Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Health - The "Right" Diet, Part I

There are many new diet styles in the world these days claiming to give better health and/or slim the body.

And then opposing researches/studies being publicised on some food that's giving mixed signals to the masses, for minimising bad cholesterol, to reduce the rate of cancer or maintain general health etc etc.

Then comes the so-called "bad" and "good" diet from certain cultures/countries that we should avoid or take more to be healthier.

So what is a right diet?

Before I offer my views on the right diet, I'd like to first offer my views on the wrong diet.

A wrong diet is blindly following trends and reports from the media/grapevine without understanding one's health and body constitution well.

We must understand that the human evolution doesn't stop at the intelligence and external physical level.  Our internal organs undergo tremendous changes throughout human history where our diet changes according to the climate, to what our environment can offer to ensure our survival rate.

In this era, an average earning individual living in the city have little problem with survivability, the issue now is living a quality life in reasonable health.  This is where exercising the right choice comes into place.

To have a better idea at where to start finding the right diet for ourselves, we need to consider the following factors first:

1. Eating habits from young - How the mother of the family feeds her brood determines alot of how the younglings grow up. Alot of habits are formed from young either by habit or deprivation. Some people prefer saltier food because the whole family eats this way, or, because the Family Chef holds the salt shaker away.

2. Race - Different races have genetically different sets of health issues and eating habits since their forefathers' times, the right diet must take into consideration of an individual's race before sticking to any health fad around. However, this factor goes hand-in-hand with the next point.

3. Environment/climate migration - Lets say a southern China-Chinese migrated to Canada, and is the 3rd generation Canadian-born Chinese on the Canada soil. From a hotter, more humid southern China to the colder, less humid Canada has significant disruptions to the body that not everyone can take. Furthermore, the body needs time to adjust to an almost 100% change in diet habits. But how long does it take? When can one be sure?

4. Stress level - Different people have different stress threshold and this affects their diet habits relatively. Like some people eat more junk food when stressed, while some eat less depriving their body of nutrients.
Cravings - Almost everyone have some craving of somesort. Cravings give a very good direction of what the body needs or lacks and one should take a proper note of the body's reaction after a craving is satisfied for future references.

5. Fear - Because many people have little training/experience/interest in health issues, they are easily lead by the media on the latest health fads, diets and/or studies or researches on the strengths and weaknesses of a food item. It's important to understand the virtue of balance in eating habits without being lead by the media or masses.

6. Allergies/sensitivity - Different people have different food allergies/sensitivities of different scale, and not all food allergies/sensitivities will land one in the hospital. The reactions range from mild gastric discomfort to lethargy. It's important to note the body reaction after certain food/beverage consumption and make the right step forth.

7. Emotional strings - It's common that one's choice of food comes from some emotional roots where it carries a symbolic mark that triggers a desire or rejection. One would have to overcome that emotional hurdle to see their health into a better state, and it's most of the times not as difficult as it seems.

One who has a current health or stress issue should take some time to sit down and consider the above factors before trying out a new and widely publicised health diet.

A better health leads to better decision making process and this helps changes one's life.  My previous entry has highlighted this point.

The Western diet has been taking alot of bad rap for being unhealthy and I feel that it's being unfairly judged.

It has been around for the last 3,000 years (at least) and has nurtured many prominent people.  If the diet is so bad, most of the European and US population would have died off by malnutrition and by the problems that malnutrition leads, e.g poor brain development, poor resistance to diseases etc. 

But it's not the case.

The case is that the recent 100 years saw many invention of processed food, fast food and confectionery that are big on taste, shelf-life, and easy to consume.  These then leads to more chemicals to preserve them, colors and flavours for enhancements and the raw material more processed to be palatable.

Now these "modern food" lead to malnutrition, not the old ones.

And the much lauded Chinese diet is very misunderstood too.

For example, many Western dietitians and nutritionists think tofu or soybeans is a miracle food, quite like a cure-all to the modern diet problems.  What many don't know is tofu and soy products give adverse health issues when taken over a certain quantity. 

And that there're many illnesses that the traditional Chinese medicine doctors would advice to keep off tofu and soy products.  In fact, in the TCM point of view, overeating tofu leads to bone mass losses and muscle problems where it isn't properly researched in the Western countries.

What I'm trying to point out in this entry is, there's no bad (Western) diet or a good (Eastern) diet.  There're just many poorly and misunderstood diets.

I'm fortunate that being borne in Singapore, I'm educated in a bilingual environment. The language edge serves me to understand the many information out there, while being exposed to various media to hone my interests, one of which is health. 

I consider myself to be even more fortunate to have worked in the alternative health industry (organic, health supplements) for some time in the past that I'm further educated and taught many things that I have no idea over.

Health is a huge subject that it doesn't take just some reading to know everything.  Along the years where I get to know more and more about health and dieting, I have this feeling that there're even far more that I don't know of.

It'd be sheer ignorance to think a newly created diet would be a human race cure-all and replacement to what the body DNA is used to for the last few thousand years.  And I'm sad that many people fall for it with adverse health complications.

This entry I've done (with Part II in line) serves to inform what one should do for their health and not be lead by a health fad that not everyone can use.