You are what you eat. It absolutely holds true! Along with that, we know a raft of diets and advice on lifestyles from the viewpoint of nutrition.
What does the human body need, what’s healthy and how much? Meat – yes or no? White bread? Sugar, salt, flour …?
Before going into detail, let me tell you that I’m not writing about one-week diets but about a healthy lifestyle and that I do so according to my own personal opinions. Think about what suits you. About long-term eating habits. If a doctor has prescribed you any kind of diet, then stick to it!
What is a healthy diet?
In one sentence, healthy food is the food which grows in gardens, orchards, fields and in nature and is consumed in moderate quantities. Nuts of all kinds. Honey, which is a great source of vitamins and minerals. This category also includes butter, milk, eggs and cheese in smaller quantities. Fish also, in moderation. Oils rich in omega, unsaturated fatty acids. Selected spices and herbs. Almost everything you don’t see on commercials. Healthy food needs no advertising.
On the contrary, bad nutrition is everything which is processed and chemically treated: fast food, margarine, artificial sweeteners, Es and similar chemical ingredients; food which is too fatty, too sweet and too salty. We can burden ourselves with big problems if we compose our menu mainly from these groups of foodstuffs.
The source of food also plays an important role. Lettuce that grows in the garden and wasn’t artificially fertilised is completely different from the one which you buy in a supermarket. It may not look the best but it was grown in a natural environment. It was neither grown on artificially fertilised ground nor was it sprayed with various agents to keep its texture and freshness as long as possible.
The same applies to milk, eggs and cheese. Hens that graze freely on an eco-farm and lay eggs can’t compare to those on a poultry farm where they’re crammed with genetically modified food, antibiotics and kept indoors under artificial light.
Vegetarianism or meat?
A very topical issue. In my opinion, in a few centuries’ time, being a vegetarian will be something completely normal and will prevail. I support the idea of vegetarianism as a way of healthy eating. I even believe that meat-eating will be completely done away with in time. This isn’t a fad but a change in lifestyle. More and more people eat a meat-free diet and most of them who chose this path also stay on it. This way of eating is transferred to their children and beyond.
Much has been written on the subject of vitamin B12 and a lack of B-complex vitamins and iron in vegetarians. Although quite a lot of research has been done on the subject, there’s, as yet, still no final answer. If you eat a completely vegan diet (meaning no milk, cheese, eggs, honey etc.) for a longer period, there’s a significant probability, according to studies made so far, that you’ll lack the above-mentioned vitamins. This is an extreme I don’t recommend. But on the other hand, don’t become overly dependent on dairy products.
The other question that refers to vegetarianism is: will this make me have less energy? It’s believed that meat-eaters are stronger and have more energy. Is this true? No. A human uses more energy in digesting meat than when digesting fruit or vegetables. This means that you can use the difference for something else. After a healthy lunch which fills you with energy you won’t get a feeling of sleepiness. With balanced vegetarian nutrition you’ll also get enough protein to sustain muscle mass.
When considering this way of eating, it’s also necessary to emphasise the quantity of food. A steak or hamburger may have several hundred or maybe even a thousand calories (depending on its size and extras). In order to get the same amount of food with a healthy vegetarian diet, you would have to eat at least a bowl of salad, some potatoes and rice and a slice of bread. And also an apple on top of this.
An adult male who is moderately active uses two to three thousand calories a day. This depends on his weight and muscle mass. If you work in the woods and use up to four thousand calories daily and become a vegetarian over night, then you have to provide such an amount of calories with food. In the opposite case you’ll start losing weight, muscle mass and also energy. Adult females use a daily average of between about five and seven hundred fewer calories than males. This is due to lower muscle mass.
Everybody needs a few weeks to adapt to changes. When trying to stop smoking, the next day you’ll feel much worse than before, when you used to smoke. It’s similar with vegetarianism, too. Let time do the work. You won’t regret it.
Flour, sugar, salt
Our body needs salt. In fact, it’s a very important ingredient. The problem with fast food is that there’s too much of it. It’s not necessary to refrain from salt. Refrain from an unhealthy diet. You can add a normal amount of salt to salads and soups without having a bad conscience.
The same goes for sugar. Artificial sweeteners will do you more harm than good. Don’t fall for commercials where they advertise chemistry. In practice, almost everything being advertised as helpful when slimming doesn’t work (at least not in the long term).
An even bigger problem is the amount of sugar you take in daily in the form of various drinks. If possible, avoid all sweet, carbonated and other drinks with different flavours. How many calories and chemicals are contained in one bottle of beverage can be found on the label. Limit these drinks only to rare occasions. I recommend unsweetened herbal teas. In general, avoid any drinks in plastic bottles as much as possible.
It’s advised not to have white flour and too much bread on the menu. Bread is bread and when taken in moderate quantities, no problems seem to arise. Except if you’re allergic to gluten. For others, the bread should be wholegrain or brown made from cereals produced as naturally as possible.
Coffee and chocolate
Yes, drink coffee. But freshly prepared. The best would also be freshly ground. Not that instant one, ready-made from bags, with additives, different artificially added flavours and such. I’m talking about real black roasted coffee with no added chemicals. Coffee provides a whole list of positive features: it’s rich in antioxidants, it stimulates us, improves our brain function (ranging from better memory, reaction time, mood, etc.), increases the adrenaline level in the blood, improves our physical abilities, it contains vitamins B2, B3, B5, magnesium, potassium and so on.
Over-consumption of coffee – as with any other thing – also results in harmful effects to our health. Everything in moderation.
Chocolate? Very similar to coffee. A bit of chocolate a day is a plus for our health. It’s full of antioxidants and healthy ingredients. But choose only that one with the largest proportion of dark chocolate as possible. It will taste more bitter than the usual one, milk chocolate, but will have a much larger positive impact.
Lack of vitamins
Even if you eat healthy and ideal food, it may happen that you’ll chronically lack some vitamins. Some of us can’t obtain enough vitamins from nutritional substances or synthesise them due to a lack of certain enzymes. Sportsmen also know well that during great exertions they use larger amounts of minerals and vitamins which they have to provide through additional intake. That’s why you should monitor your condition. When it changes, when you notice changes to your skin, hair and elsewhere, consult your physician. He’ll help you in answering the question of whether a lack of some vitamins or minerals may be involved.
Before that think of other factors that might affect your problems. Dry skin in winter, while working in an office with dry air, doesn’t yet indicate a lack of vitamins. This is simply dehydrated skin. So, in these circumstances, always refresh it using a cream. Men: creams aren’t just intended for girls. :)
Our body needs water. Plenty of water. But not as much as some people would like to convince you. That you have to drink a couple of litres of water a day. You’re not a camel! Listen to your body. Drink perhaps a glass of water more, but don’t exaggerate in any way. The body also needs more water during physical activity and after it or in places where the air is dry.
Water should be as natural as possible. The one that flows from hills and mountains or from safe water basins. In everyday life, this can’t always be easy to obtain as we don’t all live in such places. That’s why you should enquire about the source. Water from plastic bottles isn’t ideal either. As a plastic bottle itself already contains a series of unhealthy, artificially synthesised substances and as such poses a threat to the natural environment. However: yes, it’s true that a single plastic bottle won’t kill anybody.