An important part of cultivating vitality is nutrition. As the old adage goes, “You are what you eat.” Nutrition is a complicated and emotional subject for many people. Our families and traditions are dominated by food. We are born into particular cultures and families with particular ways of feeding the human body. Some people continue those same traditions into adulthood, without giving them much thought. Other people decide to go a different way and adopt new nutrition habits, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.
Science has further complicated this issue in a couple of different ways. The first being the way that food is produced, manufactured, and preserved. Over the last 60 plus years, there has been a dramatic shift in the foods that we eat, largely due to production and manufacturing. Most people’s diets in the modern world are dominated by heavily processed foods and drinks. As people have moved away from the traditional diets of their ancestors, to more processed diets, the rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer have skyrocketed.
Another way in which science has further complicated the nutrition issue is through conflicting research. One year, research will say that a particular food causes heart disease. The next year, another study will say that same food is good for you and prevents cancer. One group will make one argument and another group will take the opposite stance. This has led to a lot of confusion among the general population. “What SHOULD we eat?” they ask. “In a year or two, they will just turn around and say that this is good/bad for you, so why should I bother listening to the experts? I am just going to eat what I want,” they say.
I have wondered the same things myself and have spent the past seven years trying different ways of eating, trying to find the eating plan that leads me to a healthy and fit body. Prior to that, I dieted regularly, but my motivation was less about my health and more about my appearance. In a future post, I will share my experiences with various eating and diet plans.
My exploration of various diets and nutrition plans has led me to some important conclusions. First, most of the research being done on food and diet are conducted and/or paid for by people and groups with their own agendas. Most of their agendas boil down to increasing their own profits, not about human health. Their results are often skewed or interpreted to support their claims that their product is beneficial or, at the very least, benign to the human body. They definitely aren’t going to come out and say, “Our research concludes that our product is harmful to your health,” because their driving force is generating as much profit as possible.
The second conclusion that my explorations have brought me to is that many of the groups and organizations that are supposedly devoted to monitoring food producers and manufacturers are actually heavily influenced by them. Individuals who once worked for high powered food producers, often end up in high level positions in the organizations meant to police the same food producers who once employed them. There definitely seems to be instances where a “conflict of interests” would come into play. Who is going to come out on top in that scenario? Will it be the general population or the food producers?
The third conclusion that I reached through my diet and nutrition explorations is that there is no “one size fits all” approach to eating. We are all different. We come from different cultures, regions, and genetic backgrounds. What works for one person, may not be what works for another. If we look back and explore the foods our ancestors ate, we may find that they had some very good reasons for including or rejecting particular types of food, beyond necessity or taste. Traditions can be both beneficial and harmful to our health. It is worth taking some time to sift through and find the traditions that support our well-being in the modern world.
All three of these conclusions culminate to the importance of doing our own research and being our own advocates for our personal nutrition and health. We need to take in the information that we receive from various sources and test it out. Does eating a particular food or type of food make us feel better or worse? Which foods repair your body and which foods damage your body? If we ask ourselves these questions and answer them honestly, we can begin to find the foods that support our health and avoid the foods that diminish our health.