Swap the farmer’s products for the gardener’s

This column is written by Stig Bengmark – Professor Emeritus, scientist, lecturer and writer. Read more of Stig Bengmark’s columns here.

The six most serious signs of ill health are the result of excessive intake of farmer’s products.

Do you know what one of the most famous contributions to international cuisine is from Sweden? A sandwich with milk and meatballs with mashed potatoes (often powdered). As a professor and lecturer on the impact of food on our health, I’m very much ashamed of this. Especially since we really deserve to be known for something better, with our world-class chefs often winning international competitions.

In my lectures, I often start by showing a picture of a loaf of bread, a banana, a packet of sugar, and a Snickers, and ask the listeners what they think contains the ‘most sugar’ – i.e. has the highest glycaemic index (GI). Most people usually point to the refined, white sugar. But that would be wrong. It’s actually the white bread that has the highest GI.

Often I’m asked to summarise my health advice in ‘one sentence’. Then I usually answer: ‘Swap the farmer’s products for the gardener’s’. I wish the farmer all the best, but at the same time, I also he would become a gardener! More than 90% of fatty foods come from traditional highly refined agriculture. From cereals, to cooked root vegetables, and dairy products.

In fact, the six most serious warning signs that ill health is on the way are the result of an excessive intake of farmers’ products:

  • Abdominal obesity/middle aged spread
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Elevated levels of blood fats (fats with more than 12 carbon atoms)
  • Higher blood sugar
  • Low level of healthy cholesterol
  • Elevated uric acid in the blood
  • Elevated inflammation – elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood

Why is bread so bad?

In addition to the fact that bread, as I said, has far too much content of calories and too high a glycaemic index, it:

  1. Contains far too little plant fibre
  2. Contains gluten, which is highly inflammatory and negative for health – not only for gluten intolerant people, but for all of us. Fuels inflammation in the body and counteracts the renewal of the beneficial gut flora. Has effects in the body that are in many ways similar to the effects of the bacterial toxin, endotoxin.
  3. If heated to far too high a temperature, leads to greater synthesis of heating toxins (which in turn contributes to a lot of inflammation in the body, and in the long run to chronic diseases).

Even at a temperature as low as 80 degrees, sugar combines with proteins (new syntheses called A.G.E.) and/or fats (new syntheses called A.L.E.). About a hundred such substances have been identified in the last 10-15 years and one of them is acrylamide, the substance that brought the construction of the Halland tunnel to a standstill for several years. The Halland tunnel’s synthesis rose sharply after 135 degrees. Compare that to ‘store-bought bread’ which is often manufactured at upwards of 300 degrees.

Acrylamide can also be found in the dairy products, whey cheese/whey butter, and in crispbreads and toast, where the heating and toasting of the bread increase the content of acrylamide tenfold (at least). Foods that contain a lot of A.G.E. and A.L.E. are often burned brown or black as soot, and soot is really what it’s all about. Eating this kind of food is ‘smoking with your stomach’.

But it’s not just up to us.

The current government has made it a priority goal to eliminate so-called ‘class-related ill health’, but the question is whether they really know what to do? For this to happen, our politicians need to be active and large financial contributions have to be made by both the EU and Sweden – something we’re so far not seeing at all. In the United States, when they realised that tobacco growing was coming to an end, the federal government invested many billions of dollars in developing alternative crops – among other things, they helped their former tobacco farmers to start growing peanuts, peas, beans and the like.


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