Tuesday, January 10, 2012

You are what you eat

Just as nation-states have different kinds of relationships among themselves, some adversarial, some very friendly, so goes our relationships with the plants and animals we call "food." I don't for one second believe there is any food that's good for everyone. That's quite a naive point of view. Look around at other humans - we are very different from one another! Think of the variety of landscapes on which we live, on which very different plants and animals flourish. Why would it make sense for all of us to eat exactly the same foods? I don't understand how anyone could believe that.

Consider the indigenous people of the far north who never ever touch a green vegetable. They live on whale blubber and other seriously fatty foods. Those people are extremely healthy, by and large. Recently I read that the original hunter/gatherers who lived mostly on raw or almost raw meat and the milk of horses, cattle and goats, sometimes fermented so they could, when they felt like it, get stinking drunk - those people were hearty and healthy. When agriculture began in earnest, that's when human teeth began decaying and many different illnesses became normal for humans. It flies in the faces of all those folks who believe plant based diets are the best for EVERYONE. Mark Bittman, are you listening?

I'm not advocating a diet of almost raw meat and horse milk, by the way. At least it wouldn't work for me!

If you don't know which foods are most nutritious for you, there's an easy way to find out. For one day, drink only water and clear juices. The next day choose one very simple food - such as rice, for instance. Eat one serving. Does it smell and taste good? Does it feel "right" in your mouth? How it makes you feel? Energetic, cheerful, hot, cold, damp, dry? How does it sit in your stomach? Does it "stick to your ribs" or are you hungry soon after eating it? Become a mad scientist, curious and attentive. Try another food, notice the difference in the way these two foods make you feel. Pay attention to your emotional reactions as well as the way you feel physically. By trial and error, you can build a diet of feel-good foods.

The foods that create congestion or make you queasy or tired, give you a headache or whatever, these foods are not your friends, no matter what the experts tell you. Doesn't it make sense to build a diet around the foods that are easy to digest and help you feel cheerful and energetic rather than following someone else's idea of what's good to eat? You can not go wrong if you eat what suits your particular, individual, unique physiology.

Of course there are probably some foods that taste good but do not enhance the way you feel. For me, that would include cheese. I love it, but within five minutes of eating it, I have to clear my throat and blow my nose. It feels cold and heavy in my stomach, makes me queasy. What that means is that I have to pick and choose carefully the times when I eat cheese, or decide it's worth feeling heavy, cold and sniffly.

Have you ever thought about it? The digestive system is a crucial element of our immune systems. You ARE what you eat. Choose mindfully yes? I say yes.



Angela said...

Interesting thoughts, hmmm. There ARE things I like but make me feel bad, like mayonnaise or fat dips. At this time of year I have a craving for oranges and pineapples. I also like cheese and never heard of such a reaction, too bad for you! Yes, I think I`ll try your advice and see what foods really suit me.

Reya Mellicker said...

Mayo gives me heartburn. I like pineapples but they make the roof of my mouth itch, as do avocados. Very mild versions of the above, but still I try to avoid these foods.

Jo said...

I get the same reaction from bananas and walnuts, Reya. I have finally decided to avoid them altogether.

As the mother of a child with Crohn's Disease, I can say that I completely concur. Each person has his or her own unique make up, and what's good for the goose is NOT necessarily good for the gander.

Thank you for an important post.

Kerry said...

I am still working on these things. I like a wide variety of foods, but especially fresh veggies. I grew up in Wisconsin and love cheese, although for years I thought I should stay away from it. Recently I started to crave it & wondered if it was a need for calcium (surely I don't need the fat?) Ah food, glorious food.

Reya Mellicker said...

Kerry we do actually need fat in our diets, more so than is currently popular.

My very best foods include butternut squash and kale or swiss chard sauteed in olive oil. Those two veggies, over rice, is my best dinner. They smell and taste good, are colorful and attractive, feel right in my mouth, sit well in my stomach and stick to my ribs. Unless I'm having people for dinner, I'm likely to choose these foods often, perhaps too often. Variety is important, too.

It's an ongoing experiment.