This month, the month of August, I am focusing on health.
Healthy, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “having good health, not sick or injured.”
Today I want to talk about food and what I’ve learned about eating to have good health, and prevent sickness and injury.
What I’m going to share with you has helped my boyfriend and I improve our energy levels over the past 6-7 years as well as has changed our bodies.
You can see what I look like today in the video version of this blog post! :)
We do attribute these positive changes mostly to our food choices. We are not the most fit people I know, we could use some more exercise, but we feel good and have certainly changed for the better.
Figuring out what food is actually healthy sometimes makes me want to just give up and eat donuts all day.
For example, is fat good or bad? Many people say the right kind is good, many people say all fat is ok, and many people say low fat is best.
The information we are bombarded with on a daily basis via mainstream media and not so mainstream media, like this blog post for example, can be so conflicting.
I'm writing to commiserate and share with you what I have learned about what healthy food means, what I like to eat, and the sources I trust to give me true, factual, and well-intentioned information on what is healthy, not healthy, and why.
Why does anyone care about what’s “healthy”?
I don’t know why you might care, but I can tell you why I do.
I want to:
- feel my best
- look my best
- perform whatever I’m doing at my best
- live in a way that is sustainable and nourishing to keep myself around on this earth for as long as possible, because despite its infinite imperfections, I kind of like it here and want to stick around to make some positive changes
There’s so much information out there, how do we know who we can trust?
According to a study done by a Penn State professor of nutrition with a PhD, only a fourth of medical schools offer even one course dedicated to nutrition. The abstract of the study states, “…many healthcare providers are not adequately trained to address lifestyle recommendations that include nutrition and physical activity behaviors in a manner that could mitigate disease development or progression.”
What healthcare providers are trained to do is prescribe pills. I’m not saying doctors are bad people. Doctors become doctors, I think, mostly because they want to help people.
However, I think it’s easy to become part of this system when entering the medical field.
Dr. Greger writes in “How Not to Die” that as a medical student he “was offered countless steak dinners and fancy perks by Big Pharma representatives,” but never got a call from “Big Broccoli.”
He also writes that huge budgets drive the promotion of the latest drugs, which you hear about on tv, but you’ll never see a commercial for sweet potatoes because there’s little profit motive connected to the “power of foods to affect your health and longevity.”
When I look at a piece of information regarding what is supposedly healthy or unhealthy and try to decipher whether or not it is factual, I like to consider:
whether or not it could possibly make any sense
whether or not it is based on research
- whether or not the research study was funded by a group who benefits from the findings of the research
- and whether or not the party presenting the research findings might actually understand how to read and interpret the research findings correctly
When the information is coming from a singular person in the form of advice, I consider:
whether or not the person actually lives the way he or she is advocating
whether or not the person radiates health: is energetic, focused, and just overall walking the walk of health
When I do find sources that I trust to give me research-based factual information about health, I like to try to figure out where the information presented by those sources overlap. I like to find the commonalities. As I see it, the more agreement that exists by the sources I trust, the more likely it is that the information is true.
Two resources that I trust to give me the truest information they can possibly give:
“The Blue Zones” book, sponsored by National Geographic, written by Dan Buettner
- It looks at pockets of the world in which there is an abnormally high rate of people living past 100 years old (the pockets being the blue zones).
- It considers all aspects of life as part of the picture, including food.
2. “How Not To Die” by Michael Greger, M.D.
- Dr. Greger also runs the website NutritionFacts.org, which is a “nonprofit, science-based, public service providing free daily videos and articles on the latest in nutrition research.” Another resource I trust.
- “How Not To Die” is divided into two parts. Part I being how not to die from specific diseases and ailments in regards to prevention and even reversal through nutrition and lifestyle. Part II shares “Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen” foods we should eat each day for optimal health.
- Almost every sentence in this book has a footnote referencing a research study, which can be found in the notes section in the back of the book.
What my sources say about what’s healthy and not to eat:
In terms of food and longevity, “The Blue Zones” recommends avoiding meat and processed foods.
Dr. Gregor also advocates a plant-based diet free of all animal products in conjunction with other lifestyle recommendations.
Other more peripheral resources that conclude that a plant-centered diet is best for disease prevention and longevity include:
“The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, PhD
“The Starch Solution” by John McDougall, M.D. & Mary McDougall
- “The 80/10/10 Diet” by Dr. Doug Graham
These resources have a lot of overlapping information as well as a good amount in common with “The Blue Zones” and Dr. Greger’s work.
Again, I like to see where my trustworthy sources overlap and go from there.
Every one of these sources agrees that plants are the way to go, however they don’t all agree on what types of plants to eat in what quantities.
Dr. Greger and “The Blue Zones” recommends eating all types of whole plant foods each day. “The Starch Solution,” recommends getting most of your calories from starches, like rice, beans, and potatoes. “The 80/10/10 Diet” recommends getting the majority of your calories from fruit.
The issue of whether dietary fat is good or bad is something else not all of my sources agree on. There seems to be a consensus among these sources regarding animal product based fats, food in all animal products, which is that they shouldn’t be part of a human diet for health and longevity.
However, some of the sources say eating whole plant foods high in fat like avocado and nuts is healthy and fine. “The Blue Zones” highlights an island in Greece in which olive oil is a part of the diet, while Dr. Greger and the other sources I mentioned say any plant oil is not healthy because most of its nutrition has been removed and is basically empty calories. He says, “Even extra-virgin olive oil may impair your arteries’ ability to relax and dilate normally.”
Dr. Greger seems to think that the mediterranean diet is so full of fruits and veggies and legumes that it is beneficial despite the olive oil, rather than because of it. Dr. Greger and “The Blue Zones,” are also big advocates of eating nuts.
Some of my sources, like “The Starch Solution,” and “The 80/10/10 Diet” say to keep whole plant-based fats like avocados and nuts low, to 10% or less of our caloric intake.
I follow people on YouTube who are eating low fat and oil free who seem to be thriving. I follow people who are eating lots of avocados and nuts and nut butters who seem to be thriving. I also follow people who include plant oils like coconut and olive oil who seem to be doing just fine.
It’s frustrating because all of them fit my description and idea of healthy people. The one thing they do have in common is that they do not include any animal products except for maybe some honey.
Perhaps eating a plant-based diet is enough to help us feel and look healthy, despite what kinds of plant fats and how much of them we eat.
To conclude this video on what healthy food means, how I decide who I can trust, and what I’ve learned so far:
- Food is healthy when it gives you energy, not makes you lethargic or induces pain.
- I trust sources who use unbiased research to draw conclusions.
- Everyone should do his or her own research as well and take a good look at who is giving you advice.
- I’ve learned from my research that eating a diet of whole plant foods will allow me the energy and well-being I need to get shit done, feel good, and look my best.
I’d love to hear about any resources you trust to give you honest and true information on healthy food.
In my video and blog post next week I’ll be sharing with you my favorite healthy food YouTube channels so don’t forget to subscribe if you want to see those and if you want to see some more health-related videos this month.
If you want to see what I’m eating, follow me on Instagram. I post pictures of my food quite frequently! You can find the link to my Instagram account down below. :)