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permaculture and diet

 
                              
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"I'm afraid it turned me into a semi-heretic"

Well done 

What I'm wondering now is if nutrition needs to be taught alongside PDCs. If the point of permaculture is to produce local food sustainably, esp in a powerdown future, then shouldn't we be looking at what food we need rather than leaving it to best guess or luck?
 
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Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Nutrition is mentioned readily during a course... especially concerning medicinal gardens, kitchen gardens. A lot of us do our own independent research honing in on our specialty needs and planting accordingly. We sure as hell aren't planting to look at these plants. Plant to eat, and thereby learning how each contributes to longevity.
 
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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As LivingWind pointed out a few posts back, HOAs and city ordinances can play hell with some plans.  I grew up just down the street from an old traditional Italian family (there were no HOAs/city ordinances) that grew most of what they ate in the backyard.  To appease his wife (not the neighbors) he agreed NOT to grow their veggiies in the front yard.

Eventually, the ferns by the front window got replaced with asparagus, the hedges got replaced with rosemary, basil popped up in the flower garden...I couldn't wait for the next invite for lunch!!!

About the only thing they bought, besides meat, was the durum flour to make their home made pasta (daily!).  Oh yeah, also olive oil (they could have grown an olive tree there...I guess they were slackers after all...LOL).
 
                                    
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Location: Anoka Sand Plain, MN Zone 4/5, Sunset Zone 43
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good original question.  mark shepard of new forest farm in wisconsin thinks permanent tree crops, specifically chestnuts and hazelnuts, ought to replace the role of corn and soybeans, respectively, in industrial agriculture.  of course part of the charm of permaculture is the decentralized nature of knowledge and techniques, which i assume is inherent in the system & this will become more widespread and apparent as people 1) learn about their climate, soil and local plant and animal communities 2) figure out what kind of diet, lifestyle, etc they want to work towards.

i am also pretty sure if permaculture can be abundant as many claim that any kind of diet could be supported in nearly any climate.
 
pollinator
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Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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What I've run across, that seem to confirm permaculture's comparability to agriculture in terms of food production quantities, are the aforementioned 'One Circle' analysis; Gene Logsdon,s reference to a researcher who found that the same amount of beef could be raised on grass as in a CAFO system; and the beautiful BBC production 'Farm of the Future' which compares a consciencious regular farmer with a food forest 'farm' (I think it is Martin Crawford's).

There are probably more, and with lots more quantification......just haven't found them yet!

(Don't get me wrong - I've been an avid/rabid fan of sustainable self-sufficiency for over 40 yrs, and kept hope afloat by gobbling up everything I could find.  The recent upsurge of interest in Perm. in my area is like a gift from God...and a Perm meeting is my idea of 'going to church'   BUT I'm ready for the data so others who are not star-struck can truly see the probability, along with the 'pleasant' possibility.)

Thanks again, Pebble
 
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pebble wrote:
I notice when reading about permaculture there is a large focus on plants that produce fruit. Also vegetables. I'm curious about this because from a nutritional point of view fruit and veges are important but they don't supply the crucial fats and proteins, or even the amount of carbohydrates that most people need (that's a gross generalisation from the climate I live in - maritime temperate).

There is no need to over think this. Think along the lines of old fashioned British cooking. Anything that would have gone in a stew is probably going to grow where you are and is probably the ideal food to eat in the winter down there. Lots of root veg for the winter. Summer food is whatever grows easily there in the summer. Don't worry about trying to force plants that come from much warmer climates. They might be ideal for health if you are in the tropics or whatever but that doesn't mean they are necessary for optimum health in your climate. Fruit is probably not going to be very important where you are anyway.
Carbohydrates are not essential. If you are growing root vegetables you will be getting plenty of carbohydrates anyway so it's really not something you need to give much thought to. If you like a bit of starchy carbs then potatoes will probably be ideal there.
What is essential though is fat and protein. Livestock supply both of these plus plenty of calories. It's up to you how much of your plate is to be made up of food from livestock sources. The fact that you would be growing and raising your own food is actually more important to your health than the ratio of vegetables to animal products. Just make sure to eat both and you wont go far wrong.
There's a lot of talk these days about omega 3 oils and many people seem to think it is essential to be getting loads of this stuff down the neck. If you live somewhere really cold then omega 3 can help but if you live somewhere mild then it isn't so important. The human race would never have thrived in areas where there is  very little omega 3 if it was as necessary as some people seem to think. Eggs from free range chickens and also grass fed beef contain omega 3. It is something you can buy from a health shop if you really feel you are not getting enough from your livestock.
 
Warren David
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Hugh H. wrote:
A bit OT, but does anyone have any resources for keeping pigeons?  We have heaps of feral pigeons around and I've often wondered if they would be good eating.  I have heard there is some disease they can carry which is best avoided.  I seem to remember Mollison talking about pigeon houses in the black book.  I think it's funny that they are considered a gourmet product when they are a dime a dozen, at least here.

A friend of mine has his dad come to stay for a week or two every year. His dad thinks he is doing everyone a favour by shooting any pigeons that come into the garden. My friend hates it because he is the one that is expected to prepare and cook the pigeons. He says it's a real pain in the wossname because they are a bit fiddly  and he would rather butcher one of the chickens or buy something from the supermarket.  
 
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Location: Eugene, OR
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I think they have special domesticated breeds, and they usually eat the squab (young pigeon), as opposed to the old, gamey ones.
 
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Warren: Your mate wasn't living in an urban area I take it, if he was shooting the pigeons?

I think the issue with omega 3 is about its ratio to omega 6.  Greens are high in omega 3, grains are high in omega 6.  My understanding is that this is important regardless of the climate you live in.  But any old-fashioned diet would include lots of greens or lots of animals that ate greens, thus they would have a more balanced omega 3 to 6 ratio.  On the other hand, today many people eat less greens, and also eat many animals which are raised on grain alone (from feedlots), leading to an imbalance.  It is one of the ways in which meat today (generally) can be quite different nutritionally from meat of the past.  It does help to explain why some cultures have maintained good diet through high meat diets, whereas studies today show that eating too many animal products can cause heart problems and a suite of other issues.

When I think about it, this is actually a fantastic argument against the worldwide amount of grain growing today, which relates back to earlier comments in this thread about whether grains are necessary.  It would seem that what we really need is more greens and legumes.  I wonder how growing those compares in land intensity and labour intensity (obviously this depends on what model, whether you use animals, etc.)

Kirk: I think you are right.  But it kinda defeats the purpose if I have to buy grain to feed the pigeons and cage them.  To paraphrase Sepp Holzer, then I have to do the work of the pigeons...
 
            
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I think we fall short trying to put to hard science/numbers exactly what it is we humans need to get by. Sort of like when we thought we'd figured out plants only need N, P, and K to survive. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), the same gent who first reckoned plants needed nitrogen from ammonia and figured we might more easily substitute a synthesized version rather than manure also first tinkered with developing baby formula (to initially disastrous results [i.e. dead babies] I might add). Same impoetus for this crap, really (human arrogance), as all the hype about -needing- animal protein to survive, calcium from milk to prevent osteoporosis, low fat foods with the fat replaced by sugar to make you thinner.. I could go on for hours. I think the best nutritional policy is to eat as varied a diet as possible. Period. And restricted of course to whole, unprocessed, unrefined, un-"enriched", unadulterated, uncontaminated foods (wherever possible). And put the earmuffs on when the "nutritionists" start talking smack in favor of the public interest groups who line their pockets.
 
Hugh Hawk
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Agreed, Mike.  Omegas are just one piece of the very complex puzzle, a piece which we were not really aware of until recently I believe.  Chances are, there are plenty more factors that science not yet discovered.

It comes down to attitude, as you say.  If we think we can improve on nature, then we start on the whole wrong foot to begin with, and all of these problems arise and need to be solved.  Nature has had millions of years to evolve ways of doing things that simply work.  We know empirically what sort of diets work for us, so finding out why they do that is kinda unnecessary.
 
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I feel like I should chime in here as I have been eating a primarily fruit based diet for over 3 years now. In addition, I study nutrition even more than I study permaculture so I have a very firm grasp of what humans need in order to not just survive, but to live in optimal health.

In truth, fruits and vegetables can provide humans with everything they need to live extremely long happy lives. It is just a bonus that we can do it without harming the environment or killing our animal friends. I'd like to go through some of the main concerns that you have all brought up with this type of diet.

Protein: There is literally protein in every piece of food you put in your mouth. Kale has more protein per calorie than steak for example. It is also a myth that animal protein is somehow more complete than plant proteins because it has all the amino acids. I have even heard this myth touted by dieticians and nutrtionists. Oh brother! The truth is that all fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and animal products have ALL the essential and non-essential amino acids that the body needs to function. Don't believe me? Look it up on nutritiondata.com or any other nutrition web site for that matter. As far as the total amount of protein, this one is a myth that needs a bit more time to explain. But long story short, if you look at the actual requirements of the human body for protein, say, in a physiology textbook you find that they are MUCH lower than what we are being told to eat. Most government recommendations double or triple this amount in order to be "on the safe side". My current physiology textbook says that about 25-35g per day is required for most humans. Do you need to eat more if you are working out or being active? Of course, but the extra amount is only around 10g extra. I think it is also interesting to note that the largest human nutritional study ever done was on the Chinese population by T. Colin Campbell and determined that once humans eat more than around 10% of their calories from protein (especially animal protein) the risk for heart disease and cancer goes WAY up.

Fat: This one is easy to debunk! Once again, fruits and vegetables provide all the fat our bodies need to thrive. The fat comes in the form of omega-3 and omega-6 also known as essential fat. It is called essential because our bodies can produce all the other forms of fat from it. As long as we get the essential fat, we're good. You hear a lot of people talk about fish oil, flax seed, chia being essential for omega-3 but what no one realizes is that our omega-3 requirements are extremely low as long as we aren't flooding our bodies with omega-6 fatty acids. This is because these 2 fats compete for the same enzyme systems and if we lower our omega-6 intake by eating less animal foods, oils, nuts and seeds, our omega-3 easily upconverts to high chain omega-3 fats like DHA and EPA. I wanted to test this by getting my omega 3 test and here are the results....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BVA5b3ZsRc

Calcium: Found in very high amounts in dark leafy green vegetables and some fruits. Dairy is not an essential food and humans have thrived for hundreds of thousands of years without sucking off cows. In a pinch, it will help you survive and that's why many cultures hold it to be sacred. It is nature's perfect food....for baby cows. Again, I decided to get tested and here is the video
http://www.30bananasaday.com/video/video-uploaded-on-july-16-2011

Iron: Again, dark leafy greens have all the iron you need as long as you eat ENOUGH of them. Aim for about 1 pound day of raw vegetables.


Hope this helps. Feel free to call me out on concerns you may have. I love talking about this stuff!

 
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BenB wrote:

Hope this helps. Feel free to call me out on concerns you may have. I love talking about this stuff!



My concern is that veganism is not suitable for everyone because it rely on conversion from simple forms to more complicated one, and not all people is genetically apt to do this.

So, vegans may be short on the following nutrition requierments, if their body can convert precursors :

* Vitamin A from betacarotene (source)

* Long chain omega-3 from short chain omega-3 (source)

And animals products is also an interesting source of vitamin D in winter, and of vit B12  (sun dried mushrooms are a good source of vit D2, but i'm not sure it is an  effective source of vit D contrary to vit D3)
 
master pollinator
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permaguy wrote:
My concern is that veganism is not suitable for everyone because it rely on conversion from simple forms to more complicated one, and not all people is genetically apt to do this.



That's my main problem with veganism also - not everyone has the same ability to metabolize certain nutrients.  People with certain genetic backgrounds of regional types or ecotypes of humans (what used to be called "races") can vary significantly in their ability to metabolize foods.  It's the main problem with the modern industrial diet also, why there's so much diabetes among people from certain genetic backgrounds, the inability to metabolize simple carbohydrates properly. 
 
Warren David
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Hugh H. wrote:
Warren: Your mate wasn't living in an urban area I take it, if he was shooting the pigeons?

No. Farming area.
 
Warren David
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BenB wrote:
I feel like I should chime in here as I have been eating a primarily fruit based diet for over 3 years now. In addition, I study nutrition even more than I study permaculture so I have a very firm grasp of what humans need in order to not just survive, but to live in optimal health.

3 years really isn't long at all. Most young people (you fit into this bracket) could do ok on just about any diet good or bad for a few years. Some of us here have been there, done that and it didn't work for us.
I have found that fruit really isn't any good when doing physical work outside in cold weather. It made me feel the cold more and I ran out of energy quicker. It really doesn't seem natural to be eating much fruit in the middle of winter anyway.
I agree with you about the calcium. Just about everybody is getting the calcium they need without having to use dairy.
The rest of it I really can't be bothered getting into because it's just he same old stuff about the China study etc  that I've read before. Sorry but I don't feel like repeating stuff that I've said so many times before.  
 
Hugh Hawk
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BenB: I think your statement about protein is misleading.  Yes, vegetables have all the essential amino acids, but they are called "incomplete" because they are not in the correct ratio for human use (except for soybeans etc.)  I think this is a fairly well established and accepted fact.  If you eat a combination of vegetables and fruits then you should get an OK ratio.

I can't remember if the China Study discusses traditional diets high in meat,  I haven't read it for a while.  The question that comes to mind is whether there could be other causative factors in cancer cell generation which haven't been accounted for.  The hypothesis about high protein diets doesn't seem to match with reality in some cases.

Warren: I agree with your experience about fruit not being filling when you are doing physical labour.  Actually I find most things in a vegan or even vegetarian diet don't have the ability to make me feel full for hours at a time the way that meat does (I eat vegetarian most of the time).

I also agree that it takes quite a while for the body's long-term stores to be affected by a new diet.

Can you point us in the direction of any threads where you've said the stuff you don't want to repeat before?  I couldn't see anything from you on these forums.
 
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It is also observable that societies that do not have access to much animal protein tend not to be able to expand to the level in which specialization of labor is possible.  (see "Guns, Germs & Steel") That's because of the low density of calories and protein in natural plant foods. That makes it so that just about everyone in those societies has to spend the bulk of waking hours to provide enough nourishment the population. It is also worthy of note that there are no vegan hunter-gatherer societies today or in the past and very few vegan societies at all. The ones that are vegan are so for religious/spiritual reasons.

I think it's funny that some argue that veganism is the natural human diet and/or the diet that is best. Without modern conveniences and knowledge it is virtually impossible to be a vegan and not experience failure to thrive especially in childhood. Afterall, tofu and all fake meats are processed foods that require chemicals to process them. They are heavily dependent on fossil fuels for their existence.

Personally, I wouldn't want to see any zealous diet proscriptions in permaculture. (Thankfully no one here is doing that..) In real life, I have experienced diet zealots in the permaculture movement and I've seen it be a deterrent to a lot of people that might otherwise become permies. I think it's better to stick to how to grow food for whatever diet we happen to follow without getting into which diet is best or we risk alienating each other and others needlessly.
 
Warren David
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Hugh H. wrote:Warren: I agree with your experience about fruit not being filling when you are doing physical labour.  Actually I find most things in a vegan or even vegetarian diet don't have the ability to make me feel full for hours at a time the way that meat does (I eat vegetarian most of the time).

I also agree that it takes quite a while for the body's long-term stores to be affected by a new diet.

Can you point us in the direction of any threads where you've said the stuff you don't want to repeat before?  I couldn't see anything from you on these forums.

If you click on my name you should find a link that says "Show the last posts of this person" There's a load of them there. I've also made similar posts on another board and am just a bit bored with talking about it. 

I really don't want this thread to continue to be a vegan vs. omnivore discussion. There are already more than enough threads on the topic and others that have got hijacked by the debate. The thread starter wanted advice on a permaculture system using plants and animals in New Zealand.


 
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BenjaminBurchall wrote:I think it's funny that some argue that veganism is the natural human diet and/or the diet that is best. Without modern conveniences and knowledge it is virtually impossible to be a vegan and not experience failure to thrive especially in childhood. Afterall, tofu and all fake meats are processed foods that require chemicals to process them. They are heavily dependent on fossil fuels for their existence.



Tofu has been around long before oil became all the craze (starting 2,000 years ago or so...). Tofu burgers and tofu lasagna not so much.
 
Hugh Hawk
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I'm also keen to know if any permies have done work on this - looking at diet from a nutritional and sustenance point of view in a permaculture context, rather than looking at designing a piece of land to produce food sustainably. Is there something missing there?



I think our discussions have been fairly relevant to this initial question.  We have got a wide range of points of view on what others believe is necessary for nutrition and sustenance.

Fruits and veges are probably a natural starting point for many people, particularly those who are in an urban environment.  I suspect that is why pebble observes many permies growing just fruit and veges.  But there is certainly a proportion of permies (those higher up the wheaton eco scale?) exploring more complex systems with more functions, higher levels of stacking and getting nature to do more of the work.

Realistically, growing a decent proportion of your own food takes a lot of time and effort, at least to establish the systems if not to maintain them.  So it is probably unsurprising that many permies have not yet reached this level.
 
Ben Bishop
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permaguy wrote:
My concern is that veganism is not suitable for everyone because it rely on conversion from simple forms to more complicated one, and not all people is genetically apt to do this.

So, vegans may be short on the following nutrition requierments, if their body can convert precursors :

* Vitamin A from betacarotene (source)




All humans are pretty bad at absorbing beta-carotene. On our best day, we can only absorb about half of the beta-carotenes we eat. Sometimes it can be as little as 10%. Beta-carotene conversion into retinol is actually highly dependent on one's blood levels of vitamin A. Someone like myself who eats tons of beta-carotene rich foods will have a much lower conversion rate into retinol than someone who is retinol deficient. In other words, your body tightly regulates the amount of beta-carotene absorbed based on how much you need.  However, if I ate retinol rich foods like liver and eggs, my body would be FORCED to absorbed the retinol even though I don't need it. Our digestive tracts our not set-up to regulate retinol since our fruit-eating ancestors didn't eat much of it. Even more interestingly, animals who we know are meat-eaters have enzymes that break down retinol if they get too much. If an animal has this ability it's actually one of the indicators that they are a meat-eater. If they don't have this ability, it almost always means they are herbivoires. Guess what? We don't have that enzyme!

The study you posted may show that some people are much better at converting beta carotene into retinol, it in no way shows that they have someway adapted to animal nutrition.  I think it is important to realize that whether or not we have the particular gene that makes us better than average at making the conversion, it is virtually impossible to become vitamin A deficient by eating a fruit and vegetable based diet.

permaguy wrote:
* Long chain omega-3 from short chain omega-3 (source)



The story is quite similar here. MANY factors come into play when we are talking about converting ALA into EPA and DHA. Your source covers one important one which is the omega-6 level. If you are eating too much omega-6 fats found in animal foods, oils, and nuts and seeds, you won't be able to convert much ALA into higher chain fats. Once that omega-6 level is dropped and a diet that is sufficient in ALA is undertaken, high chain omega 3s will rise to appropriate levels. Unfortunately your study only tests this theory for about 40 days. I wouldn't imagine that would cause very much difference in reversing a lifelong diet of high-omega 6s. Would you?

Some reasons why I think it's a better idea to lower our omega-6, rather than increase omega-3 intake:
If we look at our ancestral diets, we know for a fact that we had an omega-3:omega-6 ratio of about 1:1. What we fail to have pointed out to us, is that not only was this a 1:1 ratio, but the total amount of omega-3 and omega-6 consumed on a daily basis was only around 2 grams of each. How much do we consume now?
Our omega-3 fat content has remained around 1.5 - 2.0 grams per day, but our omega-6 intake has literally rocketed up to over 20 grams a day!
Even our recommended intakes for these fats makes no sense at all:
http://elkhorn.unl.edu/epublic/live/g2032/build/g2032.pdf

Notice, the recommendation is to have 1.6 grams of omega-3 and 17 grams of omega-6! This just doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

In addition, several other factors come into play such as total amount of fat, the source of the ALA, the amount of animal foods present alongside the ALA, the antioxidant status that protects the ALA as it is converted. So no one can say with certainty that they need to eat fish or grass-fed meats or eggs to get their long-chain fatty acids because they probably haven't even tried eating in the way that would lower their omega-6 levels. Moreover, when people choose to eat these animal foods, they often cook them which completely oxidizes the very volatile omega-3 fats in them.

permaguy wrote:
And animals products is also an interesting source of vitamin D in winter, and of vit B12  (sun dried mushrooms are a good source of vit D2, but i'm not sure it is an  effective source of vit D contrary to vit D3)



Our main source of vitamin D should be the sun. Originating from the tropics, humans would have been exposed to direct sunlight almost every day of the year allowing us to maintain optimal vitamin D levels. As humans moved away from the equator where cold dark winters drastically lowered our vitamin D levels, we needed to resort to animals to provide it for us it. Unfortunately we don't get nearly enough vitamin D from animals as we could from the sun. One egg might give you 50 units assuming you don't cook it of course. Going outside for a 15 minute walk will give you upwards of 10,000 units which is the amounts we actually need to be in optimal health. 200 egg omelette anyone?

B12 is a nutrient produced by bacteria, not animals. There are trillions of bacteria in our digestive tracts and even more in each breath of air we breathe. Many different types of these bacteria produces B12 that our bodies can use. I should say COULD use, if we had enough of the good bacteria in our GI tracts. There is a substance called intrinsic factor produced by the parietal cells in the stomach that is what ushers the B12 into our blood stream. If we have gut flora imbalance, intrinsic factor can't work. If we eat too many grains, intrinsic factor can't work. If we become stressed or overly acidic, intrinsic factor can't work. These things are independent of whether or not we eat steak or rabbit food. There are PLENTY of meat-eating people out there who are B12 deficient and just as many vegans who have levels that are perfectly fine.



 
Ben Bishop
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
That's my main problem with veganism also - not everyone has the same ability to metabolize certain nutrients.  People with certain genetic backgrounds of regional types or ecotypes of humans (what used to be called "races") can vary significantly in their ability to metabolize foods.  It's the main problem with the modern industrial diet also, why there's so much diabetes among people from certain genetic backgrounds, the inability to metabolize simple carbohydrates properly.   



It is definitely true that there are genetic differences in the way certain people can tolerate foods. I say tolerate as opposed to thrive because even if as a white person, I am likely to have the lactase enzymes to break down milk sugar and a person from Africa or Asia doesn't that doesn't give me a free ride to drink all the milk I want. Both of us would end up with the same problems of dairy such as excess mucas production and hyperacidity. Seen in a different light, Native Americans tend to have a very low tolerance for alcohol when compared to people of European decent. Does that mean white people can drink alcohol and be fine? No they still end up killing their liver and brain cells just the same.

What HASN'T been shown to be the case is that there are certain diets can make one group of people healthy and one group of people sick based off their genes. There is only one species-specific diet for humans, just as there is one species specific diet for cows, or pandas, or any mammal for that matter. To determine what this is, I think it is helpful to look towards human's closest living relative, the bonobo. They have an extremely similar physiology to ours and guess what their diet is. Mostly fruits and vegetables. This may not be favorable to you but it is nonetheless the diet that completely reverses any disease from diabetes to heart disease to even some forms of cancer. When undertaken, almost everyone finds that they lose excess fat, have fantastic energy levels, and generally feel happier. It doesn't matter what your genetic makeup is, when you go back to your species-specific diet, every person will benefit.

 
Ben Bishop
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Warren David wrote:
3 years really isn't long at all. Most young people (you fit into this bracket) could do ok on just about any diet good or bad for a few years. Some of us here have been there, done that and it didn't work for us.
I have found that fruit really isn't any good when doing physical work outside in cold weather. It made me feel the cold more and I ran out of energy quicker. It really doesn't seem natural to be eating much fruit in the middle of winter anyway.
I agree with you about the calcium. Just about everybody is getting the calcium they need without having to use dairy.
The rest of it I really can't be bothered getting into because it's just he same old stuff about the China study etc  that I've read before. Sorry but I don't feel like repeating stuff that I've said so many times before.  




Fruit isn't good because you can't do work in cold weather? I haven't heard that one before. Fruit is a fuel just like any other, be it rice, meat, or potatoes. The problem most people have with eating a fruit-based diet is that they don't know how to eat enough. Do you know how much 3000 calories of fruit looks like? Most people try eating the same volume of food they ate before, but with fruit instead. That won't work! You will feel like crap! Fruits and vegetables are so much lower in calories and higher in fiber and water. This means you have to eat much more volume to give yourself the fuel you need. As for the China Study, it isn't perfect and has it's flaws. It is simply another piece of the puzzle that from every angle indicates that a low-fat vegan diet is key to living a very long disease-free life.
 
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Hugh H. wrote:
BenB: I think your statement about protein is misleading.  Yes, vegetables have all the essential amino acids, but they are called "incomplete" because they are not in the correct ratio for human use (except for soybeans etc.)  I think this is a fairly well established and accepted fact.  If you eat a combination of vegetables and fruits then you should get an OK ratio.



Well, I do advocate eating more than one type of fruit and vegetable. So even if one particular food does not have the perfect ratio of amino acids, it doesn't matter since the next day I'll probably eating something else that does. You have amino acids pools in your liver and in your cells that can be called on when you aren't getting enough of one amino acid. The whole food-combining thing is definitely bunk science. You don't need to have EVERYTHING in each meal. As long as you generally are getting all the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids through the day or two there won't be any problems.

Hugh H. wrote:
I can't remember if the China Study discusses traditional diets high in meat,  I haven't read it for a while.  The question that comes to mind is whether there could be other causative factors in cancer cell generation which haven't been accounted for.  The hypothesis about high protein diets doesn't seem to match with reality in some cases.



The China Study is definitely not the be-all end-all of nutrition science. I don't care how low of protein diet someone eats, they could still get cancer if they aren't treating their bodies correctly or if they are exposing themselves to certain toxins. That said, the study does make an interesting observation that those who ate a higher proportion of vegetables to meat generally lived longer and had less cancer incidence than people who ate the other way around. The beauty of the study comes with the way they controlled for all the other variables such as economic status, exposure to radiation, education, etc. They found that high meat consumption relative to low vegetable consumption was what caused the cancer. No other factors predicted cancer incidence as well. Keep in mind that even the cancer-free populations still ate meat. So the China Study doesn't support veganism. It simply is an observation to consider when deciding whether or not to chow down on eggs for breakfast, ham sandwich for lunch and a steak for dinner.
 
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BenjaminBurchall wrote:
It is also worthy of note that there are no vegan hunter-gatherer societies today or in the past and very few vegan societies at all. The ones that are vegan are so for religious/spiritual reasons.



That actually isn't true. The traditional diets of the Sardinians and Okinawans were primarily vegan. The book "Blue Zone" details that the societies with the highest number of centarians (people who lived past 100) were in fact the same societies that had traditionally vegan diets.   Of course, in the past few generations, these types of diets have deteriorated and western diet has taken hold.

BenjaminBurchall wrote:
I think it's funny that some argue that veganism is the natural human diet and/or the diet that is best. Without modern conveniences and knowledge it is virtually impossible to be a vegan and not experience failure to thrive especially in childhood. Afterall, tofu and all fake meats are processed foods that require chemicals to process them. They are heavily dependent on fossil fuels for their existence.



Let me ask a hypothetical. You are dropped off by helicopter in the middle of a tropical forest...naked. Just you and the rainforest, much like it was a million-ish years ago when humans evolved . You can only used your own body and instincts to survive without the use of guns, cell phones, maps, etc. You come to a path which splits. One way leads to a patch of fruit trees. There are ripe mangos falling of the tree, bananas turning yellow, pineapple shrubs bursting out of the ground. The other way leads to a field of cows and goats grazing or a field of some type of grain. Now tell me. Which path would you take? Personally, I would find myself drawn to the fruit trees where I could easily spot the fruit thanks to my color vision. I could then use my hands fancy opposable thumbs to actually pick the fruit off the tree. My sweet receptors would go off as I bite into the mango and taste the flavor. This is definitely my kind of food!

If you choose the other path, you would have to find a way to chase down the animal, rip into its tough hide with your dull canine teeth and flimsy fingernails. You would be tasting its warm blood as it is still trying to get away. As the organs spill out, would you be tempted to eat them? Would this food taste good to you?

You're arguing that someone like me who eats mostly fruit and vegetables wouldn't survive without these modern conveniences and knowledge. Someone who probably eats more animals and grains than I do would have a much harder time finding and securing those foods in the climate where humans evolved.

BenjaminBurchall wrote:
Personally, I wouldn't want to see any zealous diet proscriptions in permaculture. (Thankfully no one here is doing that..) In real life, I have experienced diet zealots in the permaculture movement and I've seen it be a deterrent to a lot of people that might otherwise become permies. I think it's better to stick to how to grow food for whatever diet we happen to follow without getting into which diet is best or we risk alienating each other and others needlessly.



I'm not trying to convert anyone. I just want this information out there for people who are interested. Permaculture becomes a hell of a lot easier when you can secure most of your food by planting fruit trees. Even if you don't want to be vegan, a fruit based diet goes hand in hand with permaculture. It is extremely beneficial for human health, animal rights, environmental stability, and overall sustainability. That's stacking functions if you ask me
 
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maikeru wrote:
Tofu has been around long before oil became all the craze (starting 2,000 years ago or so...). Tofu burgers and tofu lasagna not so much.



Tofu was around in small quantities compared to today and was eaten in much smaller servings. The level of tofu production today is dependent on oil and coal. If you think about the chemicals needed to curdle soy milk, we'd have to ask how to we get so much of it for the processing. I used to make soy milk and tofu. It's a lot of work! And that was with using a food processor powered by electricity which is generated mostly with coal.
 
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BenB wrote:
That actually isn't true. The traditional diets of the Sardinians and Okinawans were primarily vegan.



I don't know about Sardinians, but the Okinawan diet contains quite a bit of meat and much more vegetables over starchy foods than the Japanese diet.

If you choose the other path, you would have to find a way to chase down the animal, rip into its tough hide with your dull canine teeth and flimsy fingernails. You would be tasting its warm blood as it is still trying to get away.



That makes the assumption that humans only hunting game. Think about all the other animals that humans have eaten historically even before modern humans - fish and other water creatures, insects, snails, etc. Humans have been using tools to catch and  prepare their food for eating since before homo sapiens. The information we have does tell us that humans have been omnivors for hundreds of thousands of years. Whatever choice we make now about what we want to eat is just that - a choice. And it's built on modern convenience rather than environmental necessity as was in the distant past.

We'll probably attract more new permies if we don't make them feel that we're demonizing their food choices or telling them they are somehow immoral for eating animals. I've found that when people start raising some of their own food, they usually modify their diets because it just makes good financial sense to eat more of what they can grow for free.
 
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BenB wrote:
I think it is helpful to look towards human's closest living relative, the bonobo. They have an extremely similar physiology to ours and guess what their diet is. Mostly fruits and vegetables.



We aren't bonobos. Usually, I see chimpanzees as the closet to us on the evolutionary tree. Either way, both chimps and bonobos as far as I know eat insects and small mammals in their native habitats. I think we should be careful about saying what the "one" natural diet is for humans especially if we're doing so by comparing us to another animal. We aren't any other animal but homo sapiens.
 
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BenjaminBurchall wrote:
I don't know about Sardinians, but the Okinawan diet contains quite a bit of meat and much more vegetables over starchy foods than the Japanese diet.



And i suppose sardinians diet is full of products of the sea.

If you look at paleo sites, okinawans eat a lot of pork too. Question of point of view ...
 
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TheDirtSurgeon wrote:
I would guess that the emphasis on fruits and vegetables stems from the sources you're reading.  It seems reasonable to guess that the majority of permaculture practitioners are city dwellers with backyard gardens -- and one thing about most cities, they don't allow the keeping of livestock.  So meat still has to come from somewhere else.  My garden can supply my vegetables... but not my annual side of beef, whole hog, and few dozen chickens.



I'm lucky to live in a city that does allow some livestock. Depends on the particular neighborhood and how big your lot is. The big "but" is if you live in an apartment or condo, you don't have a lot and maybe not even a patio or balcony. You just have what's inside your four walls - which is my case now. (I'm in the process of obtaining some land.)

So I've been thinking about what a person can grow inside without increasing their power bill. Mushrooms! That was the first thing that came to mind. Then I thought, "Escargots!" I like escargots, but they are expensive at a restaurant. You don't need additional lighting to raise mushrooms and escargots. An indoor gardener could also grow sprouts and salad greens. Salad greens plants placed by a window or skylight do just fine. If you're okay with using a little bit more electricity, you can give them a little artificial lighting.

I've done salad growing inside. Mushrooms and escargots would be new for me. I've been researching how to grow them and it looks easy enough. Any suggestions for what else could be grown indoors with little or no additional electricity use?
 
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BenjaminBurchall wrote:
I'm lucky to live in a city that does allow some livestock. Depends on the particular neighborhood and how big your lot is. The big "but" is if you live in an apartment or condo, you don't have a lot and maybe not even a patio or balcony. You just have what's inside your four walls - which is my case now. (I'm in the process of obtaining some land.)

So I've been thinking about what a person can grow inside without increasing their power bill. Mushrooms! That was the first thing that came to mind. Then I thought, "Escargots!" I like escargots, but they are expensive at a restaurant. You don't need additional lighting to raise mushrooms and escargot. An indoor gardening could also grow sprouts and salad greens. Salad greens plants placed by a window or skylight do just fine. If you're okay with using a little bit more electricity, you can give them a little artificial lighting.

I've done salad growing inside. Mushrooms and escargots would be new for me. I've been researching how to go them and it looks easy enough. Any suggestions for what else could be grown indoors with little or no additional electricity use?

i've grown multiple salad greens, spinach, culinary herbs, kale to name a few..I also put some pitcher plants in pots and venus fly traps to keep the insects down within my house..
 
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christhamrin wrote:
good original question.  mark shepard of new forest farm in wisconsin thinks permanent tree crops, specifically chestnuts and hazelnuts, ought to replace the role of corn and soybeans, respectively, in industrial agriculture.



Almonds and pecans can mostly replace wheat for breads. I've done quite a bit of bread and cake making with pecan and almond meal. The plus with using nut flours is that you can avoid carbohydrate overload and gluten allergies/insensitivities. We can have our cake and eat it too! 
 
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BenB wrote:

Interesting points ben. A general question to all. Aren't ya forgetting the
people of India? I've got many Indian friends and many have said that their anchestors
and generations prior were indeed vegetarian based. Aside from that, that was an intriguing hypothetical. I personally would choose the fruit route (as I think most would truthfully)... It comes down to that dirty word 'convenience'.. If you're hungry and tired, you're going to go with your fast-acting sugars in fruit,as well as the vitamins for further benefit. After one had recharged hunting game would be a viable option (but only after initial energy was restored). Say there was enough fruit and herbaceous material available not all would choose to hunt game, it tends to be energy-intensive and in the grand scheme not always necessary in that situation (small game would suffice otherwise).

If I may ask. Would you share what you tend to eat daily and what kind of variety you go through weekly? I appreciate variety and moderation hence eating 'some' meat but I do eat a lot of vegetables and fruits & seeds/nuts myself. Thanks. G'day.
 
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BenB wrote:
There is only one species-specific diet for humans,




Humans are omnivores and can eat just about anything, in my opinion. A varied diet suits our teeth, guts and metabolism.  There are many different diets which are probably good for humans.  I agree humans in general  benefit from a large quantity of plant material in the diet. 
 
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BenjaminBurchall wrote:
I don't know about Sardinians, but the Okinawan diet contains quite a bit of meat and much more vegetables over starchy foods than the Japanese diet.

That makes the assumption that humans only hunting game. Think about all the other animals that humans have eaten historically even before modern humans - fish and other water creatures, insects, snails, etc. Humans have been using tools to catch and  prepare their food for eating since before homo sapiens. The information we have does tell us that humans have been omnivors for hundreds of thousands of years. Whatever choice we make now about what we want to eat is just that - a choice. And it's built on modern convenience rather than environmental necessity as was in the distant past.

We'll probably attract more new permies if we don't make them feel that we're demonizing their food choices or telling them they are somehow immoral for eating animals. I've found that when people start raising some of their own food, they usually modify their diets because it just makes good financial sense to eat more of what they can grow for free.



I didn't mean to insinuate that we are just talking about game. Fish, seafood, insects, snails, grubs, etc. These are all things that humans aren't equipped to eat. We are permaculturists, lets look at nature as a model. Animals in nature don't rely on anything but what they are born with to survive. Sure a chimp might use a pointy stick to kill a bug or pry open a bark to get to some grubs. But that in no way means they are dependent on the stick to survive. It is just something that helps. Human's aren't born with things that equip us to catch seafood or fish. In fact, it is very difficult. Have you ever tried to catch a fish without a spear or fishing pole? Really tough! We aren't born with oven's on our backs or the innate knowledge of fire. Let's look at the whole taste issue again too. Does a raw grub, scorpion, or wriggling flounder look appetizing? Does your mouth water at the mere sight of these things? Of course not! If you try eating these things without salt, flavoring, BBQ sauce, etc most of the time they don't taste good at all!

I hear what you are saying about newcomers to permaculture. I would never tell someone to only grow this and not grow that. I'm a big fan of growing as much food as you can and keeping things local. But I just believe people should know that if they choose to grow all of their food themselves, but they are dependent on animal foods as a staple, they aren't doing their health any favors.
 
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BenjaminBurchall wrote:
We aren't bonobos. Usually, I see chimpanzees as the closet to us on the evolutionary tree. Either way, both chimps and bonobos as far as I know eat insects and small mammals in their native habitats. I think we should be careful about saying what the "one" natural diet is for humans especially if we're doing so by comparing us to another animal. We aren't any other animal but homo sapiens.



Well I suppose it's up for debate about which one is closer but they are both really close to the human DNA. When we look at nature, closely related species ALWAYS have closely related diets. There aren't huge swings such as one branch eating animal-based foods and another branch eating plant based foods. Generally it is simply a matter of WHICH animal foods and which plant foods a particular species eats. So if we look at bonobos OR chimpanzees, we see that there is one particular food they favor above ALL others. I'll let you check it out for yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_chimpanzee

As for the incredibly small amount of insects and raw animal guts these guys will eat, I don't have a problem if you are into that. Chow down.

 
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BenB wrote:
I didn't mean to insinuate that we are just talking about game. Fish, seafood, insects, snails, grubs, etc. These are all things that humans aren't equipped to eat.



Sure we are.  Tool use and cooking are an intrinsic part of being human.  It's likely early humans (such as Homo habilis) cooked their food.  Cooking food enabled us to dispense with large teeth and jaws, leaving more room for our big brains.  



 
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BenB wrote:
But I just believe people should know that if they choose to grow all of their food themselves, but they are dependent on animal foods as a staple, they aren't doing their health any favors.



And other people would argue that getting most of their calories from animal products seems to be the best for their personal health (not your health, their own health).

 
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BenB wrote:
Well I suppose it's up for debate about which one is closer but they are both really close to the human DNA. When we look at nature, closely related species ALWAYS have closely related diets. There aren't huge swings such as one branch eating animal-based foods and another branch eating plant based foods. Generally it is simply a matter of WHICH animal foods and which plant foods a particular species eats. So if we look at bonobos OR chimpanzees, we see that there is one particular food they favor above ALL others. I'll let you check it out for yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_chimpanzee

As for the incredibly small amount of insects and raw animal guts these guys will eat, I don't have a problem if you are into that. Chow down.



We are still not anything other than homo sapiens. It seems to me erroneous to say that because we have some similarities with another species our diets should be something like that other species.

How similiar our DNA is to chimps (or any other primate) depends on what you are measuring.  It looks like the human branch of primates was created by a mutation that fused some chromosomes. We have 23 pairs of chromosome while chimps have 24. The fused chromosomes have been identified. (I won't get into how this was figured out because we don't need that level of detail.) There are certain other chromosomes that are very different from chimpanzee chromosomes and may have an different evolutionary history. The Y chromosome in particular is different between humans and chimps and many of the markers do not line up between the two species. So, when a scientist gives a percentage of similarity between species, I think we need to ask questions like:

- What is being measured?"
- Why are those particular things measured?
- Why weren't other things included in the measurement?
- Were they picked because there was a particular question being asked which is different from the question I'm asking?
- How important are the differences?

The difference in DNA have enormous consequences which should be easy to see. So, I think constructing a diet based on a supposed similarity with another species may not be the best way to accurately answer the question, although is can be a useful tentative hypothesis until you have done the necessary observation. (Hey, that's kinda how permaculture design works too!  )The way we know for sure what a species' natural diet is, is by observing what they eat. However, when it comes to asking what our "natural" diet is, we get lost because we are the thing we are observing. Too often our emotions and difficulty in objective self-evaluation gets in the way.

Another reason coming up with a "natural" human diet is that it is built on the naturalistic fallacy. Something being natural does not equal that thing being good or desirable. Both "natural" and "good" are murky terms we tend to throw around as if they had some obvious agreed upon meaning. What does "natural" even mean?

In a way, it's really easy to know what the "natural" diet of homo sapiens is...just observe what they eat, especially over the course of the known dietary history of the species. It's not vegan. It's not carnivorous. I think it's also worthy of note that parents feeding a weening baby can attest to what these little humans, whose tastes aren't yet prejudiced by culture, prefer. I don't think many parents would say their babies prefer a vegan diet on their own. A lot of parents lament (mistakenly, I believe) how difficult it can be serving most vegetables to children and how much children will go for the meat and sweet fruit. Perhaps that should be taken into account too when thinking about what the human "natural" diet is?

I stand by the statement that we'll have an easier time expanding the reach of permaculture if we don't get on a diet high horse - whatever horse it is we like to ride.
 
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