As you get older, you will be encountered to a situation where you think about health. Your mom has cancer, your dad has diabetes, your grandfather has dementia, your kid is obese and your partner has high blood pressure etc. I was one of them. I started learning about health related to food and the industries when my mom had to visit her hospital for a course of chemotherapies.
I have learned that there are different ways of diet today; some are vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, paleo, and raw food diet etc. Which one is better for you? After I tried being vegetarian close to vegan/macrobiotic for a while, I discovered that it was not as easy as I thought it would be when I live with other people who are not on the same diet.
I read books and articles about these diets, it seems that they all have pros and cons. For instance, it sounded to me that macrobiotic would be good for someone who is having some health issues. People who are on vegan/some vegetarian diets have the tendency to lack of B12 which can be consumed by animal products etc.
After reading this information, I realized that each one of us gets to decide what is best for you as everyone’s body is different; gender, size, nationalities. And everyone’s’ surroundings are different as well; culture, custom and what is available in your area etc.
For me, after trying a little bit of each diet mentioned above, I come to a conclusion that balance is important; Balanced Diet. You may ask, “what is it?” Here are my way of the balanced diet based on my knowledge, experience, and custom that work for me.
1. Eat a Well-Balanced Various Kind of Food
I try to eat many kinds of food with a certain portion. I eat grain about 1/4 of a plate or in a small bowl, another 1/4 or less would be meat or fish and 1/2 would be a lot of vegetables. I eat fruits the first thing in the morning or before supper when my stomach is empty. This way I get full nutrition fast as fruits do not take much time to digest compared to meat and fish.
Grains, I cook different kinds; White short grain rice, basmati rice, sometimes brown rice (How to Prepare Brown Rice), rice noodle, rice pasta, semolina wheat pasta, Kamut wheat pasta, rye bread, Kamut bread, Spelt bread, corns (organic) and occasionally some bagels. I avoid white bread and GMO grains.
When I think of what to cook, I think about balance. I try to have balance by referring menu from traditional Japanse food. I believe that it is a good idea to get a combination of food from your tradition as it is well balanced and has meanings and knowledge behind it. Seasonal vegetables and fruits are always good to add to your menu.
2. Choose Quality over Quantity
Today’s food has changed so much from the one our ancestors, especially on quality. There are many people avoid eating meat these days because not only meat is considered as bad for people’s health but also meat is from those animals which are grown with chemicals like hormones and antibiotics, and are fed with GMO food like corns.
By raising them this way, animals can grow much faster and bigger so that meat producers can make more profit from them. But how about quality?
Similar ideas apply to vegetables. Many vegetables are imported from USA and Mexico to Canada. To carry vegetables over a long distance they are sprayed with extra post-harvest; harmful agricultural chemical, on top of pesticides used during growing them.
I would like to buy organic when I can, but they are more expensive. So I refer the list of “The Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15” from EWG (The Environmental Working Group) explains which vegetables and fruits are more pesticide contamination than others. I use this list and buy organic as much as possible for those “The Dirty Dozen” vegetables and fruits, and buy non-organic for “The Clean 15” to balance cost and health.
According to them, The Dirty Dozen for 2017 are:
Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples, Peaches, Pears, Cherries, Grapes, Celery, Tomatoes, Sweet Bell Peppers, and Potatoes.
3. Eat in Moderation (80%)
There is a saying in Japan, “It keeps the doctor away to belly Hachibunnme (Eat moderate amounts like 80%)”. People tend to eat till they feel full is the norm today. You encounter a situation when you have a big meal, you get sleepy afterward. I believe that eat in moderation has good benefits.
For one, your digestion system works well when you are not very full. If you keep eating till full, your stomach has to work all the time to digest food. It is important to have your stomach rest sometimes. When your stomach is empty, it can focus on digestion so that you will be able to have a bowel movement regularly.
Secondly, you can work more efficiently and you can focus more so that jobs are done well when you are not full. In fact, there are a group of people called “WeFast” in Silicon Valley, they say that:
“On the days that they are not eating, they get more done in the office. They experience an enhanced sense of mental agility and are better able to focus on their work.”
I do not do fasting like them, but I see the point of what they do. Eat in moderation for me, to have some space in my stomach to have easier digestion, keep some space for me to keep going, and contribute to staying healthy.
And eat only when I am hungry.
4. Chew Well
Lastly, this is one of the keys to stay healthy I believe; chew well. People’s lives today force us to have less time for eating. As Gandi said about modern life paradox, “Fast food, slow digestion.” Not enough time to eat so we jump to fast food and the consequence is to have slow digestion system which is not good. Fast food is one of the modern time problems that many of us know, as well as slow digestion, is another issue that we do not pay attention.
Saliva contains digestive enzymes called amylase which helps break down sugar to be absorbed in our body in a certain form. By chewing well, saliva helps to digest easily for our stomach.
Try to take some time to chew more you will see the result in your stool. Your stool is one of your health barometers, too.
To have the well-balanced diet requires a little bit of knowledge. But once you have the idea of it it is just a matter of doing repeatedly every day. It may take some time in the begging, but I am sure that it becomes the custom. Once it becomes your custom, you will not have to think about it but just do it.
And it would be always a good idea to update your knowledge with more information as our environment, surroundings and the industries is constantly changing.