I come from the perspective that the healthiest diet and circumstances for human beings, body and mind, will be the ones we are evolved for. In practical terms, that means the diet and habits of our Paleolithic ancestors. More recently I've focused my personal research on the nutritional aspects of this theory, and that is where I will begin with my blog posts. Paleolithic psychology is an academic science in it's own right. My particular interest is in where molecular biology, nutrition, and optimal brain function meet.
Let's begin with diet. Ancient humans ate wild game (including marrow and organ meats), shellfish, fish, tubers, green leafy vegetables, eggs, fruits, and nuts. Notably absent are the vegetable oils and highly processed foods created in the last 50 or so years. Grains (corn, wheat, barley, rye, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, etc.), legumes (red and black and pinto beans, legumes, garbanzo beans, peanuts), nightshades (white potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant) and milk products are also relatively new foods to the human palate.
Anthropological evidence and epidemiological studies of modern and past hunter gatherers, as well as agrarian societies of the last 10,000 years, show us that the physical health of hunter gatherers far surpasses the health of grain-based societies (1). They lived longer (until the last 100 years and the invention of antibiotics and vaccines), and were free of diseases such as osteoporosis, metastatic cancer, and tooth decay, and modern hunter gatherers who eat traditional diets do not have diabetes, hypertension, obesity, atherosclerosis, acne, osteoporosis, dementia, or any of the most common cancers that we suffer from in the West.
Traditional agrarian societies were also relatively healthy (2), but they did not consume white flour, vegetable oils, refined sugar, or pasteurized milk products. In addition, they used a number of soaking and fermenting techniques to make grains and legumes healthier. And while some grains may be acceptable after preparation, I believe there may be no hope for wheat.
It is only in our modern world that we have access to entirely invented foods, chemical sugars, processed oils, quick rise breads, and genetically modified soy and wheat. While I will come up with a lot of biochemical smoke to pinpoint the fires in these nouveau foods that I believe are unhealthy, I do that out of intellectual interest rather than necessity. I already know that humans who did not eat those foods were healthier than we are. We'll see if we can find some good evidence that they were happier, too.
The vast majority of our calories should come from foods that are known to be healthy - grassfed beef, pastured chickens and other poultry and their eggs, pastured game meats and pigs, locally grown or organically grown produce, wild fish from unpolluted waters, coconuts and other tree nuts, and olive oil. Fermented and full fat (especially raw, if you are not immunocompromised - very young children and babies, pregnant women, etc.) dairy is also acceptable. Anything that has ingredients you cannot readily pronounce without a background in biochemistry should be, for the most part, avoided, as best you can. If you are a cook and have the time and industry to prepare grains and legumes as they should be prepared, then have at it. Don't worry, more details about the specifics will follow!