The Most Important Principle of Healthy EatingSeptember 16th, 2009
Due to the massive amount of confusing and conflicting nutritional information, many people find it practically impossible to implement a healthy diet. Fortunately, there’s one basic and foundational principle of healthy nutrition that clears the confusion and makes it much easier to eat well.
Unfortunately, the concept of a healthy diet has become very ambiguous and most people who think that they’re eating well are often mistaken. Despite making a significant effort, they fail to recognize this one simple, important, and effective principle of healthy eating.
Embrace the Power of Nature
Despite the conveniences that technological advancement has provided us with, it’s completely altered the way that we eat. In fact, according to the Food, Inc. documentary, our food has changed more in the past 50 years than it has in the preceding 10,000 years. In association with this change, many of today’s most debilitating diseases and conditions are much more prevalent now than they were just a century ago. As such, it’s painfully clear that our modernized dietary guidelines are seriously flawed.
Throughout millions of years of natural selection, we’ve evolved to thrive on the foods provided to us by nature. The work of Dr. Weston A. Price clearly shows this through the shocking contrast between the robust and vibrant health of primitive cultures living on such foods and the rapid degeneration that they experienced after their introduction to modern processed foods. Despite this, we continue to think that we can outsmart nature by inventing our own foods and are left suffering with the consequences.
Where Have We Gone Wrong?
Our current food system is not driven by the nutritional quality of food as it should be, but rather by it’s efficiency and profitability. The food industry is comprised of large corporations that reap tremendous benefits from processed foods that have a low production cost and a long shelf life. What’s good for them is rarely good for us.
The two most common types of food in the modern diet are grain and dairy which also happen to be the two most common food sensitivities. We’ve only been eating grains for less than 1% of our existence and it’s unlikely that we’ve been consuming dairy for much longer than that. As such, many of us are unable to digest these foods well and are susceptible to gluten sensitivity and many of the other problems that can result.
Some cultures, such as the isolated Swiss, have thrived on freshly milled whole grains and raw dairy for many years. However, the grain and dairy that we eat today is much different. Most grains are farmed with chemicals on depleted soil and most of their nutrition is removed during refinement. Dairy cattle are fed an unnatural and inappropriate diet along with antibiotics and sometimes hormones, and much of the nutrition in the milk they produce is destroyed through pasteurization and other processing methods.
The modern diet is largely based on processed foods that are stripped of nutrients, contain unnatural chemical additives that are potentially dangerous, and have an unhealthy amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Basically, we’re depriving our bodies of the nutrition we need to promote and sustain optimal health while also consuming an excessive amount of chemicals, sugar, and denatured nutrients. The combination of these factors can very easily lead to a significantly compromised quality of life and is a major reason why conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and obesity have become so prevalent.
Healthy Food is Natural and Whole
Healthy foods don’t come in packaging, don’t have an ingredients list, and aren’t manufactured. Instead, they’re natural and whole, and they come from plants and animals. For the most part, a truly healthy diet is based on meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables with the optional addition of nuts, oils, herbs, and spices.
In contrast to modern processed foods which are often high in carbohydrates and low in essential nutrients, natural whole foods are much more nutritious and are often much lower in carbohydrates, especially the refined variety. In fact, it would be quite difficult for most people to match their current carbohydrate intake with fruits and vegetables alone. This excessive consumption of carbohydrates often causes blood sugar fluctuation and is a major reason why so many people are overweight and suffering from diabetes.
Embracing natural whole foods as the true foundation of a healthy diet eliminates all of the guess work. Instead of obsessing over what foods you should or shouldn’t eat, you can use a few simple guidelines to help you decide. If a food comes in packaging, has an ingredients list, didn’t originate from a plant or animal, and wasn’t available 10,000 years ago, then you probably shouldn’t eat it. Of course there are exceptions to these rules, but in general, if you’re not obeying them the majority of the time, then you’re most likely not eating a healthy diet.
Not All Whole Foods are Created Equal
Unfortunately, the misguided practices of industrial farming which are well documented by Food, Inc. and Fresh the movie, make healthy eating a bit more complicated and difficult than it should be. Because most of the meat and produce that’s available in mainstream grocery stores is produced by industrial farmers, it’s typically less nutritious and often contains chemical residues. This practically defeats the purpose of eating whole foods.
Although it may be a bit more expensive and inconvenient, choosing pasture raised meat, wild fish from clean water, and organic produce is an important part of a healthy diet. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the cost of high quality food, and by purchasing food from reputable sources, you’ll not only be contributing to your health, but you’ll also be protecting the environment by supporting sustainable farming methods.
Supplements are Secondary
Regardless of whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, improve performance, or simply feel better, supplements are never more important than nutritious foods. Likewise, protein bars and powders are neither necessary nor comparable in quality to whole foods. Despite this, many people invest a lot of time and money in supplements without paying much attention to what they eat. Although supplements can often be beneficial, as their name suggests, they should never be anything more than a supplement to a healthy diet based on natural whole foods.
You Don’t Have to Be Perfect
Unfortunately, many people are discouraged by the prospect of healthy eating because they assume that they’ll never be able to eat good tasting food again. It’s big a mistake to assume that a healthy diet can’t be delicious because it absolutely can. As you eat healthy food more often, you’ll likely grow to appreciate it and prefer it’s natural taste. Even if you don’t, following the 80/20 rule of moderation will allow you to occasionally enjoy unhealthy foods without incurring much of an impact to your health. Without a doubt, it’s much better to eat healthy most of the time than hardly ever.
This article is part of Real Food Wednesdays.