What Should We Eat to be Healthy?
by Ann Zimmerman, L.Ac.
This simple answer is: EAT FOOD. However, this recommendation is not quite as simple as it sounds. It used to be food that was all you could eat, but today there are thousands of edible food-like substances in the supermarket. This is where it gets very confusing and overwhelming for those on the quest to have a “healthy diet.”
This confusion about food has fueled the perceived notion that it’s necessary to consult many resources on how to conduct this most basic question of survival. Michael Pollen, author of many books about food asks, “What other animal needs professional help in deciding what it should eat?”
This fairly bold statement rings true for the present day disagreement on largely guided by our culture. Our ancestors knew what, when, and how much to eat by observing and being taught by their families, specifically their mothers. In the last few decades we have lost this valuable guidance from our culture and have begun to rely on the scientists, nutritionist, governments, and ever-shifting dietary guidelines. This has led to present day meals that faintly resemble what our grandmothers served.
Diet tends to be a very tricky subject to speak on, ranking closely to other taboo subjects like politics and religion. That’s not so in Chinese medicine, where one of the main principles is that food is your first medicine. This belief puts a strong importance on the content of what you put in your mouth, but what should that be. As Americans, we are bombarded by loads of conflicting information, colorful advertising, neighborly advice, proper/improper body images, ect. We invest our money in a wide range of products (vitamins, minerals, superfoods, and diet pills, ect.) Our stomachs, eyes, convenience and pocket books often pull us in different directions. And, through all this, Americans continue to be some of the least healthy individuals in the developed world.
The idea that one diet works for all kinds of people is simply not true. This assumption is the basis for “fad” diets and generalized advice taht is often passed around tables of friends. The “right” diet could also be defined from avid vegetarians, vegans, raw-foodists, or atkin devotees. Where does this leave us? Dazed and confused, stumbling through the aisles of our supermarkets.
At Middleway Medicine, we’ve come through plenty of personal dietary adventures and folliess and have observed many different types of bodies, personalities and the food baggage our patients carry. All of this has informed our verdict on what to eat, which falls, of course, along the Middleway. The Middleway of eating is based on flexibility, common sense, and moderation. It suggests that a proper, healthy diet cannot be defined or pinned down to anything specific, limiting, or static. It recognizes that food is more than a means for nutritional delivery but also a means of relating socially and with the earth. We have taken a great interest in diet through our medical and anthropology studies, but mostly through our plain LOVE of food. We have researched and read our share of books and, like you, we are ever changing in our attitudes, knowledge, and relationship with food. Recently, the book, “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollen captured our attention because of the basic guidelines he offers on making this quest of eating healthy seem a bit less confusing. His guidelines are listed below:
- Dont eat anything your great grandmother would not recognize as food.
- Avoid food products containing ingredients that are:
- More than five in number or that include
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup
- Hydrogenated Oils (a Middleway addition)
- Avoid food products that make health claims
- Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle
- Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. Go to the farmers’ market.
- Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
- You are what you eat, and what it eats too (the die of the animals we eat has baring on the nutritional quality we ingest).
- If you have space, buy a freezer (freeze in-season food for later).
- Eat like an omnivore (diversity is key).
- Eat well-grown food from healthy soils (foods free of pesticides).
- Eat wild foods when you can.
- Be the kind of person who takes supplements.
- Eat more like the French, or the Italians, or the Japanese, or the Indians, or the Greeks.
- Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism.
- Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.
- Pay more, eat less.
- Eat Meals.
- Do all your eating a table.
- Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
- Try not to eat alone.
- Consult your gut.
- Cook and, if you can, plant a garden.