Growing up, I remember a sort of infomercial which claimed, "with new information coming out everyday about food, it's hard to know what's healthy." Being raised in a family that put a premium on health, I was lucky enough to know that, yes there are trends but, in general, a balanced diet of fruits, veggies and meats was pretty much the standard bearer of a good diet. And this is essentially true. It might not make you look like Gisele (which leads to an alternate issue in our food-culture) but it likely keeps you healthy barring any unforeseen circumstances. However, even with a balanced diet, there are certain limitations and sacrifices we generally make to be truly healthy. There are also alternative avenues proselytized by the media which sound nice (or like a quick fix) but really lead nowhere. So, in an effort to clear things up, I've drawn up my own plan for health as far as I know - so, you can totally disregard it if you wish. I start with foods that I've found can be completely eliminated from the diet and then get narrower. Along the way, I've tried to point out food trends which are relatively bullshit so as not to make eating so elitist and unappetizing. Like political correctness, it's good when eating works for everyone and doesn't seem too overwhelming. So, below are my (amateur) findings. Enjoy!
In Candid-dida, I also talked about eating meat and that it became a necessity when I relied more on whole foods. As they say, variety is the spice of life and as you feed your body more natural items, the more it seems to crave a new diversity of foods and nutrients. So while I was raised in a family with a high percentage of vegetarians, I know I need meat. However, meat eating seems to be where we get on the tight-rope wire and become extra careful of our habits. While (I think) one should be free to eliminate processed foods entirely according to circumstance, there have been some trends in the meat industry which can make our heads spin.
Going along with processed foods, processed meats are reported by the World Health Organization to, "increase the risk of cancer," according to the BBC. So this seems to be the first extremity in eating. For you goyim, bacon and sausage are part of the culinary landscape and for school children everywhere, so are lunch meats. However, there are luckily other delicious meats to eat. According to the WHO, however, the next step is to be cognizant of...
When it comes to meat, size matters (hehe). Scientifically speaking, both adult males and females are advised to consume about 6 oz. of meat on the daily (according to the American Heart Association). This, to me, is the second area where eating can become extreme. While 6 oz. of meat generally equals the size of two card decks, restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory, Arby's and Chili's pride themselves on their large portions for less. In order to reduce this amount, however, the above Association advises building meals around vegetables...
Fruits and vegetables are delicious (I think). Vegetables provide a whopping percentage of nutrients and fruits can satisfy our sweet teeth and make bland dishes more palatable. In one serving of broccoli alone, one can finagle 220% of his or her vitamin C intake. One potato (the unhealthy stepchild of vegetables) possesses B6 to help our hormones and potassium for our muscles. But, within this category, there are concerns as to how such plants are grown and where they are distributed.
When meat browns, it undergoes a process called the Maillard Reaction, which is responsible for providing many browned or "toasted" foods such as breads with a, "favorable flavor," according to Wikipedia. The issue, according to the same source, is that when temperatures climb too high, "a potential carcinogen called acrylamide can be formed." (The same process can be indirectly used to create artificial flavors). Acrylamide is found in many things, not just food. Paper towels and food packaging are just a few of the goods which possess the substance. Accoring to the National Cancer Institue, however, while, "the [FDA] regulates the amount of residual acrylamide in a variety of materials that come in contact with food... there are currently no guidelines governing the presence of acrylamide in food itself." And, at this point, I'm starting to get depressed by my own blog post.
Despair not, young'uns, there are superfoods that can save the day! Only, in my opinion, many superfoods in stores today are stupid. As stated earlier, while I certainly had my confusions as a youngster, I was generally aware of what was healthy and what was not (usually it was the things I was eating). With two parents who preached the value of common-sensical health, I never once heard the words "ashitaba", "astragalus" or "cordyceps". Perhaps they weren't of the hippie-variety or perhaps they didn't want to drop $50 on a single food item but they always maintained that relying on natural foods was the way to go.
Last Spring, I actually wrote about superfoods in a post (Compararive Curiosities), noting their reported benefits. As I see it now, an emphasis on superfoods is a little like the organic movement with women in Lululemon pants touting the benefits of Eucommia bark (which retails at around $55 a pop). I'm not saying such products don't maintain their reported benefits, it's just that I wonder if they provide a way of consuming nutrients sans calories. Additionally, many benefits and nutrients we can obtain just fine from whole foods (the product, not the store). Spending a fortune on specialized goods is fine if you can afford it but should not stand in as a substitute for good habits. Again, if we pay collectively for health care as a society, we should make healthy eating available to everyone, not just the elite. So, this is where we return to balance. Simply eating when we're hungry, foods that are naturally and nutritious, help our bodies and minds (and maybe the economy). As I referenced in Techno-Traps we often become our parents and, I've found their endless preaching to be true: that we don't need fancy remedies or unique trends to be healthy, we (conversely) need what's simple... just what the Earth and farms give to us. As Occam's razor tells us, "the simplest solution is often the right one."