in this post  it’s not clear whether plants feel pain. One criterion we decided on was to avoid killing the plant, as this would cause the most harm. Plucking leaves off is acceptable, providing the plant has enough to continue growing. In fact, many plants grow in a way that they regenerate quickly and seem to be designed to be browsed on.

So, in terms of whether the plant suffers harm, eating flowers is less harmful than eating the roots, which may necessitate killing the plant. But, what about regeneration? Obviously, flowers are necessary to ensure the development of seed, so that the plant species survives.

The way it looks is that the least harmful way of eating flowers is to ensure that only a few flowers from each plant are harvested. This is not too difficult to do in a home-grown garden. If you cut flowers off a broccoli plant, it simply grows new ones until seed has set, and then it stops. Commercial operations rip up the whole plant to harvest the head.

Or, you can leave some of your plants to seed, as most plants develop huge quantities of seed.

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b) Has it had the best life possible?

Here I will repeat what I said in the post about eating roots:

Plants that live naturally without being poisoned by pesticides, fungicides and artificial fertilizers should be living the best life possible. Bose found that administering poisons to tin, zinc, and platinum, and obtained astonishing responses which, when plotted on a graph, appeared precisely like those of poisoned animals.

c) Is this food good for us?

Yes, edible flowers are good for us. Some believe that broccoli is the world’s healthiest food. It can  lower cholesterol, is great for detoxing, it’s full of vitamins A and K which help maintain out vitamin D balance and, because it’s a rich source of kaempferol, it acts as an anti-inflammatory. It’s also high in vitamin C, chromium and folate as well as a huge range of other vitamins and minerals.

Final verdict  in my opinion

Flowers are good for you. Eating them is natural and ethical, providing you make sure enough plants bear seed, allowing the species to survive and thrive.

What do you think?

Next post: seeds