Wheat, Rice and Corn

Wheat, rice and corn are considered the three food sources that enabled humans to develop as a species, to establish advanced cultures, and to begin economic relationships. Wheat has been identified as a primary food source for Asia, Europe and the Middle East as long as 12,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptians became renowned bakers.

Rice was and is the mainstay food product that sustained the Far East and India since 4500 BC. In the Western Hemisphere, maize, an ancestor of corn, was a primary food source and a major trade item since prehistoric times.

Each of these starchy grains provided protein and carbohydrates that enabled our ancestors to live healthier lives and enabled surpluses to be traded, establishing early economic relationships long before anyone had an idea about starting a nation or hassling with trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Today, however, wheat is bad for one’s health. Corn in all its forms is bad for one’s health. Rice is bad for one’s health.

What happened? Have humans fooled themselves for thousands of years that these grass seeds were good for them?

The mariner is chary about dieticians and food standards. Dieticians have more in common with the weatherman then they may think. Folks like to point at overweight people, people with diabetes or intestinal issues and celiac simply to say we eat too much.

Many say supplements are necessary; others say supplements do nothing but pass expensive urine. Don’t eat red meat. Hasn’t the mariner been taught all his life that the protein from red meat is what allowed the prehistoric human brain to grow?

Now we must be vegetarians and vegans – huge rabbits. Rabbits don’t live very long. Ever try to eat a BLT without the bread? If we want to live longer, we could go to sea and eat what sea turtles eat. The record life span for a sea turtle is 152 years. There is speculation that people who eat sea turtles live longer.

New science completely obfuscates what we should eat. It is de rigueur to point to genetic causes, e.g., “Your family history is prone to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, peanut allergies, etc.” Some years ago, the mariner’s doctor suggested he did not process Magnesium very well and he should take a supplement. According to dieticians, halibut, mackerel, boiled spinach, bran breakfast cereal, and almonds are the richest sources of Magnesium. This seems an acceptable diet until one is told the amounts one would have to eat to meet minimum daily requirements. That’s another conundrum: minimum daily requirements. What happens to the mariner if he misses the minimum daily requirement for vitamin K? Is there a remedy?

Recently, anthropologists have sought out isolated societies where everyone lives to ages approaching 100 and beyond. Places like islands, northern Russia, and mountain cultures. There are no vitamin pills so a shortage of vitamin K can’t be too bad.

To be serious for a moment, the anthropologists agree on two points: If one’s ancestors, especially from both maternal and paternal histories, lived a long time, chances are he or she will live a long time, too. Secondly, if one lives in a stable culture without strife (unlike starting wars and crooked banks) and one has a legitimate purpose in the society well into one’s 80’s and 90’s, this reduces the stress on one’s sense of self. Scientists would translate this phenomenon into less production of oxidants, less anxiety and depression, and, of course, the advantage of one’s DNA bred under constrained circumstances.

Another theory about stretching one’s healthy life is that, as a species, our Paleolithic genetic structure suggests that we should be healthy and vigorous, no matter what we eat, until that time we call ‘midlife crisis’. From that point on, staying healthy becomes more and more difficult. The mariner muses that were there no medical industry, the death rate would jump in one’s forties and most would not see the age of 65. There are always a few who live to ripe old ages but statistically, they would be a rarity.

Forgetting all the snake oil salesmen and fitness narcissists, there seems to be something more important to our health than what we may eat. Given we are bound to our ancestral influences, and given age is an undeniable influence, it seems that the most influential element on our health is, for lack of a better word, “happiness”. We do not live in happy times. Our income is not secure; our role in life is not secure; prejudice abounds against each of us. The future is more unknown and threatening to our society than ever before. There is pressure on each of us to win or be tossed aside.

But that’s another post. The mariner is going back to the kitchen to finish his pancakes with berries and whipped cream – a bit of happiness.

Ancient Mariner