Is it just me, or has getting healthy become head-scratchingly complex?
Every day it seems as if a magical new superfood is discovered, or the results of a new study turn our health expectations on their head. “Breaking news: Could your ceiling fan be making you fat? More at eleven…” One day coffee is good for us, and the next day it’s bad for us. We read articles that say things like “research shows turmeric prevents cancer! Maybe! Or possibly not at all… Our tests were completely inconclusive, but very promising!”
Not only do we continue to debate which individual foods are considered healthy, we can’t even settle on which overall diet leads to optimum human function. A head-spinning number of diets each claim to be the best at helping us lose weight or build muscle or neutralize free radicals. It quite simply baffles the mind.
In fact, the informational chaos surrounding nutrition and diet inspired me to write an original ode, to be sung a la Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance:”
I am the very model of a modern fad-based dieter –
Though I’ve tried everything my stomach won’t growl any quieter.
I’ve done Vegan, Atkins, South Beach, and become a strict non-pie-eater,
And bought a lot of green stuff from a wheat grass bar proprietor.
I’d MasterCleanse my life away, if I thought it’d make me better-er;
If Dr. Oz advised it I would eat an Irish Setter-er.
I’ve tried so many ways to get me healthier, less fattier,
I am the very model of a modern fad-based dieter.
Now, to help in your quest for better health, I’d like to share some guidance handed down by a nationally-recognized health authority:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
The brain-parent of this phrase is, of course, the venerable Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and other delightfully informative books. You’ve likely heard of him by now, but it’s worth revisiting his philosophy for easy, effortless, healthy eating.
According to Pollan, these seven little words above are “more or less, the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing questions of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.” The takeaway message? Simple.
- Eat Real Food
That is, “nothing your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
Another good rule of thumb: avoid anything with more than five ingredients or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
- Eat Less
It’s not just what you eat but how you eat.
“Always leave the table a little hungry.” Or as they like to say in Germany, “Tie off the sack before it’s full.”
- Be Wary of “Nutritionism”
This refers to the recent ideology that reduces the value of food to the sum of its chemical nutrients (e.g., “Now with more fiber! High in antioxidants!”), and which often has a lot more to do with smart marketing than a way to make smart food choices. It might say “good source of calcium” on the box of Pop Tarts, but that’s not justification for eating them.
We live in a stressful, frenetic world oversaturated with statistics and scientific data and differing opinions all clamoring to be heard – why add to our own anxiety by getting distracted by every trendy new diet, inconclusive study, and latest superfood snake oil that comes down the pike?
Our lives are already complicated enough. But luckily with food, keeping it simple is all we need to do.