Survival Medicine

What’s Different About a Survival Diet

Looking at the food lists that some people come up with for survival, I see two basic tendencies. The more common one is to go for a minimalistic diet, heavy on carbohydrates. The other is to try and eat much like we normally do. I’ve even seen people who have written that we should stockpile the same foods that our family is accustomed to eating. That means that most families would end up stockpiling fresh foods and junk foods, nothing else. 

What our bodies need

But the real issue has got to be what our bodies need, in order to keep us healthy and able to do all the other tasks associated with survival. That’s different than what we need to eat on a day-to-day basis. 

What nutritionists say

If you listen to nutritionists, they’ll talk about vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and antixoidants (whatever those last two are). Those things are micronutrients. While necessary for our health, as measured by the blood tests that the doctor uses to check our health, those are all important. But in a survival context, they aren’t anywhere near as important as macronutrients. You can easily go a month or more in a survival situation, ignoring those micronutrients, as long as your body is getting the macronutrients it needs. 

So, just want are these macronutrients and what do they do? 

  • Carbohydrates – These are broken down in our bodies into simple sugars, the energy that our muscles and organs “burn.” As such, this is the single most important macronutrient for survival. Our diets normally consist of about 50% carbs, but that should go up slightly, as we will be doing more physical activity. 
  • Fats – The body breaks down fats into simple sugars as well; it just takes a lot longer. This is good, as the energy we get from those fats arrives after we’ve already used up the sugars from the carbohydrates. While nutritionists tell us to watch our fat intake, that’s because most of us live a sedentary lifestyle. In survival, 25 to 30 percent of our food intake should be fats. 
  • Proteins – The most complex nutrient that our body uses is proteins. It’s the hardest for our body to synthesize from smaller molecules. Because of that, our bodies are more likely to cannibalize existing cells to get protein, than it is to synthesize it. To prevent that, we need to eat proteins. A survival diet should consist of 15 to 20 percent proteins.

Keep in mind that you can’t live on this sort of diet forever; at least not and maintain good health. Most of those micronutrients actually do serve a purpose in our bodies; so we need to make sure we add those back in, within a month after going on a survival diet. 

How many calories I need?

The other factor to keep in mind is the number of calories you need per day. Most of us eat way too much, far surpassing the 2,000 or 2,500 recommended calories per day. That’s why there’s such an obesity problem in our nation. But in a survival situation, most of the people around us are going to be getting a lot less than that. If we are still eating as much as we like, we won’t be losing weight like everyone around us, which is bad for OPSEC (operational security), letting people know we have food. 

Survival Diet

Ideally, we should figure on about a 1,500 calorie diet in a survival situation. That will give us enough to function, while also causing us to lose weight. 

One final point, if you’re buying pre-packaged survival food, check the calories they claim it has per portion or per day. Some don’t even give that 1,500 calories and most don’t have enough protein to meet your body’s needs. 

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