The Nutritional Grail: Christopher James Clark
Award winning nutritional author Christopher James Clark exposes the Nutritional Grail.Our food choices profoundly influence our quality of life, but how can we differentiate between healthy and unhealthy choices with all the contradictory information one encounters online. Understanding where we have come from is the cornerstone of what serves us well in our eating habits.
wM:For many years food has been seen as simply fuel and nothing more. What is the nutritional grail and how do we reach it?
CJC: Nutritional Grail is the antithesis to the “food as fuel” thesis. Our food choices profoundly influence our quality of life, but how can we differentiate between healthy and unhealthy choices, considering all the contradictory information one encounters online? The original Story of the Grail is about a knight named Percival who grew up taking directives and never questioning anything. Throughout the story, he evolves by seeking knowledge through asking questions. Nutritional Grail is a non-dogmatic, evidence-based approach to nutrition, encompassing rigorous scientific data, evolutionary biology and ancestral eating patterns. We reach this grail by following a species-specific template for optimal health, which looks something like paleo/primal diet, and then fine-tuning this template based on individual results.
wM: Are there key items/ingredients to include and ones to omit?
CJC: The basic template includes animal protein (meat, fish, eggs, organ meats), a wide variety of vegetables, plus small- er amounts of fruit, seeds, and nuts. Optionally, one can also include non-gluten cereals (buckwheat, quinoa, millet) and fermented or non-lactose dairy (butter, full-fat yogurt, cheese).
"Sugar (in all its forms) should be avoided, but not necessarily wholesale eliminated; about 25g per day is good. All synthetic and heavily processed foods should be avoided."
wM: How has the modern way of eating altered from our ancestral ways?
CJC: The biggest problem, in my view, is our catastrophic increase in sugar consumption, which has increased from less than 1kg per person annually to upward of 45kg per person during the past three centuries. The next biggest problem is our switch from traditional sources of fat (animal products and vegetable products like coconut, olive oil, and avocado) to seed oils, including corn, soy, canola, sunflower, safflower, and grapeseed. Proportionally too high in a particular type of fat (omega-6), these seed oils promote inflammation and heart disease.
wM: We are beginning to understand the effects of diet in creating disease with- in our bodies. How is this so?
CJC: Although this message is still percolating into the public domain, it’s very well established within the scientific literature. One major problem is that for the past several decades, we have been told that fat is categorically unhealthy, particularly saturated fat. This misinformation propelled the switch from traditional fats to industrial seed oils. It’s now clear this was a monumental mistake.
"During the past several years, however, people are becoming increasingly aware that traditional fat is healthy and that sugar is and always has been our nutritional problem child."
wM: Detoxifying with food is often seen as a one off fad or extreme process. How can we integrate this way of eating into our daily lives?
CJC: I would agree that it often is faddish, particularly when it comes to juice therapy, the proponents of which tend to make unsubstantiated claims. Detoxification, is actually a normal, perpetual aspect of physiology. We can support optimal detoxification by eating clean, healthy foods, avoiding foods like sugar and seed oils. Mainly,
"we need people to understand that health is a way of life, not a temporary intervention."
wM: Similar to the movement philosophies of our contributors. How can we increase the variety in what we eat when we are encouraged to be “busy”?
CJC: As a species, we evolved as foragers and hunters. We have always consumed a wide variety of foods, but since industrialisation, the degree of variety has declined sharply, leading to consequences particularly for our gut microbiome – colonies of bacteria that reside within our digestive tract, helping us digest food. These bacteria thrive on plant fibre, which is why it’s essential for us to eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and other fibre containing foods. Our busy lifestyles need not prevent us from getting variety. Using a slow-cooker to make stews with different types of meat and vegetables is one practical example.
wM: How and why do the doctrines and dogmas of ways to eat create restrictions in the nutritional grail?
CJC: Dogma has no place in nutrition or, more generally, in science. Dogma is a way of following something based on belief in the absence of evidence. Many people imagine that healthy eat- ing requires refraining from certain foods they would like to eat. From a practical standpoint, proper nutrition should never be restrictive. After about 30 days of clean eating, if not sooner, you body will really crave those healthy foods while your appetite for junk foods will diminish greatly.