A healthy diet is more entertainment than well-being these days.
How about the ‘10 essential animal-free dishes you have to try this summer?’, ‘Best ever diet for six pack abs’, ‘Never eat this food again’.
All great clickbait but garbage for the most part.
I know for a fact that the six-pack diet doesn’t work.
Living in this modern world of social media influencers, bullshit artists, and peddlers of misinformation at every flick of the thumb is overwhelming.
At sustainably FED, when the doom scrolling and misinformation feeds get to us, we often take a massive step back into a quiet corner and take a deep breath.
Try it. Take a deep breath.
That’s it, in through the nose and out with a sigh, making the out-breath longer than the in-breath — standard pranayama practice for calm.
Again, another deep, purposeful breath.
So, your interest is a healthy diet?
There are some fundamentals to deciding what a healthy diet is.
Diet is about your metabolism, what foods your body handles best, what it finds difficult, and what it simply cannot deal with.
Answers to each of these fundamentals are unique to you because each of us has a different metabolism and metabolic biome.
Remember, too, that your body is not just yours.
In and on it live billions of microorganisms affected by what you eat. Sometimes they rebel and give off gases that bloat your stomach or cause your skin to come out in hives. Other times they oblige to help with digestion.
This complex ecology that is unique to you has nothing to do with what the latest influencer is eating that particular day. What you choose to eat cannot be a decision to push for a paleo diet, carbs only, or green yuck juice three times a day.
It must be about what is best for your unique ecosystem to operate efficiently.
Here efficiency means the ability of your body to absorb nutrients and energy sufficient for the maintenance and movement demands of your body without too much pressure on the cleaning systems for the blood, tissues and digestive tract, especially the liver and kidneys.
A balance of inputs and outputs allows your unique metabolic engine to purr.
What your brain chemistry is up to also affects the balance in the engine. If what you eat has come from slave labour, a battery hen or released a massive volume of greenhouse gases in its production, and the issues implicit in these sources matter to you, your body will feel the effects.
Our brains must also deal with the many stresses of everyday life.
What we eat on a lazy Sunday afternoon with the sun sliding below the yardarm is different from our choice after the fifth Zoom call of the day.
A healthy diet is not just about what we eat but how we make food choices.
The requirements of a healthy diet.
A healthy diet requires a holistic approach to nutrition that emphasizes consuming a wide range of nutrient-rich foods in appropriate proportions. Balance and variety are important to ensure that your body receives the nourishment it needs.
Science tells us the basic elements of a healthy diet are the essentials to keep a human alive
- Macronutrients that we use for energy—fat, protein and carbohydrate—that are best consumed as whole grains, animal proteins, and fats. Note here that protein and fat are essential macronutrients that we must have in our food. Carbohydrates are not essential!
- Micronutrients needed in small quantities—vitamins and minerals—play a critical role in maintaining metabolic health as they are elements in the chemical interactions within cells. We get our micronutrients from a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds where variety is the key word.
- Dietary fiber aids digestion, promotes satiety, and supports a healthy gut microbiome. We get our dietary fibre from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
- Hydration is essential for overall well-being. We all need to drink an adequate amount of water each day given that over half the human body is made of water.
Our ancestors on their paleo diet managed this healthy diet rather well. They got most of their energy from animal protein, fats, fruits and root vegetables utilising ketosis, the metabolic state that occurs when your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose. They ate a wide variety of plants and insects to ensure there was enough micronutrients and made sure they had access to water.
They were probably metabolically very healthy so long as they had adequate food supplies, hence all the moving around.
Their food choices were made for them. They ate what they could gather, forage for or steal from a lazy lion.
Many modern humans do not have such restrictions. We are surrounded by food options, often to excess in both abundance and apparent variety.
Only we have to be careful.
A supermarket aisle full of cereals is not a dietary variety. Most of them are made from carbohydrates—grains and sugar—and come under the ultra-processed category of foods. Variety of cereals does not translate to balance and variet in the diet.
Better to take a breath before skipping the cereal aisle altogether.
What sustainably FED suggests
Deep purposeful breaths will calm the body.
The ancients knew this trick and passed it down the ages. A slower heart rate, oxygen in the lungs, and a clearer head become a fine antidote to the Tic Toc chatter.
Do this before you overthink healthy diet choices.
What we are supposed to eat is controversial and passion can quickly overtake logic. More protein or less protein? Vegan or fish? Sugar from fruits? Low carb? OMAD? Ultra-processed but low carb and sugar-free?
It’s personal, confusing, and easy to make strange decisions based on the avalanche of misinformation from the protagonists for each option.
The skill is to stand back and take the blinkers off to refoicus on the basics of macronutrients, micronutrients, fibre and water. Wide eyes allow for a broad look at diet and, from there, understand it for you and the world.
A simple rule of thumb would be colourful, unprocessed, primarily plants and food found close to the source.
The point of the pranayama lesson is to find the space to assess the essentials and discard the fluff.
Peruvian nuts, anyone?