Tuesday, October 9, 2012

We still dream Ponce de Leon's dream

What is "health food?" It depends, doesn't it? I remember the health food of the 70s which included thick, greasy nut butters, lots of soy milk, sprouts of every variety, and whole grain breads so dense each loaf weighed about ten pounds, and brown rice. Always and only brown rice.

That food was quite unhealthy for me, that is to say, I was incapable of digesting most of it. However, that is what I ate because at the time I believed there was such a thing as food that's good for everyone.

Of course I'm not the only one who believed there was such a thing as a perfect food for all. A lot of money has been made by the people who write books touting the perfect diet for everyone - whatever that is. During the 70s I read Jethro Kloss's classic Back to Eden, and Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe. No matter how earnestly I wanted to eat "health food," the nut butters and horrible dense breads were like lead balloons in my finicky digestive system.

I never liked herbal tea. There. I've said it.

There have been many fashions and fads in health food. What is thought to be great for everyone varies from decade to decade. I remember when food combining was the big thing. Another era I remember had to do with how much water we should drink, and when. It was thought that drinking water along with a meal was a Very Bad Thing.

Almost always there is some juice or tea that everyone swears by. A few of the allegedly magical elixirs that come to mind include wheat grass juice, pomegranate juice, green tea, white tea, Acai juice and coconut water. Smoothies and vegetable juices have enjoyed a long wave of popularity, as have supplements (puzzling to me since supplements are uber processed and very hard to integrate. They are hard on the liver and in fact unless you take them at the perfect moment with the perfect food, they will mostly be pissed out.)

I am tempted to get into a big rant against Veganism, the Paleo diet and the raw food diet, but I will restrain myself.

What is healthy depends on you, not on a particular set of foods or rules. It would be wonderful if it were as simple as eating what someone else tells you is best. Ah, but life is never simple, is it?

This is on my mind because I made a stew this week with grass fed organic beef that's available at the Tuesday farmers market at Eastern Market. Real beef is so ... well ... beefy! The flavor was very strong, much stronger than the high quality organic meat I buy regularly at Whole Foods. I was thinking, of course our ancestors hunted the bison. A little bit of real beef goes a very long way!

May you eat well by choosing foods and drinks that suit your body, digestion, and temperament. May what you eat be easily digestible, satisfying, nurturing. After a meal, may you be energized and grounded, i.e. well fed. If what you eat makes you tired or queasy, it could be time to think about making some changes.

May all in my society remember how lucky we are to be able to choose what is healthy and what isn't. What a luxury!


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