All too often, we talk about diet and “what we should eat”, “what is good for us”, what are the most healthy foods and above all, “what is bad for us”. We are often accompanied by a slight sense of guilt when we eat foods we know are harmful but which “we like”.
You say “I like this food”, but are you sure that this food likes you back? (Dr. Daniel Amen)
It is an extremely important topic for us all, because what we eat forges us. But at times, it also makes up for a shortfall in our emotional nourishment.
It is a topic I have always been very much aware of, perhaps because I have long been aware of food addictions I am still hanging onto at the ripe old age of 47. It is something I have been experiencing since early childhood, with a grandmother I now realise was a bit obsessed, just like I am (or perhaps I should say I am as obsessed as she was). She would take great pains to make me healthy foods, whilst unsuccessfully attempting to control what I ate whenever I went to my cousins’ house and gave vent to my craving for biscuits and cakes.
Caring for mind and body with real, nutritious and healthy foods, feeling good and having more energy is great. Why is it so hard to do?
Yogi Bhajan said there are two types of food: nourishing foods that are like the building blocks of our system, and foods that sustain and “cure” us, like ante litteram medication. As a matter of interest, he thought those of the second kind were foods such as the “trinity roots” (garlic, onion and ginger), and turmeric.
In keeping with the present-day situation, I expand this classification saying that there are nourishing foods, sustaining foods and foods that create addiction, namely those which neither nourish nor sustain but actually harm the system, although “we like them” a lot. These would include overly refined foods, refined sugar (whether its beet or cane sugar), and “junk food” (crisps, snacks, fizzy drinks, foods with an excess of sugar or saturated fats, colourings and preservatives). Often, they are designed to create addiction using sophisticated mathematical formulas.
I won’t even go into the issue of over-consumption of animal proteins and the industry that farms mammals exclusively for use and consumption by us “superior” mammals. I’ll leave it up to Michel Faber and his wonderful novel “Under the Skin” , which I recommend to everyone.
Our mistake is behaving like inferior animals whilst thinking we are superior (Mahatma Gandhi)
Unfortunately, foods that generate addiction now form the basis of the Western diet (the problem is particularly serious in the U.S.A.). This means we are losing our health and, as a result, our power as people, as Prof. Daniel Amen points out in this recent interview. In the USA, Dr. Amen recalls, 70% of candidates are turned down by the army because of the state of their health. What’s at stake is a “matter of security”.
Franco Berrino’s Manual
There are many books about food, perhaps too many. But if you want to take control of your health and stop delegating responsibility for your health to others, I’d recommend reading Franco Berrino’s manual, “Il cibo dell’Uomo” (Man’s Food).
Even if you have no intention of reading the whole book, the preface alone is worth reading. In just three pages, Prof. Berrino, an oncologist with a solid reputation based on extensive experience in the field, tells it like it is. In so doing, he makes a clear distinction between real prevention, which involves healthy foods and lifestyle, and early diagnosis.
People have the power, and it is time for them to use it (…). We are the makers of our own health (…). Without a doubt, we should be managing on our own (Franco Berrino)
Using references which include the Bible (“an extremely important historical and anthropological source about the nature of man, his food and his place in the world”), he reminds us that whole grains, pulses, oily seeds, vegetables and occasionally foods of animal origin make for the perfect combination of healthy foods. He highlights how doctors themselves have so much biological and pharmacological knowledge, yet they underestimate proper nutritional habits. Indeed, they tend to overlook the fact that the link between rich-country diseases (obesity, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer) and eating too much animal protein, over-refined flours and sugars and refined oils, has repeatedly been proven. He explains how doctors themselves often give dietary recommendations based on old preconceptions not backed up by scientific evidence (such as consuming more dairy produce to make up for a lack of calcium, or red meat for iron).
Prof. Berrino’s ten-point list for good health
He also gives us a ten-point list for good health:
- Stay slim throughout your whole life
- Be physically active, every day
- Limit foods which are high in calories and avoid sugary drinks
- Base your diet on foods of plant origin, preferably wholegrain
- Limit red meats and avoid preserved meats
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Limit the consumption of salt
- Maintained a varied diet
- Breastfeed babies for at least 6 months
- Do not use tobacco
He then continues with a summary of the contents of his conferences, all of which are extremely interesting and backed by recent scientific evidence.
To conclude with a piece of my own advice, the approach I personally favour is to increase the amount of vegetables, pulses and whole grains eaten considerably. You can do this by just adding and alternating them with our usual diet. Over time, your diet will reach the recommended balance between acidic and alkaline foods (this should be on a 20/80 ratio), which makes for good health.