One of my favourite quotes on health and food is from Michael Pollan. In his book, In Defence of Food, he simply puts forth a mantra:”Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” This really does some up everything you will ever need to know about being healthy. Food today is a complicated term that used to describe a host of things that not too many centuries wouldn’t be used to describe the same. Therefore, the concept of eating food to be healthy has become almost paradoxical.
Before we get into the benefits of eating food, it’s important to understand what is being classified as food here. If you ask a child to name 10 different food items today, he or she is very likely to name at least 7 items that are packaged or processed. Our understanding of what food is has greatly changed in the last century. Food used to be something that was grown or killed nearby, then cleaned and cooked by a member of the family and eaten on the very same day or at most the day after. Today we associate food with convenience. Food is something we can purchase once a week form a super market, requires little to no effort on our part to grow, kill, clean or cook and can last for at least a week on our shelf or refrigerator.
Next, we need to eat to live. While some of us live to eat, most of us are looking for options that don’t take up too much of our time or health. Now I am a chef and so I cannot fathom eating simply for the sake of it, but even if I were to look at it from the other side, the question of nutrition still remains. In a super market you will find a large variety of nutritional packaged food; those with a big list of ingredients and promises to give you good health along with great flavour. Health experts will tell you home cooked food and moderate exercise isn’t enough to remain healthy and recommend you consume protein supplements, super foods that are flown from half way across the world, vitamin capsules, etc. So while there is an understanding that we need to eat less to stay fit, we consume more because we’re being told what we are consuming is not good enough.
Understanding consumption is tricky, especially when we know very little of what we are consuming. Food by itself has never been bad. We need to eat food to live. However we need to understand that only real food, food that has been grown naturally and cooked with minimum damage to its nutritive value is good for us. More than curbing consumption all together we need to become aware and increase our consumption of real food while reducing, if not completely eliminating, artificial food. Next time you want a dose of vitamin C slice a lemon and put it in your water, it is bound to be better than its alternative sitting on your kitchen shelf.