What is healthy eating?

What is healthy eating? Are you confused?  It's hardly surprising given the ever fickle, ever changing dietary advice. Which foods are considered to be eating healthy is a forever moving goalpost with so much conflicting 'research' that it's a minefield. Remember the butter is good, butter is bad issue? 

Speak to the Atkins or Paleo crowd and they'll tell you low carb and high protein is healthy. Speak to the Slimfast bunch and they'll tell you their meal replacements are packed with nutrients and so on. Seriously!!! We are so desperate to find a diet that works - we'll try anything, even if it isn't vaguely sane or sensible. We need to discuss not only the 'how' of eating healthily but also how easily diets, especially ones that cut out major food groups turn our normal and usually 'healthy eating' into disordered eating and eating disorders.

What is healthy eating according to our culture?

There are strong cultural messages about using food as medicine and about 'bad' and 'good' foods.  The result? Eating fear, and anxiety after eating.  We know that foods have different nutritional values. However, obsessively tracking micro-nutrients, growing fear of eating and becoming orthorexic in the process, is no way to create healthy eating and healthy living.  

Here's what you need to remember:  stress shuts down our digestion system so that we can't digest food optimally, and that not only retards nutrient absorption, but also causes a long list of digestive problems (1).  So, if you're frantic about everything to do with eating then you're shooting your health in the foot.

Rather focus on beating stress for better health because that will be a more beneficial goal. Here's why:

In the 90+ study (2) people who lived to over 90, didn't fear eating or obsess about their diet  and according to Dr. Mario Martinez centurions around the globe enjoy food without focussing on what is healthy eating.  They do enjoy breaking bread with others, and they do eat in moderation - but they don't stress about the nutritional value of everything they eat.  They just don't spend their lives worrying about what is healthy eating (3). What's more people who live long around the world simply don't eat the same foods.  Their diets vary greatly.

(1) The stressed gut: Contributions of intestinal stress peptides to inflammation and motility. Nigel W. Bunnnett, PNAS, vol.102no.21, 7409-7410

(2) Do Successful Agers Live Longer? The Vitality 90+ Study. Lily Nosraty, MSc, Linda Enroth, MSc, Jani Raitanen, MSc, Antti Hervonen, MD, PhD, Marja Jylhä, MD, PhD.  First Published June 6, 2014

(3)The MindBody Code: How to Change the Beliefs that Limit Your Health, Longevity, and Success

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