Three Steps To Better Health: Part Two- Mouth“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”-Michael Pollan
In part one of this trilogy, we discussed the role of the mind in health and well-being. Forming salutary habits is a first step toward better health. Decide to do something about the desperation disguised as resignation!
One of the primary contributing factors to health (or lack thereof) has to do with what a person chooses to put into his mouth.
The habit of eating is a good thing. What is habitually eaten is not always so good. Why? Quite simply, because it isn’t food. I remember as a little boy coming across a can of what appeared to be cheese. Always a voracious reader, I promptly read the can and encountered these words: Pasteurized process cheese product. What is this?, I wondered. Is it cheese? Is it okay to eat? It didn’t matter because my parents refused to buy the stuff. The point, though, is that what is eaten by the masses in the 21st century probably would not have been recognized as food a few generations ago. The prime directive of healthy eating thus becomes: Eat food. (Not “food product”)
Eliminate the nastiest stuff from your diet.
What’s nasty? Here are 5 biggies:
The above products are, to put it very mildly, not conducive to good health (See links for eye-opening evidence), but are frequent ingredients in packaged foods.
How do you know if the so-called food that you commonly eat contains any of the above mentioned evil additives?
READ THE INGREDIENTS LIST!
Honestly, it is deeply disturbing that people pay more attention to the quality of the gas they put in their car than to the fuel they put into their own bodies!
With regard to pre-prepared food, a good general rule is to not eat anything which has a list of ingredients consisting of items that you could not easily explain to a 5-year old. Long, difficult to pronounce, “chemically-sounding” ingredients are not generally going to add nutritional value to your food, and often have very adverse health effects.
Now that you have eliminated the worst of the worst, start feeding your body the very best, nutritionally sound real food. We are talking about things that don’t have lists of ingredients.
- Greens and Vegetables (spinach, kale, carrots, beets, cucumbers, peas, etc)
- Meat and Fish (beef, venison, rabbit, chicken, salmon, sardines, trout, etc)
- Fruit and Berries (apples, pears, melons, cherries, blueberries, etc)
- Grains (rice, quinoa, wheat, etc)
- Dairy (whole milk, yogurt, kefir, etc)
- Eggs (you know, those things with shells and yolks)
Controversy will always rage about whether or not some foods are good for you. The Paleo crowd eschews grains. Anti-nightshade people repudiate tomatoes and eggplant. People with lactose intolerance may not thrive on milk. Mainstream medicine often inaccurately demonizes saturated fat.
The bottom line is that real food will invariably be better than processed garbage. As would be expected, the fewer chemicals, the better. Try to procure (buy, pick, hunt, harvest) organic whenever possible.
Diet Vs. Nutrition
Brace yourself, here’s a shocker: calories are not evil! A calorie, (actually a kilocalorie in dietary nomenclature) is simply a measurement of energy value. With regard to healthy food, more calories simply equal more bang for your buck! Pay more attention to quality than quantity.
In today’s world, the majority of people, including highly educated health professionals, have been conditioned to do just the opposite. Doctors, nutritionists and personal trainers will warn about the “danger” of excessive calorie consumption while paying very little attention to where the calories are coming from.
Returning to the car fueling analogy, clearly, overfilling your gas tank is a poor idea. However, wouldn’t you agree that pumping even just a few gallons of water into your tank would be at least equally foolish?
Our bodies have specific, individual requirements with regard to not just quantity, but also quality.
The word “diet” has come to refer primarily to a pattern of eating which restricts calorie consumption. With regard to nutrition, this paradigm generally only takes into account the macronutrients which constitute food calories. What are macronutrients? Simply speaking, they are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, all of which are essential for proper functioning of the human machine. How these macronutrients are “packaged”, however, has a tremendous bearing on their health impact.
Furthermore, the often overlooked reality is that the source of a calorie is far more important than the calorie itself. A medium sized apple, for instance, contains about 7 carbohydrate calories. This calorie count is the same whether the apple was organically grown or conventionally grown. However, the calories in an apple treated with pesticides and other delightful toxins will be far less beneficial than the calories in an organically grown apple.
This is not to say that calories don’t matter. Obviously, if a person shovels into their mouth far more food (even healthy food) than their body needs, those unneeded calories will probably be stored away as fat. If you don’t want to be obese, don’t eat more food than your body needs.
If you would like to read more detailed explanations of the principles espoused in this article, here are three highly recommended books:
- Nutrition and Physical Degeneration– Weston A. Price
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals- Michael Pollan
- Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and The Controversial Science of Diet and Health – Gary Taubes
- Eating is good, but only if you eat good stuff.
- Say “no!” to chemical and toxic ingredients which lurk in common packaged foods.
- Don’t be afraid of calories; you’d die without them.
- Don’t eat too much food.
- Focus on quality.
Part three of this series will address Movement, the process of activating the musculoskeletal system and making it possible to eat more delicious, nutritious food without getting obese!
Do you agree with these ideas? Or do you think Twinkies are health food? Are you a raw vegan who runs ultramarathons in your underwear in the Arctic winter? Have you grown organic apples in upstate New York? Are you peeved because I didn't mention tuna in the "Meat and Fish" category? Leave a comment and let the whole world know!