Wheat, cereal, and bread–the staff of life–is considered a cornerstone staple for human nutrition. It played the lead role in the food pyramids we were taught in school. But in truth, wheat is an inferior and “dirty” protein source. And, the two people who know this best are allergists and athletes.
Eighty percent of our immune system is in our gut. And this makes sense, because humans have eaten a lot of foul, rancid, germ-ridden, nasty things over the course of our evolution. And before nutrients are assimilated into our bodies, the intestines act as our first immunological line of defense to protect us from the multitude of foreign invaders contained in our food and drink.
The protein found in wheat is a large molecule that in often mistaken in many people’s digestive tracts as a foreign substance to be fought. Indeed, gliadin–a molecule that is found in wheat protein–is the exact same molecule found on the surface of the adenovirus, which is a common cause of lung infections. It triggers an immune reaction as if the body were under viral assault, with the result possibly being chronic systemic inflammation, Leaky Gut Syndrome, fibromyalgia, and even rheumatoid arthritis. It is why gluten free diets are in vogue in recent years.
Why Wheat’s Prominence?
The big selling point for wheat is that it is yummy. There is no denying that warm cookies, pizza or pancakes are comfort foods without equal. So, if you were a despot concerned with quelling potential revolution, keeping the peasants’ bellies full becomes a priority. Grains produce high, reliable yields that can be stored for long periods. (Is it any wonder why so many Asians eat copious amounts of rice?) But grains–particularly wheat, barley and rye–are highly allergenic. You’ll live on them, but not optimally. It is the classic example of quantity over quality. Fundamentally, grains are mere subsistence food.
Grains are a product of the Agrarian Revolution of a mere 10,000 years ago. But, we as a species have been evolving over a period of millions of years. Gastroenterologist, Walter L. Voegtlin, in 1975, pointed out that our evolutionary diets were devoid of grains and refined sugars that are linked to multiple digestive problems like colitis and Crohn’s disease. He sparked a movement in what has been termed as the Paleolithic diet, Stone Age diet or Hunter-gatherer diet. The premise being that our bodies are designed and adapted best to what we have been eating for the past 2.5 million years–like meat, fish, nuts, roots, vegetables, fruit, and berries– and not the “unnatural” modern inventions of grains, refined sugar, and processed oils.
Athletes Know This Wisdom
The modern athlete is like the warrior/hunter of yesteryear. Athletes need to have the highest quality nutrients for optimal performance. And high quality protein to build and maintain lean muscle is essential. What elite athletes look for is nutrient density. Or, packing as much pro-health, pro-performance nutrition into each calorie consumed as is possible.
As a former football defensive lineman, rower, and discus/shot put thrower, I learned quickly that the key to staying strong and injury-free was the right protein, which could be determined by it’s bioavailability (BV). BV measures how effectively the body can absorb and use the protein source to build and repair muscle tissue.
Initially, the top protein was thought to be eggs, and scientists assigned it a BV value of 100. Here is the quick breakdown of common protein sources:
Whey, BV 104
Egg, BV 100
Cow’s milk, BV 91
Egg white, BV 88
Beef, BV 80
Fish, BV 79
Chicken, BV 77
Soy, BV 74
Potato, BV 71
Rice, BV 59
Wheat, BV 54
Beans, BV 49
Peanuts, BV 43
So those who have prepared emergency food stores may know the importance of protein, but too often they turn to those with lower bio-availability, like peanut butter, beans and rice, wheat, or TMP or textured meat protein from soy. Additionally, processed soy presents another problem. Soybean protein lacks one essential amino acid called methionine making it incomplete. Many manufacturers add it back but use hexane and other toxic chemicals in the process, which are not safe.
The Ideal Crisis Meal
In a time of crisis, when survival becomes a daily issue, you will become an athlete whether you are ready or not–greater physical labor, more walking, carrying water, gardening, and physical labor. You may be in shape and physically prepared, or you may struggle to meet the new physical demands, but rest assured your dietary requirements will move more towards the athletic spectrum and away from the lesser demands of modern sedentary life.
Athletes are smart about nutrition. They know that maximum muscle growth, with the emphasis on lean tissue, requires the highest quality proteins, taken in greater amounts than that needed by someone who doesn’t exercise.
(Now you may have seen endurance athletes like marathon runners or Tour de France cyclists who can eat all form of high-caloric junk food like doughnuts or soda pop. But, these athletes are only looking for caloric fuel for one specific race. The proverbial “carbo-load” scenario. For us mere mortals who don’t need to climb the Pyrenees at peak speed, our extra caloric boost is easily supplied by reserves in our love handles or thighs.)
Cornerstone food storage recommendations do not recognize the need for high bioavailable proteins during a TEOTWAWKI situation. The view is towards long-term storage-ability and meeting the basic requirements of the appropriate balance of fats, carbohydrates and protein. The problem is that when athletes build or maintain muscle mass the one thing you will never find on their training table is wheat, peanut butter, or TVP proteins. They know to consume animal products like chicken, fish or steak that, but without refrigeration, they spoil rapidly and are not viable long-term storage choices. Luckily, for us, however, the top three bioavailable proteins–whey, egg, and milk–lend themselves perfectly to dehydration and freeze-dry techniques that ensures long shelf lives.
The Best Whey
The king of proteins is whey. Yes that “whey” from the nursery rhyme: “Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey..” (Curds and whey = cottage cheese.) Whey is the rich protein left over after the cheese making process. Whey is ideal for human health. Interestingly, human milk is 60% whey and 40% casein protein whereas cow milk is 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein. So humans seem to have a natural predilection for whey.
Whey is the “anti-wheat” because whereas wheat is thought to contribute to a myriad of health problems–in as much as 80% of the population–whey is like a magic health tonic. Studies have shown some incredible things about whey. First, consumption of whey can increase cellular glutathione levels. Glutathione is the body’s most powerful antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage and against certain toxins. So it is no surprise that studies have shown whey to be anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic. Whey studies show positive effects in cellular function, stress reduction, mental clarity, appetite control, bone and muscle health, as well as cholesterol and blood pressure regulation. Indeed, whey is now one of the most heavily researched nutritional sources.
The Survivalist’s Thrive Shake
What I have concocted below is a complete ultra-healthy meal that can be made in a few minutes. It centers on the concept of nutrient dense food—the highest nutritive benefit per calorie consumed:
The Thrive Shake
* Reconstituted powdered/freeze dried milk as the base, approximately 10 ounces *
2 Tbsp of whey protein powder *
1 Tbsp whole egg powder (Yes, yokes contain important fats that should be included.) *
1 Tbsp coconut milk powder (can substitute canned coconut milk or coconut flakes) *
1 Tbsp fruit/veggie powder *
1 Tsp cocoa powder *
1 Tsp honey *
1 Tsp chia seed
(In a pinch, if it is impractical to use an electric blender the ingredients can be placed in a large jar and vigorously shaken.)
This shake should be part of everyone’s diet, even during the best of times because of it’s healthful benefits. (I’d venture to say its better than 99.9% of what people put in their bodies.)
Protein: This three protein combination–milk, egg and whey– works synergistically. Together they are known as a “whey protein blend” and create a BV between 105-160. They form a “time release” or “sustained release” matrix, which is ideal, as whey proteins absorb rapidly and the other proteins absorb slower over time.
Coconut: Coconuts contain healthful fats. Lauric acid composes 50% of the fat, which converts to monolaurin in the body. Monolaurin is an antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal monoglyceride that can destroy lipid-coated viruses such as herpes and influenza. It is also an excellent energy source.
Fruit/Veggie Powder: There is a wide array of these powders available, and the nutritional benefit corresponds to the spectrum of ingredients. Cherry powder acts as an anti-inflammatory. Blueberry and Pomegranate powders are high in antioxidants. Black raspberry shows anti-carcinogenic benefit. Green vegetable powders are natural detoxifiers. Each powder will impart an added flavor and can add variety.
Cocoa: Studies show that cocoa is richer in antioxidants than more publicized drinks like tea and red wine (cocoa has three times more antioxidants than tea). Cocoa powder has also been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow in humans and to fight heart disease and aging. Also, extremely important in a survival situation, cocoa contains phenylethylamine, which is a mood elevator akin to amphetamine type substances.
Honey: Honey is a food that never spoils! Additionally, it is a nutritive powerhouse containing vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and C, as well as the minerals magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulfur, iron and phosphate (in trace amounts copper, iodine, and zinc). It is a natural energy booster.
Chia Seed: Chia seeds contains six times more calcium than milk. They are a superior source of fiber, which can absorb over 12 times its weight in water (flax seed only absorbs 6-8 times). Chia seeds contain the powerful antioxidants chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and coumaric acid which play a major role in cancer prevention. Most important is the oil profile it adds to the shake. It is the richest vegetable source for the essential omega-3 fatty acid–three to ten times the oil concentrations of most grains.
This shake is extremely useful during TEOTWAWKI situations. First, all ingredients can be stored refrigerated for many years, and some without refrigeration. Second, all ingredients can be found in powdered form and can be premixed (yes, they actually make powdered honey). Third, it is the most nutrient dense food per weight packed, if a bug out situation is called for.
Best Source of Whey Powder
Whey protein is ubiquitous in body building protein powders. One caveat: bodybuilders are notoriously abusive to their bodies. One need look no further the rampant steroid abuse in the “sport.” Many bodybuilding supplement protein powders are full of unhealthy substances like artificial sweeteners (always avoid aspartame-it is dangerous!). More alarming, however, Consumer Reports testing found that due to improper safety controls they found many body building powders were contaminated with toxic heavy metals. Make sure the manufacturer is highly reputable. I use pure whey powder (nothing added) manufactured in New Zealand, which maintains strict quality standards.
During a time of peril, I want my food to support my survival in every way possible. I want premium high-quality nutrients. In a time of collapse or chaos, I want to perform at the peak of my abilities. I need sustained energy with all the tools to build, maintain and repair my cells and tissues. The “Thrive Shake” achieves those ends.
Survival of the fittest truly means the fittest. Not the flabbiest. This shake sacrifices nothing in taste for huge nutritional benefit. To function at peak levels–especially during periods of high stress–a peanut butter sandwich just won’t cut it!