For this reason it makes sense to take vitamins and food supplements, to be discussed in the next chapter. And because our food supply, Organic or "conventional," is far from optimum, if a person wants to be and remain healthy and have a life span that approaches their genetic potential (and that potential, it seems, approaches or exceeds a century), it is essential that empty calories are rigorously avoided.

An accurate and quick-to-respond indicator of how well we are doing in terms of getting enough nutrition is the state of our teeth. One famous dentally-oriented nutritional doctor, Melvin Page, suggested that as long as overall nutrition was at least 75 percent of perfection, the body chemistry could support healthy teeth and gums until death. By healthy here Page means free of cavities, no bone loss around the teeth (no wobblers), no long-in-the-teeth mouths from receding gums, no gum diseases at all. But when empty calories or devitalized foods or misdigestion cuts our nutrient intake we begin experiencing tooth decay, gum disease and bone loss in the jaw. How are your teeth?

I suppose you could say that I have a food religion, but mine is to eat so that the equation Nutrition = Health / Calories is strongly in my favor.

Back to my daughter's teeth. Yes, I innocently fed her less than ideally nutritious food, but at that time I couldn't buy ideal food even had I known what I wanted, nor did I have any scientific idea of how to produce ideal food, nor actually, could I have done so on the impoverished, leached-out clay soil at Great Oaks School even had I known how. The Organic doctrine says that you can build a Garden of 'Eatin with large quantities of compost until any old clay pit or gravel heap produces highly nutritious food. This idea is not really true. Sadly, what is true about organic matter in soil is that when it is increased very much above the natural level one finds in untilled soil in the climate you're working with, the nutritional content of the food begins to drop markedly. I know this assertion is shocking and perhaps threatening to those who believe in the Organic system; I am sorry.

But there is another reason my daughter's teeth were not perfect, probably could not have been perfect no matter what we fed her, and why she will probably have at least some health problems as she ages no matter how perfectly she may choose to eat from here on. My daughters had what Dr. G.T. Wrench called "a poor start." Not as poor as it could have been by any means, but certainly less than ideal.

You see, the father has very little to do with the health of the child, unless he happens to carry some particularly undesirable gene. It is the mother who has the job of constructing the fetus out of prepartum nourishment and her own body's nutritional reserves. The female body knows from trillenia of instinctual experience that adequate nutrition from the current food supply during pregnancy can not always be assured, so the female body stores up very large quantities of minerals and vitamins and enzymes against that very possibility. When forming a fetus these reserves are drawn down and depleted. It is virtually impossible during the pregnancy itself for a mother to extract sufficient nutrition from current food to build a totally healthy fetus, no matter how nourishing the food she is eating may be. Thus a mother-to-be needs to be spending her entire childhood and her adolescence (and have adequate time between babies), building and rebuilding her reserves.

A mother-to-be also started out at her own birth with a vitally important stock of nutritional reserves, reserves put there during her own fetal development. If that "start" was less than ideal, the mother-to-be (as fetus) got "pinched" and nutritionally shortchanged in certain, predictable ways. Even minor mineral fetal deficiencies degrade the bone structure: the fetus knows it needs nutritional reserves more than it needs to have a full-sized jaw bone or a wide pelvic girdle, and when deprived of maximum fetal nourishment, these non-vital bones become somewhat smaller. Permanently. If mineral deficiencies continue into infancy and childhood, these same bones continue to be shortchanged, and the child ends up with a very narrow face, a jaw bone far too small to hold all the teeth, and in women, a small oven that may have trouble baking babies. More importantly, those nutrient reserves earmarked especially for making babies are also deficient. So a deficient mother not only shows certain structural evidence of physiological degeneration, but she makes deficient babies. A deficient female baby at birth is unlikely to completely overcome her bad start before she herself has children.

So with females, the quality of a whole lifetime's nutrition, and the life-nutrition of her mother (and of her mother's mother as well) has a great deal to do with the outcome of a pregnancy. The sins of the mother can really be visited unto the third and fourth generation.

This reality was powerfully demonstrated in the 1920s by a medical doctor, Francis Pottenger. He was not gifted with a good bedside manner. Rather than struggling with an unsuccessful clinical practice, Dr. Pottenger decided to make his living running a medical testing laboratory in Pasadena, California. Dr. Pottenger earned his daily bread performing a rather simple task, assaying the potency of adrenal hormone extracts. At that time, adrenaline, a useful drug to temporarily rescue people close to death, was extracted from the adrenal glands of animals. However, the potency of these crude extracts varied greatly. Being a very powerful drug, it was essential to measure exactly how strong your extract was so its dosage could be controlled.

Quantitative organic chemistry was rather crude in those days. Instead of assaying in a test tube, Dr. Pottenger kept several big cages full of cats that he had adrenalectomized. Without their own adrenals, the cats could not live more than a short time By finding out how much extract was required to keep the cats from failing, he could measure the strength of the particular batch.

Dr. Pottenger's cats were economically valuable so he made every effort to keep them healthy, something that proved to be disappointingly difficult. He kept his cats clean, in airy, bright quarters, fed them to the very best of his ability on pasteurized whole milk, slaughterhouse meat and organs (cats in the wild eat organ meats first and there are valuable vitamins and other substances in organ meats that don't exist in muscle tissue). The meat was carefully cooked to eliminate any parasites, and the diet was supplemented with cod liver oil. However, try as he might, Pottenger's cats were sickly, lived short and had to be frequently replaced. Usually they bred poorly and died young of bacterial infections, there being no antibiotics in the 1920s. I imagine Dr. Pottenger was constantly visiting the animal shelter and perhaps even paid quarters out the back door to a steady stream of young boys who brought him cats in burlap sacks from who knows where, no questions asked.

Dr. Pottenger's assays must have been accurate, for his business grew and grew. Eventually he needed more cats than he had cages to house, so he built a big, roofed, on-the-ground pen outdoors. Because he was overworked, he was less careful about the feeding of these extra animals. They got the same pasteurized milk and cod-liver oil, but he did not bother to cook their slaughterhouse meat. Then, a small miracle happened. This poorly cared for cage of cats fed on uncooked meat became much healthier than the others, suffering far fewer bacterial infections or other health problems. Then another miracle happened. Dr. Pottenger began to meditate on the first miracle.

It occurred to him that cats in the wild did not cook their food; perhaps cats had a digestive system that couldn't process or assimilate much out of cooked food. Perhaps the problem he had been having was not because the cats were without adrenal glands but because they were without sustenance, suffering a sort of slow starvation in the midst of plenty. So Dr. Pottenger set up some cat feeding experiments.

There were four possible combinations of his regimen: raw meat and unpasteurized milk; raw meat and pasteurized milk; cooked meat and raw milk; cooked meat and pasteurized milk, this last one being what he had been feeding all along. So he divided his cats into four groups and fed each group differently. The first results of Pottenger's experiments were revealed quickly though the most valuable results took longer to see. The cats on raw meat and raw milk did best. The ones on raw meat and pasteurized milk did okay but not as well. The ones on cooked meat and raw milk did even less well and those on all cooked food continued to do as poorly as ever.

Clearly, cats can't digest cooked food; all animals do better fed on what they can digest. A lot of people have taken Pottenger's data and mistakenly concluded that humans also should eat only raw food. This idea is debatable. However, the most important result of the cat experiments took years to reveal itself and is not paid much attention to, probably because its implications are very depressing. Dr. Pottenger continued his experiments for several generations. It was the transgenerational changes that showed the most valuable lesson. Over several generations, the cats on all raw foods began to alter their appearance. Their faces got wider, their pelvic girdles broader, bones solider, teeth better. They began to breed very successfully.

After quite a few generations, the healthiest group, the one on all raw foods, seemed to have improved as much as it could. So Dr. Pottenger took some of these cats and began feeding them only cooked food to study the process of nutritional degeneration. After three "de"generations on cooked fodder the group had deteriorated so much that the animals could barely breed. Their faces had become narrow, their teeth crooked, their pelvic girdles narrow, their bones and body structure very small, and their dispositions poor. Mothers wouldn't nurse their young and sometimes became cannibalistic. They no longer lived very long.

Before the degenerating group completely lost the ability to breed, Pottenger began to again feed them all raw food. It took four generations on a perfect, raw food diet before some perfect appearing individuals showed up in the group. It takes longer to repair the damage than it does to cause it and it takes generations of unflagging persistence.

I think much the same process has happened to humans in this century. With the invention of the roller mill and the consequent degradation of our daily bread to white flour; with the birth of industrial farming and the generalized lowering of the nutritional content of all of our crops; our overall ratio of nutrition to calories worsened. Then it worsened again because we began to have industrial food manufacturing and national brand prepared food marketing systems; we began subsisting on devitalized, processed foods. The result has been an even greater worsening of our ratio of nutrition to calories.

And just like Pottenger's cats, we civilized humans in so-called advanced countries are losing the ability to breed, our willingness (or the energy) to mother our young; we're losing our good humor in the same way Pottenger's degenerated cats became bad tempered. As a group we feel so poorly that we desperately need to feel better fast, and what better way to do that than with drugs. Is it any wonder that the United States, the country furthest down the road of industrial food degeneration, spends 14 percent of its gross domestic product on medical services. Any wonder that so many babies are born by Cesarean, any wonder that so many of our children have crooked teeth needing an orthodontist? The most depressing aspect of this comes into view when considering that Pottenger's cats took four generations on perfect food to repair most of the nutritional damage.

In the specific case of my daughter, I know somethings about the nutritional history of her maternal ancestors. My daughter's grandmother grew up on a Saskatchewan farm. Though they certainly grew their own rich wheat on virgin semi-arid prairie soil, I'm sure the family bought white flour at the store for daily use. Still, there was a garden and a cow producing raw milk and free-range fertile eggs and chicken and other animals. There probably were lots of canned vegetables in winter, canned but still highly nutritious because of the fertility of their prairie garden. My mother consequently had perfect teeth until the Great Depression forced her to live for too many years on lard and white bread.

During this time of severe malnutrition she had her three babies. The first one got the best of her nutritional reserves. The second, born after the worst of the malnutrition, was very small and weak and had a hard time growing up. Fortunately for me, for a few years before I (the last child) was born, the worst of the economic times had past and the family had been living on a farm. There were vegetables and fresh raw milk and fruit. My mother had two good years to rebuild her nutritional reserves. But "Grannybell" did not managed to replace enough. Shortly after I was born my mother lost every one of her teeth all at once. The bone just disappeared around them.

Thus, I was born deficient. And my childhood and adolescent nutrition was poor too: soda crackers, pasteurized processed artificial cheese, evaporated milk from cans, hotdogs and canned beans, hotdogs and cabbage. It wasn't until I was pregnant with my first baby that I started to straighten up my diet. I continued eating very well after my first daughter, so my youngest daughter had another three years of good diet to draw on. Thus both my own daughters got a somewhat better start than I had had.

My teeth were not as good as my mother's had been before those years of malnutrition took them all. Instead of perfect straight undecayed teeth like a healthy farm girl should have, mine were somewhat crowded, with numerous cavities. My jaw bone had not received enough minerals to develop to its full size. My pelvic girdle also was smaller than my mother's was. I had had a poor start.

My daughters did better. The older one (the first child typically gets the best of the nutritional reserves) has such a wide jaw that there are small spaces between her teeth. My second daughter has only one crooked tooth, she has wider, more solid hips, stronger bones and a broader face than I do. If my younger daughter will but from this point in her life, eat perfectly and choose her food wisely to responsibly avoid empty calories and maximize her ratio of nutrition to calories, her daughter (if she gives us granddaughters as her older sister already has done) may exhibit the perfect physiology that her genes carry.

Along the lines of helping you avoid empty calories I will give you some information about various common foods that most people don't know and that most books about food and health don't tell, or misunderstand.