What Is Good For You.
Only You Can Determine What Is Right For You
I will keep repeating this until I am blue in the face. Everyone is different, no two of us are exactly alike - even identical twins. We are shaped by our genetics, environment, and experiences. For me, this is what makes being a psychotherapist so interesting. People are complex and I respect that. Despite how we, in my profession, are pressured to put people into diagnostic categories and to treat everyone with only the most evidence-based of treatments (which change over time), I still adhere to taking people as they come. I avoid being reductionistic. I dislike a one solution fits all approach. Each person is unique and I like that. It is what makes each of us special.
Such an attitude makes my job more challenging. More interesting. It means I have to take each person and try to help them in a way that is connosant with who they are. That is difficult here, on this website, where I have to break things down into soundbites, and address as many people as possible. So I ask your forgiveness when I generalize about certain things. However, generalizations offer a good place to start - a point for departure.
suum cuique pulchrum est - "To Each His Own"
Our relationships to food are complex. There are social, cultural, familial, biological, medical, psychological, emotional and individual influences to the picture. Food preferences start in childhood.
My mother was not a very good cook, but she managed to make a number of dishes that I remember with nostalgia. When I recreate those dishes it is like being back home - being in the bosom of my family of origin. The food and the memories make me feel good.
My father came from a Polish-Irish background while my mother came from a Scottish-English background. What they had in common was a meat and potatoes heritage. Growing up I loved meat, gravy and mashed potatoes. I ate vegetables as a sort of punishment. Salads, when we had them, consisted of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and maybe some cucumber and I didn't like them. Early in my life, food became an emotional comfort to me.
It wasn't until I left home for college that I became exposed to other ways of cooking and other types of food. While others complained about the food in the college cafeteria, I thought it was wonderful and exotic. When I visited the homes of my college mates I discovered for the first time that spaghetti did not come just from a can. Later, through marriage, I got to experience a wide variety of organic vegetables fresh from the garden, grass fed beef, free range poultry and pork. But still, those early eating habits remained with me. Meat and potatoes with a sweet dessert was my preferred taste.
The point I am trying to make is that our early exposure to food sets up a preference which may last a lifetime. Our taste buds become conditioned to the foods we ate early on, and though we may be exposed to other foods later on, it wasn't until fairly recently with the advent of the "foodie" scene that people became more experimental with different tastes and textures. In general, we continue to eat those foods to which we are conditioned. This includes a number of not so good for us foods that the food conglomerates press on us everyday through conditioning and advertising.
"Just the facts, ma'am" (Sgt. Joe Friday on "Dragnet", 1949-1970)
OK, I am showing my age. These are the facts. To me they are more than scary.
- More than 1/3 of American adults are obese. (34.9%)
- Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
- The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight
- More than 2/3rds of american adults are considered overweight or obese.
- Almost 3 in 4 men (74%) are considered overweight or obese.
- (see more facts here)
Foods That Are Good For You
Here it is in brief and in general. Eat real foods. Avoid factory made "foods". Avoid foods that cause you to have allergies or increase your levels of inflamation. Avoid foods with any form of sugar or artificial sweeteners. Modern wheat is different from wheat grown just a hundred years ago. Even whole wheat tends to be unhealthy because of the way it has been bred and used - avoid wheat. Avoid white potatoes, but enjoy sweet potatoes. Avoid white rice, but enjoy brown, black and wild rice.
Eat lots of vegetables and fruit. The fresher the better. If fresh is not available then eat frozen vegetables and fruit. If you can afford organically grown fruits and vegetables then do so. Almost nothing good for you comes from a box or a bag. Most canned fruits and some vegetables have added sugar so avoid them (not to mention cans are lined with plastic containing BPA which does weird things to your body). Have a fresh salad at least once a day - it keeps you regular, supplies lots of vitamins and phytonutients, and goes a long way in promoting beneficial gut bacteria.
Protein is your friend. It helps to make you feel full, digests slowly and helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Try to eat lean meats, fish and poultry. Grass fed beef is better than grain fed beef. Free range chicken is better than factory raised chicken. Some fish is better than others. Wild salmon is better than farm raised salmon. Some deep sea fish like tuna and swordfish can have high levels of heavy metals which accumulate in your body to your detriment. Eggs are relatively cheap and a great source of protein. Eat the whole egg unless you have a health reason to avoid the yolks as the yolks have good stuff in them. Beans and other legumes are good sources of proteins. Eat protein for breakfast. Eat protein for breakfast. Let me say it one more time - eat protein for breakfast.
Nuts make great snacks and can be used in recipes. Try to stick to unsalted, raw or roasted nuts. Avoid nuts cooked in oils. Pecans, hazelnut, walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts are the best for you.
The consumption of dairy is controversial. If you can tolerate dairy products then do so in moderation. Dairy products often have added sugar. It is difficult to find yogurt that does not have some sort of sugar added. Read labels carefully. Cheese is tastey, comes in lots of varieties, and can be found in styles with lower fat content. Goat cheese tastes great crumbled on top of a salad. Mmmmm.
Avoid sodas and other sweetened (artificial or natural) drinks. Most people can lose weight just by giving up sodas. Avoid or at least severely limit alchohol. Drinks with artificial sweeteners are just as bad for you as drinks sweetened with various types of sugar. Drink lots of water. If you need that fizzy feeling then try flavored seltzer water. Pomegranate flavored seltzer is my favorite. Try to limit your intake of caffeine, especially those highly sweetened types from the coffee shop. Juices are high in sugar and low in fiber. You are better off eating whole fruit. Try freezing fruit instead of eating ice cream or popscicles. Grapes are great frozen - just pop them in your mouth for a refreshing treat.
Your body needs good fats. Fish or flax seed oil supplements are good. Use extra virgin olive oil as your standard oil except for high temperature cooking. Sesame, sunflower and coconut oils are good for higher temperature cooking. Walnut oil is great on salads.
A lot of people have food allergies, food intolerance, and food sensitivities. Avoid these foods at all costs if you know what they are. Many people have sensitivites to certain foods which cause inflammation in the body. Dairy and gluten are the two most common. Some people are sensitive to nightshades like tomatoes and peppers. When it comes to food sensitivities about the only way you can determine if you are sensitive is to eliminate the suspected food(s) from your diet then after a certain period reintroduce these foods one at a time and observe the reaction. If after you eat certain foods you get a headache, sniffles, coughing, hives, rashes, itching, shortness of breath, cravings, joint aches, muscles aches, pain, bloating, reflux, diarrhea, gas, constipation, changes in moods (such as depression or anxiety), or brain fog then you are eating something that is not good for you.