Healthful Eating?

- POSTED ON: Oct 28, 2012

What does Healthy Eating REALLY mean?

Health is the general condition of a living person's mind, body and spirit,
usually meaning to be free from illness, injury or pain (as in "good health" or "healthy").
So, to be in “good health”, or to be “healthy: simply means “not sick or injured” and “not dead”.

Human nutrition is the process by which substances in food are transformed into body tissues and provide energy for the full range of physical and mental activities that make up human life.

Nowadays, Marketing Interests attach the word “healthy” to just about every food sold.
.. and they are technically correct, because if it doesn’t make you sick or kill you, it IS healthy.

It is now fashionable for people to worry about whether or not they are “eating healthy”. However, here in modern society, an average person, who is not sick, doesn’t need to have state-of-the-art scientific expertise and technologies of the links between human nutrition and health. 

   Basically, it is still as it has always been, in every society and culture.

If other people eat it;
if it tastes good;
and if it doesn’t kill you, make you feel sick,
or make you get really fat;
your eating qualifies as "Healthy".

But, many of us are interested in learning more.

 The study of human nutrition involves physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology, as well as psychology and anthropology, which explore the influence of attitudes, beliefs, preferences, and cultural traditions on food choices. Human nutrition further involves economics and political science as the world community recognizes and responds to the suffering and death caused by malnutrition.

What we eat obviously goes inside our bodies and therefore affects our internal organs and the chemical interactions that take place. What we eat can affect how we feel and ultimately influence our thoughts, our decisions and our behavior. What we eat also affects how our internal organs operate and therefore affects their healthiness and longevity.

“Healthy” eating, by definition, helps to ensure that one’s internal organs are being cared for, that they are processing foods effectively and efficiently, and ultimately, sustains one’s life.

 Dietitians are health professionals who specialize in human nutrition, meal planning, economics, and preparation. They are trained to provide dietary advice and management to individuals, as well as to institutions. Clinical nutritionists are health professionals who focus more specifically on the role of nutrition in chronic disease, including possible prevention by addressing nutritional deficiencies before resorting to drugs.

Nutritional science investigates the metabolic and physiological responses of the body to diet. the study of nutrition is increasingly concerned with metabolism and metabolic pathways: the sequences of biochemical steps through which substances in living things change from one form to another.

The human body contains chemical compounds, such as water, carbohydrates (sugar, starch, and fiber), amino acids (in proteins), fatty acids (in lipids), and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). These compounds in turn consist of elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and so on. All of these chemical compounds and elements occur in various forms and combinations (e.g. hormones, vitamins, phospholipids, hydroxyapatite), both in the human body and in the plant and animal organisms that humans eat.

The human body consists of elements and compounds ingested, digested, absorbed, and circulated through the bloodstream to feed the cells of the body. Digestive juices enter the lumen of the digestive tract. These digestive juices break chemical bonds in ingested molecules (food intake), and modify their conformations and energy states. Though some molecules are absorbed into the bloodstream unchanged, digestive processes release them from the matrix of foods. Unabsorbed matter, along with some waste products of metabolism, is eliminated from the body in the feces.

There are six major classes of nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, minerals, protein, vitamins, and water. These nutrient classes can be categorized as either macronutrients (needed in relatively large amounts) or micronutrients (needed in smaller quantities). The macronutrients include carbohydrates (including fiber), fats, protein, and water. The micronutrients are minerals and vitamins.

Chemicals can be formed during processing as a result of reactions between compounds that are natural components of the food. In some cases a chemical may be formed as a result of a food additive being intentionally added to food and reacting with another compound in the food.

  When foods are heat-processed (baked, deep-fried, etc.), there are reactions that occur between components of the food, resulting in the desired flavor, appearance and texture of the food. Similarly, certain storage or processing conditions may allow reactions to occur that otherwise would not. Such chemicals are collectively referred to as food-processing-induced chemicals. Some of these chemical reactions involve naturally-occurring components in the food, while other reactions may involve food additives, ingredients, or food packaging materials that were intentionally used.
People who oppose processed foods   feel these chemicals are risky,  in that they might be potentially harmful to the human body when used long-term. The term “clean” eating generally means avoiding processed foods and eating “whole” foods, which means foods as close to their natural state as one can get them. Like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins instead of pre-packaged or fast food. “Clean” eating usually also involves replacing saturated fat with “healthy” fat, although many “experts” now believe that natural saturated fats are NOT “unhealthy”. “Clean” eating can often involve eating only “organic” food; and only “grass-fed” or “Free-Range” animals.

Nutritionists regularly contradict one another. So, Who to Believe? 

 There are nutritional “experts”, like Michael Pollan, author of "Food Rules" (2011), who believe that excessive reliance on food science and the study of nutrition can, paradoxically, lead to poor nutrition and to ill health. Since nutrients are invisible, national policy makers rely on nutrition experts to advise on food choices.

Pollan argues that because science has an incomplete understanding of how food affects the human body, nutritionism, itself, can be blamed for many of the health problems relating to diet in the Western World today.

 Here is a BASIC truth that just about every person in our modern culture knows and understands. If you don’t take in enough food to sustain life, you’ll have too few nutrients, and your body will get sick and die. If you take in more food than you need to sustain life, you’ll have enough nutrients, and your body will excrete some, and store the rest as fat.

Less commonly understood is that if your body gets really fat, your body might … or might not… get really sick (depending on your genetics), but just about everyone knows that a fat body has to work harder to function, which eventually will result in various types of pain. 

 I enjoyed the following article:

Are You Trying Too Hard to Eat Healthfully?
             By Yoni Freedhoff, M.D. October 25, 2012 USNews Health

I was always a very efficient student. What I mean is that whatever grade I needed to get me where I wanted to go, well, that was the grade that I got. In my early university years, that meant getting marks in and around the high 70s and low 80s, since my career plans at the time involved getting into graduate school and pursuing a career in medical genetics. But after what I found to be a deathly boring summer working in an actual genetics lab, I decided I wanted to go to medical school, and suddenly high 70s and low 80s weren't good enough. I needed 90s, and I needed them across the board. I learned quickly that the effort required to get in the 90s, for me anyway, was at least an order of magnitude more than what I'd been putting in. I truly had to spend at least twice as much time studying to get that measly extra 10 percent. But the fact was, without those 90s, I wouldn't be a physician today. There simply wasn't a choice.

So what does this have to do with healthy eating?

Quite a bit, actually. It seems that when it comes to health, we're fixated on trying to get 90s, when really, high 70s and low 80s would be pretty great grades.

Diet and health gurus—they've all got their formulas for you. This guy says you can't eat wheat and that dairy's deadly, while that gal says that meat is poison and raw is righteous. Newspapers and glossy magazines will happily regale you with stories that deify or demonize specific foods. Supplements are peddled. Repulsive green drinks are touted. "Superfoods" drain our wallets and rot in our refrigerators. And come January, you can bet there'll be a fresh crop of New Year, New You books on the shelves telling you that everything you thought you knew about healthy eating was backwards and wrong.

Ultimately I think we're trying too hard, and more importantly, I don't think we have to. Unlike when I was trying to get into medical school, that 10 percent grade point difference isn't likely to have any dramatic tangible impact on our longevity or quality of life. What's more, even if there were a clear path to getting an A-plus, the amount of effort required to get there might lead a person to decide it's too much, and to eventually abandon her healthy eating efforts in frustration.

I think we should be aiming for some solid B-pluses, which in my book, would mean:

• Including vegetables or fruits with pretty much every meal.
• Cooking the vast majority of meals from fresh, whole ingredients.
• Limiting restaurant meals, only eating out to celebrate or socialize—never for convenience.
• Avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages (including juice).

If you want an A, just make sure to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, most days of the week. While it's not an eating behavior, the impact of exercise on health is profound, and gives you a few easily obtainable bonus grades.

Life's too short to be trying to get perfect grades, so keep up with your basic studies, don't spend too much time in the library, and enjoy the ride.

 The human body responds uniquely to food based on genetics, biochemical makeup, family history, and that body’s interaction with its own environment. One common belief is that one’s body knows instinctively what the right substances are for it to eat, and that if we pay attention, it will direct us toward our best eating choices.

The following quote from an “expert” with this viewpoint. is an example of this thinking:

It’s time to listen to our bodies. To pay attention to our own rhythms and make them the priority. To wake up to the reality that the scientists and experts have no idea what they are talking about. The food pyramid is a game owned by large corporations. Fast food is just a way to get us to buy more and eat more of what our bodies don’t want. Dieting is a punishment for a body that just did what we asked it to do. The best health plan is to sleep when you’re tired and wake up when you’re ready. And stop worrying about what is ‘normal’ or ‘best’. Because you are unique as a snowflake and no one can actually know what is right for you except you.

And get the idea out of your head that ‘this is the way it’s always been and always will be.’ The only constant about any of us is that we change. Every minute of every day we are different. It’s the blessing of being alive. Your body knows this and seeks growth and changes the rhythms, actions and reactions, with everything around it in everything you do. Stop trying to make it into something it’s not. Get quiet and listen. Your body has untapped wisdom that can make your life a precious miracle full of joy. It’s not a car for your brain to ride in and it’s not some untamed wild beast that you can’t control. It’s you.”

As for me, I focus on working to eat only the amount of food that it takes maintain a normal weight. I don’t look at processed foods as “dirty”, and I don’t try to eat “clean”. I eat both “whole” and “processed” foods without discrimination, and use artificial sweetener whenever I want. I feel no need to get high grades in nutrition. However, even with that philosophy, during my past 8 years of tracking all my food every day in the computer software program: DietPower, that program has consistently graded my overall food intake as an “A+”

I’m over 60 years old and in excellent health with no need for medication or supplements, and am a “reduced obese” person who after years of yo-yo dieting has been maintaining a normal body weight for the past 7 years. 

 As part of my dieting hobby, and personal weight-loss maintenance, I experiment with lots of different Diets, or Ways of Eating. While doing this, my own personal consistent nutritional guidelines are to take a daily multi-vitamin pill, and heed the following advice when choosing food substances:

If other people around you eat it;  
if it tastes good to you;
if it doesn’t kill you; 
if it doesn’t make you feel sick,
or make you really fat; 
then eat it.

Leave me a comment.

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Existing Comments:

On Oct 27, 2012 jethro wrote:
Great article. It reinforces my thinking that as long as you eat what you like and meet minimum nutritional requirements while providing adequate calories to lose or maintain weight, whatever the case be, you are in good shape. Outlandish diets should only be pursued if the individual has a physical condition that necessitates it,i.e. a low carb diet for someone with high blood sugar.

On Oct 28, 2012 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi Jethro, glad you liked the article. I think it's helpful to understand how much diet flexibility that we humans have to choose a Way of Eating that works individually for each of us. Remember ... it's not a one-size-fits-all world, and what is an "outlandish" diet for one person, could be exactly what works well for another person. =)

On Oct 28, 2012 Dr. Collins wrote:
Hi Phyllis GREAT blog and sound advice and information. While I have experimented with 'weight loss' programs over the years, I found one tht works for me. I knew "healthy" was a marketing tag line so have not been fooled by claims and packaging. As you may remember, I use the Dr. Atkins plan and have been successful in losing weight (remember, we revert to what works), my problem is not paying attention after the loss. At present I eat what I want for food while following the guidelines in the Atkins plan, no refined sugar, low carbs, etc. I have found a calorie level that satisfies me, and a carb count that allows me to take off the weight easily. I do not eat meal bars or energy bars.

On Oct 28, 2012 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Thanks John. I remember that you have had successful past experiences with many different Ways of Eating, from Weight-Watchers to Zero-Carb, and you look like you have a personal weight-loss plan that works well for you. In fact, it was partially due to your example that I chose to do quite a bit of low-carb experimentation myself here in my Maintenance Phase. I've written about it in various other articles, but bottom line ... at this point ... it is a Way of Eating that I've found personally impossible to sustain for long-term Maintenance. However, that's only for ME, and some time in the future, I'll probably experiment with it again and see if I get different personal results. =)

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