We are spending three weeks at our condo in Mazatlan, Mexico. One reason we love staying here is because in addition to the great weather and friendly people, it’s extremely easy to eat Paleo in Mazatlan. At our home in Beverly, Massachusetts it’s sometimes challenging for us to eat a strict Paleo diet day in and day out with our busy work schedules. None of our local grocery stores carry grass-fed meat and for much of the year their selection of fruits and vegetables tends to be somewhat tasteless. Although during the winter much of this produce is grown in places like Mexico, the long trip to Boston seems to rob them of their natural taste. In Boston lobster and seafood often make up a sizable portion of our diet because they are fresh and readily available all year.
In Mazatlan we don’t need to work very hard to eat Paleo. Mazatlan is a major shrimp port so we don’t have to settle for farm-raised shrimp from Thailand. It’s also relatively easy to find plenty of fresh fish and seafood. When you driven around in the countryside near Mazatlan, you can see that the relatively gaunt looking cattle and sheep are pasture raised rather than fattened up on grains in crowded feedlots. We usually start our day by swimming in the pool for an hour followed by a leisurely three-mile walk to the area where the local fishermen bring their catch every morning. They spread the fish out on wooden tables next to their boats and you pick and chose whatever fish you desire. The other day we picked up seven pounds of red snapper for about 20 dollars. They clean the fish and throw the guts to the gaggle of pelicans hanging around. To be honest with you, I have never tasted better fish in my life.
It’s All About the Taste
In the middle of winter the vegetables in Mazatlan are out of this world. Celery actually tastes like celery. The tomatoes, peppers, onions and mushrooms have a taste that I had almost forgotten about living in the Northern United States. The same is true for fruits. Mazatlan also has a large outdoor market in the downtown area where you can buy fresh fish, meat, vegetables and fruit. It’s inexpensive and the taste is something to die for. Although there are many inexpensive, high-quality restaurants in Mazatlan, we rarely eat out because it’s so easy to prepare fantastic meals at home.
Despite the fact that it is extremely easy to eat a healthy, Paleo-style diet in Mazatlan, many of the locals seem to be missing out. Although Mazatlan has beautiful beaches, it is more of a working city than a tourist attraction. There is a relatively small tourist area, but it is a city of a half a million people, most of whom don’t make a living off tourism. The locals in Mazatlan also reflect the general Mexican population—they have extremely high rates of obesity and type II diabetes. After spending some time in Mexico, it became apparent to me why this is so.
The Powerful Influence of Fake Food and Beverages
Although the Mexican economy is doing relatively well compared to most other countries in the world, many people here still survive on relatively limited incomes. Mexicans also tend to have large families with more mouths to feed. As in the United States, the least expensive food in Mexico is processed food. Although the meat, fish, seafood, fruit and vegetables in a typical Mexican grocery store are of much higher quality than in the States, the middle section of these stores is identical—it’s loaded with isle after isle of highly processed food. Breakfast cereal, chips, crackers and other assorted snack foods are identical to those found in the United States.
There’s another area where Mexico beats the United States—when it comes to the consumption of sugary beverages like soda. When I first visited Mazatlan it became apparent to me that Mexican’s love their Coke. Everywhere you go, people seem to be drinking Coke. The other day I noticed a fellow on a bike who seemed to make a living collecting aluminum cans. He had a large sack full of cans in one hand and a two-liter bottle of coke in the other. In Mexico, a family gathering isn’t complete without multiple bottles of Coke or similar fare. My impressions are backed up by statistics. Mexicans are the number one per capita consumers of Coke in the world. They consume almost twice as much of this sugary beverage as in the United States, second on list of Coke consumers.
The Cola Cartels
I spent a little time investigating why this is so and found out that Coke has an interesting history in Mexico. Water is the first critical issue. In the United States we take potable water as an assumption, yet in Mexico millions of people have no access to safe water. They need to drink something, so the people who make Coke decided that they could fill in this niche. Many Mexican’s learned to drink Coke when there was no other safe beverage to consume. Many schools in Mexico have no access to safe water so the children learn to rely on carbonated beverages for their daily fluid requirements in a hot environment. The producers of Coke use much of the high-quality water available in Mexico through special contracts, further limiting the supply of safe water for their citizens. For decades the producers and sellers of Coke have been highly integrated into Mexican politics on both the local and national levels. As in the States, in Mexico Coke and Pepsi battle it out to be the number one supplier of soda. Mexico has its drug cartels but it also appears to have soda cartels.
Even Some Beggars are Obese
Mexico now has a serious obesity problem. Even people who seem to have few financial resources are often on the plump side. Unlike in the United States, Mexico doesn’t have a financial safety net so some people turn to begging or selling trinkets or food on the streets to make a living. Even many of these people are obese. In Mazatlan there are also many obese children and the incidence of type II diabetes is rising dramatically in all age groups. What’s missing in Mexico is the same thing that is missing in much of the United States—the knowledge that what you eat and drink has a tremendous impact on your health and brain function. Processed food the world over is made of the same three basic ingredients—sugar and other similar sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, grain-based high glycemic carbohydrates and omega 6 fatty acids from vegetable oils. When you combine these cheap but toxic ingredients, you end up with fake food that creates havoc with your metabolism and brain function.
Fake Food—Bad For Your Body and Your Brain
There is mounting evidence that these dietary elements are behind the rising incidence of insulin resistance, obesity and type II diabetes around the world. People with these metabolic problems also seem to suffer from a reversible form of food-induced brain dysfunction called carbohydrate associated reversible brain syndrome or CARB syndrome. People with CARB syndrome end up with up to 22 brain dysfunction symptoms that make it more difficult to function in the world. The problem is, nobody seems to be talking about these rather obvious connections. If you are obese or develop diabetes, it’s your fault because you can’t control your food intake. If you develop brain dysfunction symptoms that qualify you for a diagnosis such as depression, anxiety disorder, ADHD, PTSD, autism, eating disorder, bipolar disorder II or similar conditions, the experts simply attribute this to fate or your genetic makeup. They simply fail to discuss the role that processed fake food and beverages might be playing in these conditions. In both the States and Mexico, this is likely due to the massive financial resources of the fake food and beverage producers.
Very few people would voluntarily sign up for these serious metabolic disorders or common brain disorders and I believe that most parents would do everything possible to protect their children form these conditions. To take such action they need access to accurate information. I’m here to tell you that your grandmother was right—you are what you eat (and drink). When you consume fake food on a regular basis, you become addicted to it because your dysfunctional brain craves it. Your only hope to break this cycle is by eliminating these toxic elements from your diet.
Follow the Rules
There are only three simple rules for healthy eating. Eliminate sugar and other sources of excessive fructose from your diet. Drastically reduce or eliminate your intake of grain-based carbohydrates and omega 6 fatty acids and increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids from fish and seafood. This eliminates most processed foods and keeps you shopping in the periphery of the grocery store. Eat real food, not fake food. Don’t consume beverages with calories. One of the simplest ways to do so is to follow a Paleo style diet.
Mexicans care as much about their health and families as we do, but in order to gravitate out of their cycle of cheap but dangerous food and beverages, they need the same thing we do—access to accurate information about food and nutrition. Mexican’s are a little behind us in this regard. They are starting to recognize the toll that obesity and diabetes is taking on their society. To move to the next step, they will need to recognize that these problems are related more to the composition of their diet rather than the amount of the food they are eating. Their society will need to figure out a way to provide real food and potable water at a reasonable cost for their citizens, the same challenge that all countries face in their quest to support a healthy population.
In my opinion the Mexican government needs to step up to the plate in this regard. After all, one of the key roles of government is protect their citizens from harm. Over the eons governments have protected us from pestilence and plague. As it turns out, fake food and beverages are the newest threat to our wellbeing and survival. Perhaps it is fanciful thinking to believe that governments will step up to the plate in this important matter. In the meantime, access to superior information is the only thing standing between many Mexican’s and poor metabolic and brain health. After spending a lot of time in Mexico, I have learned that Mexican’s are an extremely hardworking and resourceful people. I wish them well on this latest challenge to their health and welfare. They’re going to need all the help they can get, so perhaps you can help me spread the news about the healthiest way to eat and drink for optimal metabolic and brain health.