Food and the Alternatives Movement- Edited






 

 

Health 

FOOD AND

ALTERNATIVES MOVEMENT

John Bailey

In the summer of 1969, a friend wrote to me from the States : 'Political activity here seems to be on the wane. Most people are getting out of politics in to other things. Some of my friends are getting in to health foods, but I like sweet, sugary things and hamburgers too much for that.' I remember reading that letter with a sense of amazement:

'Health foods?—why on earth are people getting in to health foods, of all things?'

Looking back on it now, it seems fairly natural that food should be one of the things that people get into after going through the heavy political trip.

In fact, in my experience, people's food habits are very important in determining their life style and even their whole world-view.

From a purely biological point-of-view, the function of eating is to sustain life and maintain health. The basic biological drive is to eat to stay alive simple hunger-satisfaction. But there is also another drive the drive to eat particular foods which is known as 'appetite satisfaction'. Anthro-pological research in traditional societies has uncovered all sorts of customs and taboos regulating the types of food which can and cannot be eaten by particular people, according to their roles within the social structure of the society*. Sociological research in technologically 'advanced' societies has shown that people's food habits in these societies are profoundly affected by such things as social class and advertising.

There appears to be no doubt that in most societies not experiencing a famine situation, cultural factors play a large part in determining what people eat. Appetite-satisfaction, therefore, is partly biological and partly (probably increasingly) culturally determined. I see this role of cultural factors in determining what people eat as being very significant. In fact, I believe that a person's food habits are not only determined, in part, by cultural factors, but that these food habits can, in themselves, actually produce changes in the person's life style. In my experience, life style changes caused by changes in food habits take place particularly in the alternatives movement.

 

Food Habits in the Alternatives Movement Briefly, alternatives-minded people choose to eat minimally-processed and unrefined food rather than highly-processed and refined products; fresh, ripe food rather than food which has been stored in freezers or ripening rooms; organically-grown food rather than food which has been sprayed with pesticides or grown with chemical fertilisers; minimally-cooked or raw food rather than food which has been cooked for a long time; and, perhaps most important of all, many alternatives minded people eat only foods derived from plants (and possibly dairy products), rather than eating meat.

This quite conscious choice to eat foods which are rather different from those commonly eaten is partly a manifestation of the theme of rejection of the values of mainstream society which runs right through the alternatives movement. But there is also a more positive side to the reasons underlying this choice of foods. The choice is an affirmation of' some of the basic values of the alternatives movement—such as an ecological consciousness, a concern to work with nature and to become in touch with it, a concern with the totality of the individual, and a concern to emphasise and strengthen the intuitive rather than the intellectual processes in people's lives.

The nutritionist Professor John Yudkin has pointed out that the processing and refining of food products has achieved the separation of the palatbility of food from its nutritional value. In most unprocessed foods there is, on the whole, a direct relationship between palatibility and good nutritional value.

However, food processing is concerned with increasing the palatibility of food products without reference to their food value mostly this is achieved by enormously increasing the sugar content of the food. By rejecting processed, unfresh, unripe, sprayed and overcooked foods, the alternatives movement is seeking to return to the intuitive processes which used to guide people to choose nutritionally-sound diets.

 

Clements, 'Some effects of different diets' in S.V. Boyden (ed.), The Impact of Civilization on the Biology of Man (Canberra, 1970) .

J.C. McKenzie, 'Food trends: the dynamics of accomplished change' in J. Yudkin and J.C. McKenzie (eds). Changing Food Habits (London, 1964)

J.Yudkin, 'The need for change' in J. Yudkin and J.C. McKenzie (eds). Changing Food Habits ( London, 1964)  

These intuitive processes can be seen working most strongly when people decide no longer to eat meat. This decision is essentially based on intuition. It may arise out of a general life style in which principles like love, peace and non-aggression are seen as being extremely important. It may be rationalised by saying that man's digestive system is herbivorous in design ; that meat takes too long to digest and clogs up the system; that the rearing and killing of animals for food is cruel and cannot be tolerated; or that meat conveys the lower animal vibrations to the eater, to the detriment of his spiritual development. But all these are rationalisations after the event which takes place essentially intuitively. Therefore, to ask a vegetarian todefend his position by intellectual reasoning is often to ask an inappropriate question.

This doesn't mean that there aren't perfectly valid intellectual reasons in support of vegetarianism, reasons which, almost invariably, are inaccord with the alternatives value system. Probably the most telling one is simply that meat production is an ecologically inefficient method of producing edible protein. A hectare of cereals can produce five times more protein than a hectare devoted to meat production; legumes (peas, beans, lentils) can produce ten times more, and leafy vegetables fifteen times more*.

 

 

Food and the Alternatives Life Style To most alternatives-mined people, food is more than something merely to satisfy hunger. As well as making a conscious choice about what they put inside their bodies, many people are also concerned about how they do this. Meals become times for communal gatherings, cooperation and sharing. Much importance is attached to the preparation of the food, and great care and attention is often lavished on this. Even the process of acquiring the food to be eaten is often a manifestation of the values of the alternatives movement. I think it's highly significant that most of the points of contact between the movement and mainstream society have been such places as food co-ops, and wholefood shops and restaurants (and even country stock and station supply shops, where the local farmers meet the local hippies buying supplies and equipment for their organic gardens).

At the University of New South Wales in Sydney, the food co-op shop has been patronised by many of the University non-academic staff and members of the public as well as students and academics.

These people, as well as the suppliers who deliver to the shop, were at first amazed at the co-op's non-profit policy, but soon began to see that there was something important in the policy and the philosophy behind it. In Brisbane, the Wholefoods shop has been an important meeting place and communication centre for members of the local community all the various alternatives movement projects in Brisbane have started off by using the shop's facilities in one way or another. In Melbourne, at the same time as radical political activity started declining at Monash University, a food co-op was started. Much of the energy which went into radical politics is now directed in to developing the food co-op.

For many people, then, their first contact with the alternatives movement is brought about through the medium of food—by going to a food co-opor a wholefood shop to buy their food, or by eating a meal at a wholefood restaurant or even at a friend's place.

Consciousness-raising takes place through contact with a different subculture mediated by the basic necessity of food. Since food is a basic necessity, once this contact is started, it is likely to continue. People are likely to keep going back to the food co-op, wholefood shop, restaurant, or the friend's place. If they do keep going back, presumably it is because they have some basic sympathy with the value system being expressed at these localities. Because the people keep going back, this sympathy receives continual encouragment and reinforcement so that first they change their food habits, and then they come to a more complete acceptance of the alternatives value system. Thus the way is opened for a more complete change in their life style. Once a person has changed his food habits because of contact with the alternatives movement subculture, the new foods he starts to eat begin to have specific effects on himself. These effects can be divided into three categories : first, physiological effects on the person's body ; second, effects on the person's mind and emotions ; and third, effects on person's spiritual processes.

 

Physiological Effects of Food on the Body Some nutritionists trained in the allopathic (straight) medical tradition, like Professor John Yudkin, are now beginning to accept what naturopaths and osteopaths have known for some time—that highly-processed and refined foods have a deleterious effect on the human body*. In my own experience, I have personally known, and watched carefully, many people who have changed from a 'normal' diet to a more natural one particularly people who have become vegetarians. The physiological changes in the body during the transition period are quite marked. There is a distinct loss of excess weight. Much less faecal matter is eliminated from the body, and the odour associated with the faeces appears much less putrid. Existing skin conditions initially become worse and new ones such as boils, rashes or eczema frequently break out; several months after the changeover in diet these skin conditions clear up completely, the whites of the eyes become much clearer, and the heavy whitish-yellow deposit on the tongue disappears.

* F.M. Lappe, Diet for a Small Planet (New York, 1971). This is a fascinating book which explains cogently why, for ecological reasons, people should start eating 'low down on the food chain'. It also contains a large number of recipes for delicious vegetarian meals providing a complete range of the amino-acids (building blocks from which proteins are made) required by the human body. Individual plant foods contain only some of these amino-acids; however by combining different plant foods in the same meal, it is possible to build up a complete range.

 

Naturopaths claim that the skin conditions are caused by the body eliminating 'toxins' (physiologically useless chemicals) it had accumulated from years of eating processed foods and meat. ' They say that changing to a more natural diet relieves the body's elimination processes from the strain of getting rid of toxins ingested daily in the food, thus enabling those that had accumulated over the years to be eliminated. Fruit is claimed to be especially beneficial to this elimination process, since it requires little digestion, thus enabling more energy to be directed to elimination. Fruit is said to be the best food to eat during illnesses, and I have personally experienced the truth of this statement, both with my own body and with those of other people.

Naturopathic dietary systems are based on the biochemical fact (accepted by straight medicine) that all the natural fluids of the body except one (the gastric juice) are alkaline, and all wastes expelled from the body are acid. It would therefore seem to make sense to eat a diet which is basically alkaline. Cereals, meat, fish, nuts and hard cheese in crease the acidity of the urine, whereas vegetables, milk, cottage cheese and fruits (with the exception of plums, prunes and cranberries) increase the alkalinity of the body fluids and decrease the acidity of the urine. Naturopathic diets therefore place great emphasis on eating large quantities of vegetables and fruits (usually sixty to eighty per cent of the diet) and only small quantities of the acidifying foods. Highly refined or processed foods are not recommended since the vitamin and mineral content of these foods has usually been drastically reduced by the processing; indeed, it is suggested that eating such foods results in the elimination of many vitamins and minerals from the body.

Naturopaths also recommend that foods should be cooked as lightly as possible or eaten raw, since heat destroys many vitamins, and cooking in water which is subsequently thrown away dissolves most of the minerals out of the food H. Vitamins and minerals must be derived from 'natural' sources, i.e. living matter, since naturopaths believe that artificially synthesised products are not absorbed by the human body or, if they are absorbed, they are not used in the same way as products from natural sources. Vegetables and fruits selected for the diet should probably have been grown in rich, compost-fed soil, since artificial fertilisers do not provide minerals in a form which can be easily assimilated by the plant, and produce grown in such soils is therefore depleted in minerals and vitamins. Organically-grown fruit and vegetables do not contain residues of pesticides which can accumulate in the human body and have a harmful effect on the delicate balance of the body's biochemistry.

 

                                                                                                                                                           Effects of Food on the Mind and the Emotions Food, the mind and the emotions are all         interrelated. Many times I have experienced indigestion or diarrhoea as a direct    consequence of eating when I was in a hurry or emotionally upset ; the digestion of the food is impaired and it passes straight through the body without being absorbed. Many people have said to me, and I have experienced it myself, that when they changed to a natural, vegetarian diet, their body began to feel lighter, and they seemed to be able to think much more clearly. Macrobiotics is a dietary system which places great emphasis on the role of food in affecting

ma n 's emotional and mental (also spiritual) life.

Recently, Yudkin has been carrying out a campaign against white sugar especially, linking the progressive rise in the consumption of sugar in several countries with a corresponding increase in atherosclerosis and ischaemic heart disease ; see J. Yudkin,

Pure, White and Deadly: The Problem of Sugar (London, 1972).

J.C. White, Abundant Health (Tennessee, Madison College, 1944).

The acidity/alkalinity of some common foods is discussed in the booklet Foods that Alkalinize and Heal by Mary C. Hogle, published by Clinkard and Co., Auckland. For a medical textbook which states that a vegetarian diet alkalinizes the body whereas a meat diet has an acidifying effect, see C.O. Douglas and J.G. Priestley, Human Physiology (Oxford, 1948), p. 230.

§A good cookbook based on these principles is Nutritious Recipes and Meals by Martin Pretorious, published by Pretorius

Pty. Ltd., Sydney, 1972.

See M. Bircher-Benner and M. Bircher, Fruit Dishes and Raw Vegetables (Rochford, Essex, C.W. Daniel, 1926, reprinted 1971).

IFSee P. Chen, Mineral Balance in Eating fin- Health (Emmaus, Pennsylvania, California, 1969); H.E. Kirschner and H.C. White,

Are You What You Eat? (Riverside, California: H.C. White Publications, 1960).

 

 

 

As interpreted by Georges Ohsawa, the macro-biotic diet is based on the ancient Far Eastern

philosophy which maintains that there are two antagonistic, yet complementary forces in the Universe , yin and yang, and that everything existing in the Universe can be classified in terms of these forces. The yin and yang forces are said to operate at all levels—at the physical where yin is the element potassium and yang is sodium ; at the level of the senses and the emotions where yin is cold and yang is warm; at the level of the mind where yin encourages precise, logical thinking and yang encourages expansiveness and irrationality;

and at the spiritual level where yin encourages spirituality, whereas yang favours a return to a

more physical state.*

The yin-yang composition of the human body is profoundly affected by the composition of the

food which is assimilated. The aim of the macrobiotic diet is to maintain a balance within the body of five parts of yin to one of yang, by means of varying the amounts of yin and yang food in the diet. A diet which contains excessive amounts of one type of food unbalances the body, affecting all the different levels of existence, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. A person following macrobiotic philosophy uses his mental capacity to correct any imbalance; he is continually thinking about and assessing the yin-yang composition of his body and continually adjusting this balance by means of the food he eats.

Practically, in terms of the actual food eaten, macrobiotic diets use cereals as a basic or staple food because these, especially brown rice, are said to be composed of the ideal balance of yin and yang. Indeed, in some cases, such as illness, a dietconsisting solely of cereals is recommended. At the physiological level, macrobiotic diets would be generally considered to be completely unbalanced and, in some cases, people following such diets have developed illnesses resulting from deficiencies of minerals or vitamins. Macrobiotic followers would counter such arguments against their dietary system by maintaining that people who are in true yin-yang balance and who are truly mentally and spiritually ready to follow macrobiotic principles will be able to manufacture any deficient biochemical materials in their own bodies.

 

Effects of Food on Spiritual Processes

Most religious and spiritual systems have something to say about food : many maintain that man's food is the most essential means for attaining the highest realms of spirituality. Frequently, the rules and regulations given in spiritual writings are explained on a material level, such as the idea that the Bible forbids the eating of the meat of any cloven-hoofed

animal purely for hygienic reasons. However, food does have a legitimate role to play on the spiritual level, and saints and mystics often use food, being one of man's basic necessities, to further their teaching about the relationship between spirituality and materialism. Swami Vivekenanda once ate rubbish from the streets of Calcutta to demonstrate that no wordly affliction could befall a truly spiritual person. There have been many examples

of saints existing on virtually no food—Jesus spending forty days in the desert; yogis today existing solely on water and air ; the Catholic nun Mother Therese whose food for twelve years was a communion wafer once a day. What these people actually exist on is the so-called 'nectar', 'living water' or 'soma' which is a fluid, possibly secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, and which advanced techniques of meditation allow a person to contact and utilise as 'food'. I have known people who have been able to do this.

Returning to the effects of more worldly food on spiritual processes, spiritually-based dietary systems suggest that in addition to the purely biochemical matter which the physical body receives from the food we eat, we also receive other factors which are active in the spiritual realm of our being. Rudolf Steiner said; The value of our food consists

in its force rather than in its substance.' His followers, the Anthroposophists, maintain that the material nature of food has to be totally destroyed by man (through the process of digestion) to release

 

Geor ges Ohsawa's books on macrobiotics, all published by the Ohsawa Foundation Inc. in Los Angeles, are as follows :

Zen Macrobiotics, (1965), The Book of Judgement (1966), and The Macrobiotic Guidebook for Living (1967). I suggest that you

read The Book of Judgement first, even though it's the second volume in the series, because this is the book which really explains

what the terms 'yin' and 'yang' mean.

ISee M. Kushi, Food for Spiritual Development (Boston, Massachusetts, 1968). The standard macrobiotic cookbook is The

.New Zen Cookery by Shayne Oles, published by Shayfer Corp., Woodland Hills, California.

Probably one of the clearest and most beautiful statements about food was made by Jesus :

'Take heed, therefore, and defile not with all kinds of abominations the temple of your bodies. Be content with two or three

sorts of food, which you will find always upon the table of our Earthly Mother. And desire not to devour all things which

you see round about you. For I tell you truly, if you mix together all sorts of food in your body, then the peace of your body

will cease, and endless war will rage in you.'

This is from The Essene Gospel of Peace translated by Edmond B. Szekely, published by the Academy of Creative Living,

San Diego, California, 1971. This amazing translation of St John's Gospel, according to the early Christian sect of the Essenes,

contains many beautiful and clear instructions about diet from the mouth of Jesus himself—including instructions on how to carry out a primitive enema to allow the angel of water to cast cut Satan from the body! 

 

the spiritual forces which are then transformed and utilised in maintaining the spiritual realm of thehuman body. A healthy diet, in these terms, is one that contains sufficient life-forces to pose a challenge to the individual's ability to transform and use foreign life-forces, thus strengthening this particular ability. The whole aim of Steiner's Biodynamic Method of gardening is to ensure that the crops contain as much of these life-forces as possible artifical fertilisers and chemical pesticides deplete rather than build up these forces.*

Moreover, in seeking a spiritually-balanced diet, certain parts of the plant are said to contain forces affecting  different parts of the human body.

'Food containing mostly root will have an effect on the head-processes; leaves and green vegetables on the rhythmic system, especially helping in the regeneration of blood; while blossoms and fruits stimulate the digestion and harmonise the finer processes of the metabolic system.'

A balanced diet should, therefore, contain sufficient quantities of each of these different types of food.

Animal flesh is said to be spiritually so close to the human condition that it takes very little effort on the part of man to transform and utilise its life forces when meat is taken as food. This can lead to man becoming spiritually dependent on a meat diet, since his transforming ability is not at all taxed by it, whereas a vegetarian diet makes him work quite hard. A vegetarian diet, therefore, builds up man 's spiritual power and allows his independence

as a spiritual being to grow; it gives him much more spiritual freedom than a meat diet. Meat eaters tend to be more outgoing and to develop the

physical side of their being, whereas vegetarians tend to be more introverted, contemplative and spiritually developed. 

 

Continuous Consciousness-Raising by Eating

 

The many and various effects of food which I have catalogued above can all be summed up by saying that the overall effect of a natural diet is to enable a person's consciousness to be raised continuously.

In other words a natural diet opens the way for continual self-evolution and development, un- hampered by a poor physiology, an unstable mental condition and erratic emotions, or weakened spiritual processes. Many of these effects of food which I have described will be discounted or derided by so-called 'empirical' scientists. To such people I offer the following. Intuitively, I have realised that the food people eat does have pro- found effects upon them. Having been trained as a biologist myself, I have empirically experienced these effects both with my own body and by observing those of other people. If this is not sufficient evidence, I suggest that anybody who is still interested, but not convinced, should try a natural diet for himself.

 

Food Habits, the Alternatives Movement andMainstream Society I started this article by quoting from a letter written to me by a friend in 1969. At that time in Australia, health foods were important to only a very small percentage of the population—mainly elderly people who had been concerned about what they ate for a good number of years, and who had come to this position probably either for spiritual or health reasons. The five years since that letter was written have seen an enormous change in the health food situation. There has been a great increase in the level of consciousness about food, with young people in particular becoming turned-on to natural diets. Health foods in Australia are now quite a large industry. The large food processing firms have not been slow off the mark.

In 1972, one large firm commissioned AustralianNationwide Opinion Polls to determine the size of the Australian market for health foods, with the idea of 'manufacturing' such foods in a big way.

At the 1971 Aquarius Arts Festival in Canberra, many young people came into contact with muesli for the first time; now all the big breakfast cereal manufacturers make their own particular brand, none of these really bearing any relationship to the original apple muesli invented by Dr Bircher- Benner in the early 1900s. § The Peters ice cream people have started manufacturing a 'natural' ice-cream, made only from 'natural' ingredients and costing twice the price of their ordinary brand; this puts Peters into the interesting and somewhat schizoid position of admitting that their ordinary ice cream isn't made from 'natural' ingredients, a fact that may not be known to the general public.

What effect does all this activity have on the relationship between food habits, the alternatives movement and mainstream society? In effect, what has happened is that first, the alternatives movement adopted particular food habits from the health fanatics because these habits fitted in well with the alternatives value system. Now big business is trying to get the general public to adopt food habits from the alternatives movement, reasoning that, because health foods at present sell at high prices, there must be room for a greater margin of profit. At first, this looks like a typical example of Marcuse's 'repressive tolerance'. However, what big business could be doing, is unwittingly sowing the seeds of its own destruction.

To promote health foods, the food manufacturers first have to admit that the foods they've been manufacturing up till now have been deficient in some way, and second, to enable them to keep selling that 'normal' food, they have to charge higher prices for health foods. Hopefully, this consciousness-raising publicity will cause the general public to examine more critically the quality of the food they buy and the price they pay for it.This may lead more members of the public to seek out the alternatives movement's food co-ops and wholefood shops where, generally, high quality food is available at lower prices than in big business stores. (For example a good vegetarian two or three course meal can be had at a wholefood restaurant for between $2.00—$3.00.) Once they have been brought into contact with a different subculture in this way, hopefully more people will be lead to embrace the values system of the alternatives movement.

§

See A. Heckel (ed) The Pfeiffer Garden Book.' Biodynamies in the Home Garden (Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania, 1967); J. and H.

Phi l br i ck, Gardening for Health and Nutrition, (New York, 1971); H. Philbrick and R. B. Gregg, Companion Plants (London,

1967) . These books are available from the Anihroposophical Society Bookshop, 204 Clarence Street, Sydney.

From A.E. Abbot. The Art of Healing (London, Emerson Press, 1963).

R. Steiner, Problems of Nutrition (New York, Anthroposophic Press, 1969).

The original recipe can be found in the book cited in footnote §'p. 109, and also in W. and J. Fliess, Modern Vegetarian Cookery

(Harmondsworth, 1964). This last book is the best general-purpose vegetarian cook book I know; another good one is B.T.

Hunter, The Natural Foods Cookbook (New York).

 

 

 

 


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