Letter Re: Staple Foods Storage By The Numbers

I love seeing articles that talk about the nutritional balance in diet.  Paul B.’s “Staple Foods Storage By The Numbers” is a good start, but I want to jump on and point out a few more details. 

Daily caloric intake recommendations depend heavily on activity.  Yes, the recommendation is 2,000 calories for an adult male with moderate activity (note – *not* exercise!), and 3,000 us reasonable in a survival situation given the need for hunting, planting, building infrastructures and defenses as well as defending.  However, if your plan is simply to hunker down and depend on your stocked resources, 1,500 calories is a better recommendation for adult males, 1,200 for females.  Children to age 10 or 11 need about 1,200 calories, regardless of activity level, teens generally need the same intake as adults, but add an additional 25-40% more calories for moderate to heavy exertion.

On the other hand, if you plan to have to walk or hike your way to a secure site, and are planning on a 3-4 mile pace for more than 8 hours a day, even 3,000 calories will not be enough. 
The type of exertion also alters the percentages given in Paul B.’s article.  Sedentary or low exertion requires lower calories and a higher ration of protein to fats and carbs.  The reason is that protein digests and is converted to energy by the body at a much slower rate than carbs.  Keep the fats down to 20%, boost protein to 40%, and stick to 40% (or less) carbs. High exertion levels require different food choices at different times of day – carbs in the morning, protein and fats at night.  The more you exert yourself, the more muscles need to be repaired.  Carbs are burnt fairly fast, but then the body converts stored fat and protein to energy – that needs to be replaced.  Extreme exertion requires a diet that is 30% fats, 50% protein, and 20% carbs!  Think marathon runner and triathlete levels of exertion – but if you’re working 16 hours a day gathering firewood, hauling water, hunting, tilling, plowing – you’re going to be burning muscle if you don’t replace it.

When resources are scarce, you may be tempted to skimp on fats and proteins and go heavy on carbs – after all, you need to lose weight and rely on that fast energy right?  Wrong.  Dropping below 15% protein risks Kwashiorkor – it’s the reason why those starving kids in the television commercials have fat bellies – lack of protein actually causes more fat to be deposited!  Also, lack of essential fats risks brain disorders (dementia), blindness, muscle spasm and heart attack.  Just as there are essential amino acids (proteins) that must be consumed in our diets, there are essential fatty acids that must also in our diet because our bodies do not make them.

One of the key deficiencies in Paul B’s analysis is consideration of the “completeness” of protein and fat sources.  There are 20 amino acids making up protein, and 10 of them are “essential” meaning that they must be eaten because our body cannot make them.  Likewise fats are made of fatty acids and there are “essential” fatty acids that are not (or are poorly) manufactured by the body.  Make not mistake – fatty acids are very important to the normal function of the body – particularly the brain, nerves and muscles.  Animal proteins such as beef jerky in Paul B’s example, are the best source of “complete” protein (meaning all of the “essential” amino acids are present), most vegetable proteins such as peanut butter are not complete with respect to all essential amino acids.  In the same manner, animal fats (especially fish oils) are the best source of essential fatty acids, and only very non-animal sources of fatty acids are complete with sufficient quantities of the essential fatty acids.  Note:  In a survival situation – there is no Vegan option!  Vegan diets are not sustainable without industrialized infrastructure – yes, you can stock – but once those stocks run out, they most likely cannot be replaced.  This is not to say that Vegan diets cannot be nutritious, but the four most complete vegetable protein sources are soy, quinoa, spirulina and chlorella.  The latter two come from algae and require large “ponds,” careful control of light, temperature, and water conditions.  Harvesting requires pumping, compressing, grinding, drying and more grinding – for a very small yield per single person effort.  The water the algae grow in is also considered highly polluted by today’s standards.  Quinoa is primarily a higher altitude crop, requiring temperature and humidity conditions not easily replicated at altitudes below about 2,500 feet a.s.l. – not something to be grown in everyone’s backyard plot.  Soy is the most universal, but a diet of more than 60% of protein from soy risks thyroid dysfunction and hormonal problems. 

However, survival stocks which include flour based on Spirulina (blue-green algae) and Chlorella are an excellent supplement.  Not only is it a complete protein-rich flour, but they both contain reasonable amounts of the essential fatty acids.  This part is actually very important – vitamins are not enough!  There are many essential nutrients that are not present in sufficient quantities in vitamin supplements.  Your best bet is variety.  Including protein-rich flour is an excellent way to convert back and forth between high carb, low protein and low carb, high protein diets. 
Again, animal sources are the best all-around source of vitamins and minerals, but watch the fats!  Not getting too much – but getting too little. Contrary to popular belief – -body fat does not come from the fat you eat.  Consumed fat is broken down into fatty acids and further converted to sugars.  Body fat and cholesterol is synthesized by the body when there is an excess of carbs!  Studies the trace the source of the carbon atoms in body fat depositions show that more of those carbon atoms come from the carbs and sugars we eat than from protein and fats.  However, fat does get broken down into its components, and if there are not enough of the “essential” fatty acids (or proteins) to make what the body needs, the excess “nonessential” fatty acids (and protein) is converted to sugars. 

Best sources of essential fatty acids are fish oils.  There is a lot of talk on Vegan boards about hemp oil and flaxseed oil – but there is an important issue:  hemp and seed oils do contain essential fatty acids Linoleic Acid (LA) and Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA), but a large portion of the human race (esp. Asian and African populations) cannot efficiently convert ALA into the fatty acids necessary for appropriate brain function: eicosapentanoic acid – EPA and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid – DGLA.  Thus, these fat sources are not appropriate for everybody since large quantities of high-calorie oils are necessary to provide enough fatty acids for proper nutrition.  Also beware of low fat content, even of animal foods – for example, deer and many small game animals are very lean.  Diets heavy in venison and squirrel require fat supplements – some of the best sources are water fowl (duck, geese) and organ meat, particularly liver and kidneys.  One of the most nutritious and balanced foods is calf’s liver – just 4 ounces provides over 100% of most vitamin and mineral needs, complete amino acid and fatty acids, and approximately 50% of the recommended fat and protein content for a 2,000 calorie diet, yet contains only 300 calories!

When planning survival stocks, consider what your activity level will be, and what your food sources will be – if hunkering down, go for more protein and less fat and carbs.  If high exertion, go for far more protein and fats.  If all of your nutrition is going to come from your food stocks, make sure they are complete and varied.  If you plan on getting your protein by hunting and trapping, make sure you have fat and oil supplements. Survival stocks are just that – for survival – and not the time to worry about “too much” but rather to worry about “too little” of the foods and nutrition needed to survive.  – Dr. Ted