What Does it Mean to be ‘Healthy’?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I look at the information on health and diet out there, I get overwhelmed. Paleo tells me to cut out all carbs, dairy, pulses and legumes and processed foods, and eat as our ancient ‘hunter-gatherer’ ancestors (of the Paleolithic era) would have. Some experts, such as Professor Tim Noakes MD, suggest that the fat from the dairy is also good, but agree that carbs are bad because of the sugar they contain. Trim Healthy Mama tells me that both carbs and fats are good (although you should be aware of what kinds) but you should not consume them together as they cannot be digested well alongside each other. ‘The Plan’ contradicts this, saying that you need the combination of sugar/carbs and fat in order for your body to digest and function properly, and that actually what is ‘healthy’ is different for everybody, based on what causes the most (or least) inflammation in your own body…

Does anyone else’s brain hurt?

Young Wife's GuideI am fascinated by nutritional health, and feel that part of our calling as Christians is to take care of our bodies and the health of our families. So I happily devour (excuse the pun) all of these books/articles/blogs/documentaries as I try to discover what it truly means to be healthy.

The thing is, sometimes I feel no closer now than I did when I began. I feel more confused by the sheer amount of contradicting information out there!

But there is one thing I feel more certain of. Medicine and science are amazing gifts and have brought about some wonderful progress, but there is very very little we truly know, even scientifically. This can be a hard pill for us to swallow in a society that takes science as proof. But the sheer amount of contradicting experts out there reminds us of this.

At the end of the day, I need to trust that I can do my little bit, but it is God who will do the rest.

Proverbs 3:5-8I do think we can glean some useful information from all of this. I don’t feel like my research is ever completely in vain. I believe that the best thing you can do with it all is find what works for you, because it’s true, it is different for everybody.

Whether this means trying out a new dietary lifestyle every month to see what works best for your family, choosing straightaway what just makes more sense to you, or trying to combine what you have learned to get the best possible combination, there is a way that will work better for you and your family than for others.

Another useful thing I have learned in this time is that there are common threads in these ways of life (I am hesitant to call them diets because they are actually lifestyles for achieving better overall health, and not about losing weight or doing something temporarily). From my own research, these are the things I have noticed again and again:

  • Don’t Fear Fat – whether this is consuming full-fat dairy products or making sure you consume adequate amounts of protein, fats are not to be feared. Some lifestyles will suggest that there are types of fats that are better than others, and it is worth working out what you believe here, but there seems to be general agreement that ‘low-fat’ products are simply not worth it. (Next time you pick up a low-fat yoghurt, just take a look at the ingredients and you’ll see why – often the second ingredient is sugar or some sort of artificial sweetener because all the vitamins and tastiness has been taken out with the fat!)
  • Stick to ‘Real’ Foods – I think subconsciously everyone knows this, but it is so so easy to forget once you’re in a supermarket! Good things to remember are: always check labels; avoid processed foods; be wary of sugars and sweeteners snuck into products under confusing names; 5 ingredients is enough for anything; eat organic where possible; if you choose to consume grains make them whole; if your grandmother wouldn’t have eaten it, it’s probably not good for you!
  • Cook as Much as Possible from Scratch – obviously bear in mind time restraints, but this is usually both healthier and cheaper, so it is worth doing wherever you can. A programmable slow cooker can be a life-saver if you really feel you don’t have the time but want to try.
  • Be Careful with Sugar (and Salt) – don’t overdo it. If you have sugar at all, make sure it is unrefined. Some prefer to replace it entirely with natural sweeteners such as stevia, pure maple syrup or raw honey. And beware of sugar or salt added to products to make them last longer – always check labels and avoid unfamiliar ingredients.
  • Don’t Stress! – this is more my personal addition, as I know it’s something I need to remember. The 80/20 rule is a good one to live by, so cut yourself a bit of slack every now and then and know that that is ok!

I hope that you are able to work out in the maze of information out there what works best for you. I am still working it out, but I’m learning a little bit more each time round.

John MuirAnd for me, the most important thing is just to remember that this is not something to obsess about. It is not something that should consume your life or become your God. It is something to learn about, put into practice what is right for me, and let God do the rest. After all, while food is important, our health is not all about what we eat.

**If you haven’t already read my series on wholefoods and would like to find out a bit more (there are some useful links at the end of each post), then click here to go to the start.

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