For the first time in history, human life expectancy is declining. This is due almost entirely to the obesity epidemic caused by excess sugar and consumption of unnatural foods.
Ultra processed food is the new tobacco; the number of people under 40 being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is rising at a faster pace than in the over 40s.
Eat real food
When I talk about ‘real’ food, I mean food in a state as near to natural as possible. I also mean local and seasonal food. Food (particulary fruit and vegetables) that is in local and in season is far richer in nutrients than out-of-season food with jet lag. Added to this, we need more of certain nutrients at different times of the year.
For example, in summer, melons and figs are in season, both of which are excellent souces of potassium needed to replace electrolytes lost through perspiration. Citrus fruits — which ripen in winter — are full of vitamin C and immune-boosting powers. Asparagus, ready to eat in the Spring, is an excellent detoxifier and diuretic to get the body ready for Summer.
‘Unreal’ food, or plastic food as I call it, on the other hand, is food that has been tampered with – processed, injected with chemicals, subjected to procedures of one kind or another. I also consider unripe fruit and vegetables that have been picked before they are ripe and then travelled half way around the world to be ‘plastic’ to some extent. Even the humble egg can come into this category. (Don’t even get me started on egg-whites in cartons. If eggs were meant to have no yolk, chickens would be born anaemic.) And egg-white omelettes – what on earth is that all about? Go on! Live life on the edge and eat the yolk as well. A good rule of thumb is, if it’s got a list of ingredients printed on the side, don’t eat it!
The gut microbiome is the collection of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in your bowels and affect everything in your body. Our gut microbiota is made up of trillions of microorganisms and their genetic material. A healthy gut microbiome relies on the consumption of a wide range of plant foods (fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds).
The gut microbiome plays a crucial role it plays in our overall health and wellbeing. A more diverse gut microbiome results in a more stable and resilient microbial community that is better equipped to powerfully protect our health and immunity. Conversely, an unhealthy microbiome increases your risk for inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as diabetes and even cancer.
The sun is your friend: Vitamin D is vital
Although, strictly speaking, this doesn’t fall into the ‘healthy eating’ category, I would like to mention a very important and much maligned ‘nutrient’ here: the sun. Unless you absolutely cannot avoid being in the sun when it’s at its strongest and run the risk of getting burnt, lose the sunblock. The sun’s rays are necessary for production of vitamin D which is absolutely vital; a lack of vitamin D is in fact the most common nutritional deficiency and has more health implications than I can begin to list here. Of course, I’m absolutely not advocating getting burnt, but sensible exposure to the sun could literally save your life. For more information see here.
Get your nutrients from food
Back to nutrients by eating, Nigella Lawson is a good example of the real food versus ‘plastic’ food phenomenon. She is not afraid to use ‘real’ ingredients : butter, double cream, full-fat milk etc., and is horrified by the likes of margarine, artificial sweetners and low-fat yoghurt. Even at her heaviest, she had a beautiful, healthy hourglass figure with little abdominal fat. Admittedly at one time there was definitely too much of her, but she was always a healthier shape than a ‘plastic’ food eater, who carries fat around the middle (due to the insulin spiking and endocrine tampering).
I was absolutely horrified recently to see someone create a supposedly ‘calorie-light’ version of Nigella recipes; all this will do is ensure that people end up eating more (nutrient-poor) food and feeling less satisfied. My only criticism would be that Nigella could use more unrefined products such as whole flour and cane sugar in her recipes.
I can’t believe it’s not illegal
You don’t expect your car to run on fuel that has been bleached, bloated with water and then mixed with salt, sugar and citric acid. Yet some people expect this of their bodies when they eat food virtually devoid of nutrition. While a car thus treated would end up on the tip, the miracle of nature is that our bodies try their very best to compensate for a lack of nourishment. If we’re too ‘acidic’ for example, we leach alkalising calcium from our bones to try to rectify the situation. But you can imagine the alarming scenario if this goes on too long. (Cars, being man-made, are less forgiving.)
One of the more bizarre examples of plastic food is a spray-on margarine called ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’. Frankly, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Illegal! Its claim to fame is that it contains zero calories per spray. That alone should set off alarm bells. To add insult to injury, I saw an advertisement suggesting that pancakes made in this way would be a healthy choice for children. No!
A healthy choice for children would be a couple of pancakes (as opposed to a great stack) made with whole milk, free-range eggs and cooked in butter.
If children are becoming obese it’s because they’re consuming too many ’empty’ calories and products such as this. Their bodies are sent into panic-mode, wondering when they will next see proper nourishment.
Good fats: butter, olive oil, duck and goose fats
For each teaspoon of margarine consumed each day, risk of cardiovascular disease is raised by 10%. This is not the case with butter or duck and goose fat. The problem is that people in industrialised countries have been told for so long that animal fats are The Devil’s Work that they have developed a Pavlovian response of disgust to anything cooked in it.
When I was a growing up in England, it was commonplace to eat things cooked in lard or suet and I have no recollection of obese or even particularly overweight people. The first time I ever saw somebody who would now be described as morbidly obese was in the USA when I was seven. Unfortunately the UK has followed on fast.
The latest statistics show that 23% of the British population is obese and that deaths from cardiovascular disease are 122 per 100,000. In France the obesity figure is 9.4% and the cardiovascular disease death rate 39.8 per 100,000. Yet it’s in France (particularly here in the south-west) where the consumption of food rich in saturated fats in greater and where people live longer, healthier lives.
The French Paradox is not a paradox at all!
These statistics are of great inconvenience to those who propogate the idea that eating fat, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease are all linked. They get round this by calling it The French Paradox. But it’s not a paradox at all!
The theory that there is a link between saturated fat consumption and cardiovascular disease took root in the 1970s following a seminal study by American researcher Ancel Keys. The study has been disproven numerous times since. But the damage was done and the food and pharmaceutical industries were keen to sustain the theory that created a niche market for them. For more information see here.
Sugar: the enemy
The simple truth is that we are designed to digest and metabolise animal fats and other naturally-occuring fats. We are not designed to deal with oils and fats that have been tampered with.
Now to sugar. There is no doubt whatsoever that sugar in excess is very bad for you. Numerous studies have linked it to heart disease, strokes, diabetes, cancer, lowered immunity and behavioural problems (particularly in children).
As if all this isn’t enough, consumed in excess it also causes weight gain and gives you wrinkles. Sugar shortens your life in the same way that tobacco or other drug use does. The more quickly sugar hits your system, the more damage it does due to the insulin surge it creates.
Sugars and starches eaten in their natural, unrefined form as part of a meal also containing fats and protein, will be digested slowly and enter the bloodstream over several hours. However, when sugar (particularly refined sugar) is eaten alone it enters the blood stream quickly causing a ‘sugar rush’. The body tries to protect itself by flooding the bloodstream with insulin, but repeated sugar onslaughts will end up wearing this finely-tuned process down. This is when health problems start to appear.
Did you know that in order to eliminate the sugar in one can of coke, you would have to run for an hour? And don’t imagine that a ‘light’ option is any better; in many ways it’s worse because there are certain ingredients that aren’t eliminated by the body at all, no matter how far you run. So, while coke is second-to-none for dissolving rust and for general heavy-duty household cleaning tasks, for drinking; not so much.
Artificial sweeteners are toxic
Artificial sweeteners, most of which are toxic chemical cocktails, are not the answer either. Not only are these substances toxic, causing mayhem in the endocrine system, they also have extremely undesirable actions on the brain. They send messages to say that chemicals have been consumed that contain absolutely nothing of nutritional value, the brain responds by sending hunger pangs and the body cries out for more food.
The good news though is that if you’re as partial to sweet treats as I am, there are many natural sweeteners that are less damaging and may be consumed in moderation. These include cane sugar, raw honey, maple syrup, yacon syrup, agave and stevia. All of these natural sweeteners have lower glycaemic indexes than refined white sugar and are of some nutritional value.
Eat a good variety of food
Eating a wide variety of food is vital. The healthiest food in the world will produce counter productive side-effects if consumed alone, or to excess. Foods that are eaten in the biggest quantities are the most likely to cause intolerance. Wheat and dairy products are prime examples of this. Wheat is particularly ubiquitous (look on the label of any ‘ready to eat’ product).
Although there is no overall ‘healthiest’ grain, it is very important to eat a wide variety for optimal nutrition (more information here). Whole wheat, for example, does not supply the full spectrum of B vitamins and is a poor source of iron and zinc and brown rice and cornmeal contain no protein (more information).
Finally, as important as what you eat, is what you don’t eat. Intermittent fasting is something that our bodies are designed to do; humans evolved at a time when food was scarce.
Unfortunately with today’s abundance, it sometimes seems as if people eat all the time. I am often surprised, especially when I visit the UK, to see people tucking into meals, snacks and milky, sugary ‘coffee’ at all times of the day. In France, restaurants are open at midday and in the evening, and if you want to eat at 4pm, you’re on your own. When I was a child, we were encouraged to not eat between meals. This doesn’t seem to be the case any more.
Fasting isn’t just for weight loss; it reduces oxidative damage and inflammation, while giving the body a generous window to protect and repair itself. A 2014 study showed that fasting can switch on stem cells and regenerate the immune system.
Debbie @ Easy Natural Food
Thanks for stopping by my blog, and I’m glad that I have found you! You are British living in France? I am a New Zealander living in the US 🙂 One of my all-time favorite foods when I was growing up was steak and kidney pie made with suet pastry. Pure bliss! Sadly my Mum was also (and still is) big on margarine, so I also ate my fare share of margarine. Really looking forward to checking out your recipes!
The Healthy Epicurean
Ummmm steak and kidney pie – I haven’t had that for years and years. I hope you enjoy some of my recipes 🙂
This post is so dead-on that it should be heralded as gospel.
I was fortunate thirty years ago to have doctors that followed the same philosophy: eat real food, and eat it with sensible moderation. After a few surgeries, and some down-time, I am several stones overweight, but, when checked by my cardiologist, he said my heart, blood, cholesterol, etc., were ‘perfect.’ It was eating healthy, real food created this ‘contradiction.’ Now, with the new eating patterns suggested by your Type A recommendations, I am seeing the weight slowly fall off, which tells me it is more likely to stay off. As my mobility increases, I feel that even better results will be in the offing. This proves that eating right will help a person achieve good health, even with mobility restrictions.
The Healthy Epicurean
Thank you KJ. And thank you for offering more proof that eating ‘real’ food is the only way to eat properly…
As our weather has suddenly developed an urge to mimic the bowels of hell, and the interior temp was over 100F, what sort of eating plan would you suggest for this climate? When it is this hot, I just don’t feel hungry and nothing seems to settle well, so I drink gallons of water – with lemon – and maybe an avocado or something light. Anything else just doesn’t seem to agree with my system. Thoughts?
The Healthy Epicurean
Lucky you! It’s monsoon season here still. Although it may seem rather counterintuitive to us, the best thing to eat in hot weather is spicy food. Spices open the appetite, aid digestion and induce sweating, cooling the body. I always serve spicy food in very very hot weather and although the initial reaction is often groans, it’s always eaten, even by people claiming to have no appetite.
If you really can’t ‘do’ spicy (I seem to remember you’re sensitive to certain spices), I can only suggest things like salads (white bean and tuna salad), fruit, fish paté (I did a recipe recently for salmon terrine which is very cooling), fruit and chilled quiche etc. Make sure too that you drink at least some mineral water. In hot weather we lose electrolytes so it’s absolutely essential to replace them.
I stayed with simple foods, lowfat fruit yoghurt, tuna salad, chilled avocado with Zaziki, crackers with sheep’s cheese and the like, although I always cut down on lettuce, when it is hot. History has proven this to be a good decision. Did you suggest quiche? I love quiche.
When I was in lunch meeting with several other men, in Los Angeles, years ago, and we were placing our orders, the waiter suggested their specialty, which was Quiche Lorraine. One of the suited Stepford Husbands quipped, “Real men don’t eat quiche.” It should come as no surprise that I immediately ordered the quiche.
Type As are supposed to avoid mineral water, but your counsel seems sensible, as the electrolytes have to be replaced and mineral water is an effective means of doing so. Thank you.
The Healthy Epicurean
😀 I mention that book in my quiche recipe http://thehealthyepicurean.eu/2013/01/09/leek-and-bayonne-ham-quiche-gluten-free/. I wasn’t aware that Type As were meant to avoid mineral water – I thought it was just carbonated water that was contraindicated. It seems surprising as Type As are often mineral (in particular Magnesium) deficient. In any case, as you say, a water like Hépar is an excellent way to replace electrolytes. No more than a litre a day though.
Hmmm…now I can’t find that notation in any of the three books. They list Seltzer, club and all other sodas, of course, but now I don’t see mineral water. I wonder where I read that, as I was drinking mineral water before I started this program, and now I only drink still water. However, our mineral water (everyday store-bought) is carbonated, so maybe that was what prompted my thinking.
I will have to review that recipe and maybe substitute broccoli for the ham.
I found a bottle of mineral water in the kitchen and it lists HCO/3 as 251mg per litre. Good or bad?
The Healthy Epicurean
That’s fine, but it’s also the magnesium content that’s of interest. You should really try to drink flat water – fizzy isn’t good for the digestion of Type A.
I found out just how dense I can be, when it is very, very hot. I have been drinking ‘still’ mineral water since I began the Type A method, which has .8mg of magnesium, per litre. My German is still in the basic stages, so my partner had to reassure me that I am drinking the proper liquid. Somewhere, I did read that carbonated beverages were a complete no-no, so that must be why I made the switch, when I began this process. I had thought that the ‘still’ water was just simple spring water. So much for my inter-cultural linguistic abilities…
Two Peas & A Wad
Great post! We seem to share many of the same beliefs. I eat healthily 99% of the time so that I can indulge during that other 1%. I just came across your site and I’m looking forward to reading more from you! Feel free to check out my blog any time, I write about living an organic lifestyle on a budget.
The Healthy Epicurean
Thank you so much. I definitely agree with you on the need to indulge occasionally, except I suspect that I may end up indulging a little more than 1% of the time 😉 I look forward to reading your blog.
Great blog! Thanks for checking out my blog Bloom & Spark. It’s great to have a community of like-minded individuals, passionate about healthy living.
The Healthy Epicurean
Thank you! I’m happy to have found your blog because your philosophy seems similar to mine… 🙂