The Starch Solution

This truth is simple and is, therefore, easy to explain. You must eat to live. But the choice of what you eat is yours. There is an individual, specific diet that best supports the health, function, and longevity of each and every animal. The proper diet for human beings is based on starches. The more rice, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beans you eat, the trimmer and healthier you will be — and with those same food choices you will help save the Planet Earth too.

My recommendation for eating starches puts glazed looks on people's faces, and many dismiss me as certifiably crazy. They think of starch as something used in the laundry to stiffen shirts. Starch brings back memories of pasty bland-tasting goop, and white, airy Wonder Bread. Most disturbing is that nearly everyone believes starches are fattening and nutritionally inferior foods. Fortunately, common knowledge is completely wrong and the proof is right before your own eyes.

The most important evidence supporting my claim that the natural human diet is based on starches is a simple observation that you can easily validate for yourself: All large populations of trim, healthy people, throughout verifiable human history, have obtained the bulk of their calories from starch. Examples of once thriving people include Japanese, Chinese, and other Asians eating sweet potatoes, buckwheat, and/or rice, Incas in South America eating potatoes, Mayans and Aztecs in Central America eating corn, and Egyptians in the Middle East eating wheat. There have been only a few small isolated populations of primitive people, such as the Arctic Eskimos, living at the extremes of the environment, who have eaten otherwise. Therefore, scientific documentation of what people have eaten over the past thirteen thousand years convincingly supports my claim.

Men and women following diets based on grains, vegetables, and fruits have accomplished all of the great feats in history. The ancient conquerors of Europe and Asia, including the armies of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC) and Genghis Khan (1162–1227 AD) consumed starch-based diets. Caesar's legions complained when they had too much meat in their diet and preferred to do their fighting on grains.1 Primarily six foods: barley, maize (corn), millet, potatoes, rice, and wheat have fueled the caloric engines of human civilization.

Starches Consumed Throughout History

  • Barley — Middle East for 11,000 years
  • Corn (maize) — North, Central, and South America for 7,000 years
  • Legumes — Americas, Asia, and Europe for 6,000 years
  • Millet — Africa for 6,000 years
  • Oats — Middle East for 11,000 years
  • Potatoes — South America (Andes) for 13,000 years
  • Sorghum — East Africa for 6,000 years
  • Sweet Potatoes — South America and Caribbean for 5,000 years
  • Rice — Asia for more than 10,000 years
  • Rye — Asia for 5000 years
  • Wheat — Near East for 10,000 years

Our DNA Nails It

Based on our anatomy and physiology experts have long concluded that primates, including humans, are designed to eat a diet consisting mostly of plant foods. The natural diet of chimpanzees, our closest relative, is nearly pure vegetarian in composition; made up largely of fruits; and in the dry seasons when fruit is scarce, they eat tree seeds, flowers, soft pith, and bark; with termites and small mammals making an insignificant contribution to their nutrition all year long.

Recently, scientists have proven through genetic testing that we are designed to thrive best on one category of plant food known as starch. Human and chimp DNA is roughly 99% identical, but that 1% difference, which includes genes to digest much more starch, proved crucial for the evolution of humanity’s earliest ancestors. Examination of the number of copies of the gene for the synthesis of the starch-digesting enzyme, amylase, has found an average of 6 copies in humans, compared to only 2 copies of this gene in other primates.2 This genetic difference results in the production of 6 to 8 times higher levels of starch-digesting enzymes in human saliva. The limited ability of chimpanzees and others in the great ape family to utilize starch tied their species to the tropical jungles where fruits are abundant all year long.

Starches were a critical food source for the ancestors of early and modern humans. The ability to efficiently utilize starch provided the opportunity for us to migrate out of Africa — to colonize the rest of the planet (to locations where fruits are plentiful only in summer and fall).  Starch-filled tubers and grains act as storage units for concentrated calories that last throughout the winter, are widely distributed geographically, and are easy to gather. Their abundant calories also supplied the extra energy necessary for the brain to evolve from monkey-size to human-size (a three times difference).3

People Are Starch-Eaters

People should be thought of as “starch-eaters;” just like cats are “meat-eaters.” Until recently, except for a small number of wealthy aristocrats, members of the human species have obtained the bulk of their calories from starch. After the mid 1800s with the creation of colossal wealth during the industrial revolution and the harnessing of fossil fuels, millions, and then billions, of people were able to eat from a table piled high with meat, fowl, and dairy, once available only to royalty. Look around you – the consequences are obvious – everyday people appear rotund like the kings and queens pictured in old paintings. Look a little further and you will discover the Starch Solution.

Starch is a “complex carbohydrate” made up of long chains of sugar molecules, stored in the plants’ parts for their future use. During the growing season, green leaves collect energy from the sun and synthesize sugars that are converted into tiny starch granules. The plants use this stockpile for survival over winter, to re-grow the next year, and to reproduce. Starchy plant-food-parts selected by people for eating are simply called “starches.” Tubers (potatoes, sweet potato, cassava), winter squashes (pumpkin, butternut, hubbard), legumes (beans, peas, lentils), and grains (barley, corn, rice, wheat) serve as organs for storing starch.

Green and yellow vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus, accumulate relatively little starch, and fruits are made up of simple sugars, not complex ones. All animal foods, including beef, chicken, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, and cheese, contain no starch at all.

While easily providing the abundance of calories needed for winning marathons, starches do not promote excess weight gain. That is because the human body efficiently regulates carbohydrates from starches, burning them off, rather than storing them, when consumed in excess. How effective is our body’s regulation? Obesity has been unknown among billions of Asians with a wide variety of activity levels who have followed traditional diets based on rice. However, these people’s immunity immediately disappears when they switch to meals based on meat and dairy foods, because the human body unsuccessfully balances for excess fat consumption – storing these calories in the abdomen, buttocks, and thighs. The fat you eat is the fat you wear.

Starches are very low in fat (1% to 8% of their calories), contain no cholesterol, do not grow human pathogens, like salmonella, E. Coli, and “mad cow” prions, and do not store poisonous chemicals, like DDT and methyl mercury. Outside surface contamination, for example, from cow dung and pesticide sprays, may occur, but that is not a fault with the plants. Starch is clean fuel.

The carbohydrates abundant in starches pleasurably stimulate the sweet-tasting sensory buds on the tips of our tongues. Here gastronomic enjoyment and satisfaction begin. Because of their natural rewarding properties – having great taste and nourishing calories – people refer to beans, breads, corn, pasta, potatoes, and rice as “comfort foods.” In addition to “clean and efficient, satisfying energy,” starches provide an abundance of other nutrients, such as proteins, essential fats, vitamins, and minerals. Some single starches, for example potatoes and sweet potatoes, are “complete foods” and can easily meet all of our nutritional needs alone. Grains and legumes are deficient in vitamins A and C. The addition of a small amount of fruit or green and yellow vegetable easily provides for these vitamins, making a diet of these seeds sound.

Starches are very low in fat (1% to 8% of their calories), contain no cholesterol, do not grow human pathogens, like salmonella, E. Coli, and "mad cow" prions, and do not store poisonous chemicals, like DDT and methyl mercury. Outside surface contamination, for example, from cow dung and pesticide sprays, may occur, but that is not a fault with the plants. Starch is clean fuel.

While easily providing the abundance of calories needed for winning marathons, starches do not promote excess weight gain. That is because the human body efficiently regulates carbohydrates from starches, burning them off, rather than storing them, when consumed in excess. How effective is our body's regulation? Obesity has been unknown among billions of Asians with a wide variety of activity levels who have followed traditional diets based on rice. However, these people's immunity immediately disappears when they switch to meals based on meat and dairy foods, because the human body unsuccessfully balances for excess fat consumption — storing these calories in the abdomen, buttocks, and thighs. The fat you eat is the fat you wear.

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March 5, 2009