Hay went on and developed his dietary system, which became known as “The Hay Diet.” This was later taken up by others, in the US, England, France and other countries. Food Combining gained ground among sophisticated consumers ever since, who find that certain combinations of foods help them to, digest their meals more smoothly, lose weight with relative ease, and generally, better care for their constitution.
The Hay Diet has many fine points, but its main combining principles is to eat,
1. Proteins, fats and oils together, which may be combined with vegetables;
2. Starches by themselves, or also combined with vegetables;
3. Fresh and dried fruits by themselves.
The essential point is not to mix proteins, fats and oils on the one hand, with starches on the other in the same meal. Practically speaking, however, this is not as easy as it sounds. Hence, many books have been written on how to best combine the elements of nutrition.
The movement never quite gained scientific recognition, mainly because most of its evidence is anecdotal, while it never developed a solid evolutionary basis. For example, the scientific health community now recognizes the evil of having too much animal fat in the diet. But that was not always so. When Ancel Keys, a now famous nutritionist and adviser to the US Government, first enunciated his evidence and his fears about a link between diet and the risks of heart disease, in a joint meeting of two large international congresses (one on nutrition, the other on diabetes) in Amsterdam in 1952, few if any accepted his thesis. In his own words, “no one rose to say that my views warranted further study.”
This has changed radically. Not simply because epidemiological and other studies now say so, but also because there is no doubt at all that the meat our ancestors ate, had only a fraction of the fat of our present meat supply. Therefore, eating too much animal fat goes against our ancestral eating habits and certainly against the instructions of our genes. But why shouldn’t we eat proteins, fats, and starches together, as Hay and his good followers contend? Where is the evolutionary evidence against this eating habit?
Unknown to Hay and his followers, but also to the scientific health community, there is a wealth of evidence that shows precisely what Hay contended. Unfortunately, much of this testimony is not readily available to professional health workers. It involves a range of unexplained biological and biochemical facts, but which may be aptly illuminated by prehistoric archeology. Only glimpses of these may be presented here. But it is worth the trouble, because they explain at least why all these people feel better, eating in ways that seem bizarre and unnatural to the rest of us.
A few million years ago, our hominid ancestors came out of the African rain forest to the savannas on its fringes, adding meat to their diet coming mainly from scavenging, at least in the beginning. When meat was to be had, they feasted on it and complemented their long term carbohydrate diet by an overdose of animal proteins. For of course, they ate all the meat available, because they knew they could not store it. Slaughtered meat can be kept only a short time, because of the action of enzymes, bacteria, contaminating insects, maggots, or some other fierce competing carnivores and scavengers.
This intrinsic inability to preserve meat for a later day, made our ancestors eat all the meat they had before turning to plant foods. Not as a dietary rule, of course, but because of the value placed on meat and its perishable nature. Modern aboriginal hunters are also known for putting away enormous quantities of meat in one meal for precisely the same reasons, and therefore with little time for gathering their usual plant foods. Thus our ancestors seem to have separated their proteins and fats from their carbohydrate foods, simply as a result of the exigencies of life.
This fact is reflected in numerous biological clues, only a few of which may be given here. One, is the structure of our kidneys with many peripheral glomeruli, possessing a far greater filtering capacity than usually necessary. In other words, a structure for binge eating of meat, but not for eating meat every day that may lead to many kidney disorders. Another, is our capacity to maintain protein balance over a large range of protein intake, something that is not the case with carbohydrates. A third, is the well known ability of our organism to store fat-soluble vitamins in far greater amounts than water-soluble vitamins. A fourth, is the remarkable resilience of the human fetus, in the face of maternal protein malnutrition. A fifth, is the well recognized interference of calcium on iron absorption, and even though there is no direct link between them. A, sixth is the excessive insulin produced by mixed meals, as measured in the blood of healthy volunteers. These and many other unexplained biological and biochemical facts, may be readily clarified by this basic separation in the eating habits of our distant ancestors.
But even when our later ancestors moved into glacial Europe, where meat could be easily preserved, conditions obliged them to maintain a similar separation. Something like this is suggested at the Cro-Magnon site of Abri Pataud of the Dordogne in France. There, the American scholar Arthur Spiess found by examining reindeer teeth that the animals were slaughtered between October and March. Precisely the season that plant foods would have been few, by contrast to the large reindeer herds that roamed the valleys of southern France, and became the objects of so much cave art. Eating a lot of meat became the rule in winter, just as in the summer plant foods must have prevailed.
Thus the separation of foods continued, despite the drastic change in habitat.
This separation was apparent in large areas of the globe until very recently. Many old timers remember that a year’s meat eating days were feast days, and rare enough to be counted. This is still the case in much of Africa and among other pastoralists, who eat meat on special occasions only, as their herds represent the family’s movable wealth, a kind of walking bank account, where animals are not readily sacrificed for food.
Such has been the case for a large part of humanity until the arrival of the “balanced meal,” choice cuisines, and modern affluent malnutrition. But about the balanced meal and such other human follies, we will speak another time.