There is a lot of conflicting nutritional information out there, especially on the internet. How do you know what is really healthy and which way of eating is the best? It seems that as soon as a new way of eating is promoted another diet comes along to disprove it. While it’s great to keep yourself informed on the latest studies and data concerning food, everything should be taken with an open but skeptical mind. Why does being healthy have to be so complicated and stressful? What is wrong with going back to the basics? It worked for our grandparents, they didn’t suffer from the diseases we do now. So what does going back to the basics mean?
Firstly we have a wide variety of expensive packaged “health” foods which come with a variety of nutritional claims. While it’s true that some of these foods may actually be healthy, the nutrients they contain can be found in other foods without the high price tag. In the past humans have managed to obtain all the nutrients they need from local produce without having to import exotic super foods and pay three times the amount. While there’s nothing wrong with eating these foods if you choose to, many are marketed to make you believe you “need” them, or that they provide something you cannot get elsewhere; which isn’t true.
Then we have a wide variety of fad diets, and each claim to be the healthiest way to eat. I’m not talking about vegetarian, vegan, or diets which cut out foods you are allergic or intolerant to. These are legitimate, and only cut out one or two foods groups which make it possible replace those lost nutrients in other ways. However when you go to the extreme of limiting yourself to one or two food groups it becomes unhealthy and likely that you will suffer a deficiency.
So what is a good way to approach a healthy diet which is realistic and sustainable? Go back to the basics. Eat a variety of cooked and raw foods. Raw foods contain nutrients that are destroyed during cooking. However cooking makes some nutrients more available to our bodies which can’t be accessed in the raw form. So it makes sense to eat both. Eat local fresh produce, organic if possible, and include whole grains. Also include good sources of protein such as meat (if you eat meat), eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Listen to your body. When you eat a healthy diet your body will crave what’s good for it. I’m not talking about unhealthy addictions. When you are healthy you will crave the foods which are healthy for you, our bodies know what we need. We crave warm hearty foods in winter like soup to balance our bodies with the cold weather. And in summer we often crave cold foods such as salad, which balance us with the hot weather. By listening to your body you can identify the foods which may not be healthy for you. For example some people have trouble with cabbage, beans or potatoes. These foods are very healthy, however for some people they may cause unpleasant side effects.
Enjoy your food. If you do not like it don’t force yourself to eat it. Chances are there will be another food which provides similar nutrients which you do like. If you don’t enjoy what you’re eating, it doesn’t matter how healthy it is you will not stick to eating it long term. And if you’re eating a wide variety of foods it is unlikely to make much difference. To be truly nourished you should enjoy your food. Many cultures make meal times a spiritual occasion. They nourish their minds, bodies and spirit by cooking, preparing and eating together everyday. Wellness is much more than just selecting the most nutritious foods.
So in the end good nutrition can be made simple by going back to the basics; a variety of healthy minimally processed foods. It would be great if we could all grow our own vegetable gardens however that’s just not possible now for most. So finding a good local supplier is the next best option. Find out where your food comes from and how it’s made. Eat local, fresh, and enjoy a wide variety of foods. We need to stop making nutrition so stressful and stop obsessing over each individual nutrient. Nutrients in food do not work alone, you need the whole food to get all of the benefits. Stick to the basics and remember variety. The more variety you eat, the less likely you will suffer from any deficiencies.