Wednesday, October 15, 2008

some food for thought

Dear Friends,

I would like to share some thoughts with you today on my approach to food and eating in general.

As mentioned in my Monday post, I feel there is a little too much panicking going on where food is concerned. People are generally wary of what they eat and the complex and ever changing advice they receive from their surroundings doesn’t make things any easier. Should I avoid saturated fats or white pasta? Can I ever eat out again?

My feeling is that the only things to be avoided are those non-food elements which have been added to our current diet as a result of farming or manufacturing techniques inherent to food cultivation, processing, transport and storage, such as pesticides, food coloring, artificial flavors, preservatives, GMOs, hydrogenated fats (transfats), etc. These are not food stuffs we were ever meant to eat, but are added to food for ulterior motives or which are simply hard to keep out of our food supply. These food stuffs cannot be totally excluded from your diet (as they are added to most products you buy in the supermarket). However, worse than eating them, is giving in to the fear and panic that surrounds them. Creating a bad relationship with food is the worst thing you can do!

All other food is fair game, keeping in mind that a healthy diet should be consumed in moderation and contain a healthy variety of food. Eating should be a pleasurable experience! Taking pleasure in what you eat is fundamental to cultivating healthy eating habits.

Diets should not be about deprivation, but about positive consumption of the many and varied food stuffs out there. Just be aware of what you are eating by keeping in mind the different nutritional value of ingredients.
Be wary of diets which proclaim the total exclusion of certain food elements: no more meat or white starches for instance. Just think about it: the Japanese eat white rice three times a day and, as we know, live longer than most of us!
Rather than depriving yourself, look for new elements to include in your diet, such as seaweed, seeds and spices, variations on traditional vegetables, natural sweeteners (such as rice, agave or maple syrup) etc. Try other methods of food preparation, which may bring out different flavors, textures and nutritional content.

Again, a healthy diet is also about creating a healthy mentality towards food. We should not feel guilty when we eat and we should not have to deprive ourselves of foods we enjoy. Think of the pleasures you are missing out on if on your next visit to New Orleans you pass on a local dish of Shrimp Creole because you read it may contain saturated fats?

Don’t get me wrong though, there are good reasons for avoiding food if you are afraid of the chemical content or perhaps for environmental reasons (if the aforementioned shrimp are literally being fished to extinction). However, these reasons aside, we should try to explore new foods, rather than depriving ourselves. Be adventurous, there are so many dishes to try!

And yes, you should be smart about what you eat. Know your ingredients and how they affect your body. But rather than avoiding certain (non-chemical) ingredients outright, consume them in moderation. Avoidance is an unhappy approach to food which can easily lead to frustration.

And lastly, do not confuse healthy eating with longevity or weight loss. Sadly, we cannot control our surroundings and there are many things we may die of. As for weight loss: yes, a healthy approach to food could help you loose weight if you are carrying real excess weight, even though this is not the main purpose. But we also need to accept that our body changes over time and may loose some of its initial vivacity as we grow older. Luckily, there are other joys that come with age to compensate for this loss (like family, children, independence, etc.). A healthy approach to food will help you live better now and guarantee better performance of vital bodily functions at a later age.

I hope the above insights may help you enjoy your food and I welcome any thoughts you may want to share.

All the best,


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