Proper nutrition consists of a variety of nutrients in proportionate amounts. Although my general definition of nutrition has remained the same, my vision of health was amended by alternative perspectives and the nutritionally adept as I traveled around the world.
Upon my arrival to the third European country, Belgium, I found myself getting ticked off. My expectation to discover a pattern of eating habits throughout European countries was not met. The countries in which citizens live longest are not similar in their eating habits at all. What? WHY?
My path crossed Peter Seamans, the Iron Yogi, in France as I sat down for breakfast at a local cafè. Peter and I discussed my frustrations with nutrition. He explained the connection between a culture’s native heritage and its contemporary social and dietary patterns. I later interviewed Peter for my Semester at Sea Global Studies project. He stated, “If you look at indigenous cultures around the world the diets vary greatly. And those diets work for the most part well for those cultures, yet they are all very different. America is a melting pot. We don’t have an indigenous culture. We are mutts. So we have the job of figuring out what is right to eat for us.”
In other words, the more consistent a culture is with its dietary heritage, the stronger the health of that population. Granted my knowledge is limited, if there is truly no commonality of dietary rituals shared among the healthiest people, why do health professionals like myself prescribe cookie cutter diets like Daily Reference Intakes (DRIs)?
The DRIs are something we will explore further in the future but let me explain. For our current purpose we will say the DRIs are a set of nutrition guidelines for Americans. The DRI give us an idea of what works for most folks based upon statistics and science. This is important! The DRIs allow you and I to guess, based upon scientific probability, the foods that are most beneficial to our bodies as well as the amounts in which we should consume them. I support the DRIs; however, like Peter said, we must listen to our bodies and work to discover the best eating choices for us.
We are going to use the DRIs as a guidepost and learn to customize the diet based upon how we feel. Sound like too much to handle??? Don’t freak out! We are going to use the My Plate to simplify our knowledge. This a is REALLY easy place to start. I will walk you through the My Plate in a later post.
In the meantime, I plan to post basic information to guide you to make small changes in your daily eating habits. These changes will lead you to completing long term goals and to a healthier, more productive you. I will post a “Challenge of the Week” with each post to help you take control. This challenge will be small but productive. After we tackle the basics I will go further in depth about the topics we have covered.
Today’s Challenge of the Week: Give up one unhealthy item such as soda pop or a candy bar and, in its place, substitute an apple. Although apples do not contain caffeine, it is suggested that one apple presents an energy jolt. If nothing else, they are are a fabulous source of fiber and vitamin C. (Next week we will have a small My Plate challenge!)
Good luck and stay tuned!