Eating healthy can be complicated! There are so many different dietary guidelines and recommendations these days, some of which are contradictory to one another, that it’s easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated. I often wonder if we are missing the boat entirely when it comes to dieting for optimal health and longevity. In my opinion, too much time and energy is spent on various tangential imperatives, while ignoring the incredibly basic principle of eating real food.
Following are a few noteworthy examples of how I feel we may be disconnecting ourselves from what we are eating, in favor of controlling and manipulating nutrition to meet certain health-based criterion.
In the late 20th century, key opinion leaders touted a “low-fat” diet to promote heart health. Food manufacturers reacted to this initiative by replacing fats with added sugars, many of which currently use ingredients like “high fructose corn syrup”. Consequently, much of the recently published literature suggests that this substitution from dietary fats to added sugar is largely responsible for our evolving diabetes epidemic. High fructose corn syrup, on its own, is certainly not a food.
Now that added sugar has become the new culprit, some people go to great lengths to avoid it. However, many have no problem eating zero-calorie artificial sweeteners, which essentially consist of highly processed chemical ingredients. Whether or not these chemicals are harmful to your health is debatable. Regardless, what remains indisputable is that these chemicals are not real foods in their natural state.
Speaking of “natural”, how many times have you seen this word prominently featured on a food package that contains multiple ingredients that are unrecognizable and/or impossible to pronounce? Hint: that’s not real food.
One such (formerly) unrecognizable ingredient is “partially hydrogenated oil”, now known as a “trans fat”. This ingredient was introduced into our food supply many years ago as a preservative to increase shelf life and improve taste. It also gained increasing popularity around the time that people began eating less saturated fat, in an attempt to lower their serum cholesterol levels. Technically an unsaturated fat, partially hydrogenated oil has since been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and (within the past decade) legislation states that all foods containing this ingredient must be labeled accordingly. This is a circumstance where getting away from eating real food involves risk and potential consequences.
There are many other examples, but I think you get my point.
I believe we are making this process of achieving optimal health far too complicated! We can easily simplify this process by getting back to the basics. One sure-fire way to avoid any of the above circumstances entirely is to eat real food that is clearly designed for consumption. In my opinion, a great start is to eat food that grows out of the ground…in other words, food that does not require a “label” at the supermarket. When a label is present, however, the ingredients must be evaluated. It is important to recognize and pronounce all of the ingredients, to determine precisely what we are putting into our bodies. If I had to describe my ideal plan for optimal health in 20 words, I would say: Eat real foods, in moderate quantities, and try not to sit in one place for an extended period of time.
Wishing you the best in health!!