You want to eat healthy, but there’s so much confusing information out there. Which diet is really the best one? Today, the discussion seems to centre around whether a vegan, paleo or pescatarian diet is the healthiest way to eat. Eating ‘food’ isn’t as simple as it sounds anymore. For a while, food used to be all that you could eat, however today there are thousands of other edible food-like substances on our supermarket shelves. These novel products of food science often come in packages elaborately decorated with health claims. A word of advice, if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication its not really food. That health claim was probably bought by the food product’s company for a hefty price and added to the label to help sell the product, not because it is genuinely healthy! Sad but true!
Now you can see why everything is so confusing! And confused we are! We have the dairy industry telling us to drink more milk for healthy bones and teeth! The meat industry telling us its okay to eat meat with every meal. It’s no wonder we find ourselves the only species on the planet who has to rely on bloggers, journalists, doctors and nutritionists to tell us what to eat everyday. Yes, there’s calcium in cheese, protein in pork, and iron in beef. But, what about all the baggage that comes along with eating these foods—the dose of dairy antibiotics and hormones found in milk and cheese? The carcinogenic nitrates in bacon or the saturated fat found in a steak?
Surely eating food, this most basic conduct of our daily lives should be instinctual, embedded at childhood as it is in other species. (Cows know that grass has all the nutrients they require and they never feel the need to deviate from it.) In fact, for most of human history, humans have eaten healthily without the need to consult expert advice on the matter of what to eat. Instead, we allowed culture to guide us, or perhaps a simpler way of putting it, we allowed our mothers to dictate what we ate, how much of it, in what order, with what, when and whom with. But over the last several decades, mothers have seemingly lost their authority over the dinner plate, loosing it to scientists, government bodies and food marketers or an unhealthy alliance of all three, with their ever-shifting dietary guidelines, food-labelling rules and perplexing pyramids.
So how have we found ourselves in this mess? Well one force is the 32-billion dollar food-marketing machine that thrives on change for its own longevity. Another is the constantly shifting knowledge of nutrition science that, depending on your point of view, is steadily advancing in its research or is just changing its mind a lot because it is flawed science that knows much less than it cares to admit (with its suspect funding systems!). But humans deciding what to eat without clever marketing or professional advice is seriously unprofitable if you’re a food company; boring if you’re a journalist or blogger and career ending if you’re a nutritionist. Thus the need for the great scientific complexity of our food and nutrition needs.
Isn’t it interesting that with all this new and exciting research and professional advice we have at our fingertips we haven’t become any healthier? In fact, to the contrary, the opposite has happened. We are fatter and less healthy than our ancestors and for the first time in history we are looking at a situation whereby our children will live shorter lifespans than our own. We as humans are the only losers here. Our health and happiness suffer in order for food companies to keep making new food products. For the first time in history we are looking at a situation where over-nutrition is emerging as a more serious threat to our health than under-nutrition. I suggest that most of what we’re consuming today is no longer, strictly speaking, food at all, and how we are consuming it – in the car, on the sofa in front of the TV and increasingly, alone – is not really eating, at least not in the sense that our ancestors understood the term.
Not surprisingly, due to all the processing, manipulation and confusion within the food industry we are now seeing a revolt against the western diet and a new modernization of it. The craze and rise of the 'healthy' recipe books and health bloggers is testament to this change. However, this modernization of the western diet still finds itself within the confines of the western diet. Reinventing itself in the same confusing and inadequately researched nutrition model that we have found ourselves in for the last century. The food industry is happy, this new craze gives them the opportunity to go and reinvent their products yet again and bring out new and 'healthier' versions (zero coke, hazelnut snickers (instead of peanuts) and Quorn). So what do we do? Give up on the western diet and move to a Blue Zone? Its not very realistic is it?
In my opinion the confusion truly ends when we stop shovelling processed, packaged, chemical laden foods into our bodies. The simple answer to 'What should you eat?" is simple if we learn how to tune into what our bodies really want and follow the basic natural laws mother nature has provided for us. Whatever comes after that is a personal decision and its one that no one else can make but you.
Research shows that a plant-based diet can help you lose weight, can be used to prevent and treat diabetes and heart disease, lower blood pressure, and can help you live longer. Plant foods average 64 times more antioxidants than animal foods. By getting most of your nutrition from whole plant foods, you get more of a bonus, instead of the chemical, processed baggage.
It looks like Grandma was right when she said, “Eat your veggies.”
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