Have you ever noticed that nutritionists claim one thing, and then a few years later another nutritionist will say something totally opposite of the first? They all seem to have canned answers on what is good food and what is bad, but all of them have a limited shelf life. They often can't agree with each other and will fight to keep their theory main stream, until of course they change their minds and set off in a new direction. It all seems to me to be no different than someone involved in the fashion world. What is chic today is outdated tomorrow.
What I have never heard any nutritionist promote is how we are all different and that one food regimen might be good for one person but totally bad for another. One person may be able to eat large amounts of food high in cholesterol and not have high cholesterol, where another might have a massive coronary and die from the same diet. We've all heard about the people of some remote village that live to ripe old ages even though they eat a diet that would kill most. There is an explanation for this phenomenon, it's called adaptation. If people of a region have limited access to a variety of nutrition, their bodies over the generations will adapt to the nutrition that is available. But how many generations does it take to adapt to your environment? I do not know the answer to that question and if I did, I would be rich. If you take those people and put them on a foreign diet, their health and longevity would likely be adversely affected. What is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.
So our heritage has something to do with what we need to have a healthy diet, but once again there are problems with this. So many of us are not pure bred anymore, we're mutts now. We're not pure German, Italian, French, Korean, Chinese, whatever; we're a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I know that my father's lineage had English, Irish, Italian and German. My mother's lineage was Dutch; if there wasn't a "Van" in front of the last name, they weren't getting into the family. Then, in the late 1800's, an English woman and then a German made it into the family tree. Each time a new heritage was added in, the dietary needs would be changed. With my children, my wife added the Korean heritage and dietary needs into the recipe. Somewhere down the line, with enough lineages added in, we might be able to come up with something that will work for all, but that time is still a long way down the road. Until then, look at both your maternal and paternal lineages and determine the mean life span. If your ancestors on both sides lived into their 80's and 90's, I wouldn't want to deviate too far from their dietary and exercise habits, to include making meals with "clean" products.
Another factor is a person's metabolism. If a person has a high metabolism, they can consume more calories in a day than another. There are many factors that determine a person's metabolism too. There is activity, age, and sex of the person to name three. If a person needs to lose weight, they need to decrease their caloric intake just the right amount to do so; they cannot go on a crash diet to lose. What happens is if you cut your calories too much the body automatically adjusts the metabolism to almost zero to protect itself. Caloric intake for weight maintenance varies from person to person also. We're not all the same size shape and build. It's like we're all custom made boats. Each one of us needs a certain amount of ballast (calories) to sail smoothly on the seas of life. Not enough ballast, and we become too buoyant, capsize and sink. Too much ballast and we cannot keep our decks above water and we also sink. The trick is to add just the right amount ballast to make our voyage a long and safe one. There is not a one size fits all remedy.
We need to give consideration to genetically altered foods too. Not that long ago, foods were grown with natural fertilizers in clean soil. Livestock was raised with non-polluted feed. This all started changing in the mid twenty first century. To increase productivity, scientists were able to manufacture growth hormones, which alter the genetic makeup, to cause animals to grow at a faster rate which would increase profits for farmers by decreasing the amount of time they had to raise the livestock. They also came up with genetically modified grains to increase the amount of produce per acre for farmers. Together, the genetically altered livestock and grains, with many other foods are known as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). Add to that the insecticides, herbicides and pesticides developed to increase productivity, and the result is the modification of our environment. The problem with this is no one studied whether or not these genetic changes and chemicals would be able to be passed on to the consumer of these products. Now, there are indications that these "enhancements" are being passed on to the people who eat these products. What is the long term effect of these changes? We do not know and will not have a good answer for probably another generation or two, but I'd be willing to wager that the results will show shorter lifespans with more medical problems that were not experienced before. This is contrary to the belief that many of the cancers and ailments that presently flood our society have always been there, but we did not have the means to detect them.
What is the solution to GMO's? The shallow answer is to buy organic and/or grow and raise your own food stuffs both plant and animal. The real answer at present there is no solution. Think about it, unless you raise the feed for the livestock yourself and are able to ensure that overspray from neighboring fields do not touch those fields, PLUS you know for fact that your land is 100% non-polluted, your livestock and their food sources are going to be tainted. With fruits, vegetables, and grains the same is true. Unless you know that the water they are given is not polluted and the ground they are planted in is free of chemicals, the plants and their fruits will be tainted. If you buy organic, then you are trusting the grower has met all the requirements to qualify as organically grown. With the prices of organic produce, too many growers are willing to lie about how the produce was grown to increase the profit margin.
The next question you should be asking yourself is: "If everything we're being told is generic and not applicable, what do I do?" There is no standard answer but here is what I would suggest:
1. GET GUIDANCE FROM YOUR ANCESTORS. Look at your ancestors and if they had long lifespans, make family recipes that have been handed down as a staple of your lifestyle today. However, if their lifespans were all short, look for alternative meals to start the change.
2. GET UP OFF YOUR BUTT. Exercising once or twice a week is not going to help too much. Our ancestors worked long hard hours just to exist. I propose that you need to exercise at least six days a week (like your ancestors) and make exercise a part of your life not just once a day, but break it up into three to four times a day. If your job requires a lot of manual labor, you are already doing that, but if you are a white collar worker, it's time to get up and get moving. A good plan would be 30 minutes of a workout at home before work, a speed walk at lunch and another workout in the evening before dinner.
3. STAY HUNGRY MY FRIEND. As the "most interesting man in the world" might say, balance your food intake. Eat four or five meals a day consisting of smaller portions. You don't have to actually be hungry, but don't emulate the guy who sits back after every meal and has to loosen his belt just to breathe. Eat just enough to take the hunger away for now. It is a learned habit that is harder for some than others. Don't skip meals either. Skipping meals tends to cause the metabolism to slow down.
4. BALANCE IS BEST. Balance the amounts of all the food groups and know their nutritional value. Learn which foods provide the most value to your well-being and incorporate them accordingly. An example of this is blackberries, which are full of nutrition and antioxidants. In fact, scientific studies show berries have some of the highest antioxidant levels of any fresh fruits. Kale and spinach are the only vegetables with values as high as fresh berries. Fresh berries are at the top of the food chain for fighting disease. They are however high in natural sugars. My wife and I pick and freeze wild blackberries every year. When having grilled chicken or pork, we will puree blackberries or raspberries and drizzle a small amount over the meat. For change, we will use freshly squeezed fruit juice. Freshly squeezed cherry juice with the pulp or apple juice over pork chops is great! Chicken with citrus fruit juice is a close second to berries. You can also add these fruits and berries to salads. Anyway, eat larger portions of fruits and vegetables than your meats. My wife and I also buy our multigrain bread from a bakery that uses organic grains and no preservatives. In the dairy area, I love cheese, but it does not agree with me. Therefore, I drink an 8 ounce glass of milk three times a day.
5. GO AU NATURAL. You can do this by exercising outdoors and setting your thermostat closer to the temperature outside. In the winter, set the thermostat down to mid to upper sixties and in the summer, mid to upper eighties. Our ancestors were hardier than us. They didn't have air conditioning for the summer and the homes were not as well heated in the winter. The extreme temperature change from going in and out of doors makes us less able to deal with said changes. The closer we live to the natural environment, the healthier we will be. Also find time to spend time in the sunshine whenever it is shining. According to USNews.com, "In the winter, it's impossible to produce vitamin D from the sun if you live north of Atlanta because the sun never gets high enough in the sky for its ultraviolet B rays to penetrate the atmosphere. But summer is a great time to stock up on the nutrient. When the sun's UV-B rays hit the skin, a reaction takes place that enables skin cells to manufacture vitamin D. If you're fair skinned, experts say going outside for 10 minutes in the midday sun--in shorts and a tank top with no sunscreen--will give you enough radiation to produce about 10,000 international units of the vitamin. Dark-skinned individuals and the elderly also produce less vitamin D, and many folks don't get enough of the nutrient from dietary sources like fatty fish and fortified milk." Also, choose natural ingredients to use instead of processed ingredients in your cooking. We use natural maple syrup and pure unpasteurized honey for processed sugar all the time and have found the foods taste better and are better for you.
6. BE YOUR OWN FARMER. Grow what you can and buy organic from those you can trust. Have your soil tested when possible to ensure there are not harmful contaminants in it that can be absorbed by the plants and transferred to you when eating. I noticed today at the store, the new advertising gimmick is to put labels on beef products that read "Natural Grass Fed Beef" versus the usual "Corn Fed Beef". Other labels read "Hormone Free" and "All Natural Beef". Is there any meaning to the labels? As someone who has seen a lot of marketing ploys throughout my life, I question the usefulness and honesty of these labels.
7. I'LL TAKE TWO HYDROGENS AND AN OXYGEN NEAT PLEASE. Too many municipal water supplies have way too much chlorine and fluoride in the systems. Too many well systems have chemical pollutants from field runoff. The pollutants either intentionally introduced or those absorbed by the ground are bad for you. I recommend a reverse osmosis system for drinking and cooking water or a good water softener with a dechlorinator system attached. The purer the water you drink the better. They are not cheap, but neither are medical bills and funerals. The best way to see if your water is pure or not is put it in a glass container and try and boil it. Pure water will not boil. It will get agitated in when it is past 212 F, but it will not actually boil.
8. I DID IT MY WAY. Remember, before you make changes to your diet, check with your family physician to make sure you aren't at risk from an allergen or diabetes. It's your responsibility to make sure you do what is best for your body and you need to take control of your own physical and mental well-being. It's not easy at first, but with time it becomes second nature and you can pass the trait to your children by explaining why you are doing what you are doing. Eventually, after a few generations it will be natural.
Will following these guidelines guarantee a long and healthy life? No, but it puts you on the right track. Are these guidelines all inclusive? Once again no, but it is better than following generic guidelines from the nutritionist of the month club.