Excerpt from Chapter 2 of The Energy Balance Diet:
The Energy Wave: Secret to Your Ideal Weight
by Joshua Rosenthal with Tom Monte
Our craving for sugar is as natural as our desire for air. During our two million years of evolution, nature genetically programmed humans to desire sweettasting foods over all others. The reason: Unprocessed sweet foods are the greatest sources of energy and nutrition.
Long before there was food processing, the only source of sweet taste were plant foods, such as squash, tubers, roots, grains, and fruit. In order to get the sweet taste that the body desired, people had to eat plants. It was no coincidence that these same sweet foods were also the greatest sources of nutrients, energy, and fiber—everything we needed to maintain health and survival. (We don't call it Mother Nature for nothing.)
Food processing didn't really begin until civilization arose, some 10,000 to 14,000 years ago. At that point, people began making whole grain flour, sugar, beer, wine, pickles, and many other fermented foods. We also harvested honey. But these foods were a small part of the overall diet. Most of the foods we ate were whole and unprocessed vegetables, grains, beans, and fruit. It didn't matter that people ate small amounts of sugar and honey and drank some wine or beer. These foods were for special occasions; they weren't everyday fare.
So for two million years, people ate food essentially as nature produced it. Yes, we also ate animal foods, but in much smaller amounts than plants, primarily because the plant foods were so much more abundant, and animal foods were more difficult to come by.
Then along came the middle of the 1900s and food processing exploded. Suddenly, sugar was in everything from ketchup to toothpaste. That wasn't enough, however. We turned whole-grain bread into white bread, brown rolls into white rolls. We did it by stripping the grain of its fiber and nutrient-rich germ.
Pastries, muffins, bagels, and doughnuts—every grain product we ate was straight from the foodprocessing plant. The most abundant foods in the supermarkets today are processed foods, everything from soft drinks, snacks, already-prepared meals, desserts, and condiments. Nearly everything contains artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, and preservatives.
People of the 19th and early 20th centuries would not recognize the food in today's supermarket, especially the foods generally eaten by children, which typically are the most artificial and highly processed. Children eat the most sugar, artificial ingredients, and highly-refined foods available, and it shows. Obesity is an epidemic among children today.
All of this happens because we love sweet taste, and we managed to create a lot of it by extracting the sugars from the foods in which they originated. In the process, we transformed our natural desire for sweet taste into a ravenous, insatiable monster within us. And that monster has been leading us in the wrong directions ever since.
DECREASING NUTRITION, INCREASING CALORIES
Most people today don't realize the extreme effects processed foods are having on us. Processing outstrips the food of nutrients. Some are reintroduced during "fortification," but there is no way that a laboratory can reintroduce all the vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, phytochemicals, and fiber that were originally in that food. Did you know that a single tomato contains more than 10,000 phytochemicals? How do you put all of that back into a food after you've taken it out? You can't.
Humans had been eating whole, unprocessed foods for two million years. And then in the space of a single generation, we stripped the food of its nutrients and phytochemicals that were in the diet we were used to eating. Yes, the food is sweeter today, but it is a whole lot less nutritious. This leaves the body wanting for nutrients, so naturally we have cravings. Nature programmed us to eat food that was bursting with nutrients, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber—foods that contain a myriad of mysterious healing chemicals and energies. And we turned it into cardboard—or something close to it.
NO ONE CAN BE FULLY SATISFIED ON A DIET THAT IS PROCESSED AND ARTIFICIAL
The loss of nutrition and plant chemicals is one of the reasons why people crave food, even when they are full and obese. Our need for nutrition is not the only source of cravings, however. The biggest creator of cravings is the type of carbohydrates we eat today.
To find out more about cravings, carbohydrates, and further guidance on how to provide your body with the right combination of protein, natural sugars, and essential nutrients it needs to sustain high energy and health, read The Energy Balance Diet.