A huge problem with today’s food culture is the sheer amount of conflicting advice that’s flying about the place. Contrary to what you might think, I don’t necessarily have a problem with any of it. If being a vegan or sticking to Keto is working for you, that’s fantastic. But I simply refuse to believe there’s One True Diet that’s optimal for everyone. All through history our diets have been dictated by geography and climate. We ate whatever food was available. This means the evolved human machine is capable of thriving on a whole range of diets.
One drawback to giving generalized food advice is that the correct diet for any individual really depends on the state of health. Someone who has been abusing his/her body for twenty years will have to make more dietary changes to get to the same place as someone who’s in relatively good shape. The optimal diet for you is likely to evolve and change as you grow older. A child will usually have different health priorities from those of an octogenarian, just as a bodybuilder will, compared to an expectant mother.
BLUE-ZONE DIETS Around the world, there are some apparently almost magical enclaves where the proportion of people who live past 100 is up to ten times higher than the average rate. They are nearly always in good health, with much lower rates of chronic degenerative diseases such as dementia, heart attack and stroke. These places have been coined ‘blue zones’ by the Belgian scientist Michel Poulain. As you might imagine, blue zones have been widely studied by nutritional scientists hoping to discover the One True Diet. And what do you think they found? That the secret of blue zones was low carb? Vegetarian? Gluten free? Not a bit of it. What they actually found was an enormous variety of diets. Some were eating meat; some, like the Seventh Day Adventists in California, were vegetarians; some were eating more fish whilst others, like the Okinawans, were feasting on high-carb foods like sweet potatoes.
Having said all that, there appear to be some very broad and basic principles that are consistent among all the blue-zone diets: None has a processed-food culture. By and large, they eat fresh, unprocessed, local produce. They all sit down and eat meals together. They eat what’s in season.
Five steps you can do to clean your diet
- Cut off your relation with Sugar. Retrain your taste buds by removing all sugars from your cupboards and get into the habit of always reading the label on your food to check the sugar content. One of the worst trends that we notice these days is children don’t want to eat vegetables and fruits. Honestly it’s not very difficult to minimise sugar intake. Many years ago, I used to have sugar in my tea. When I first tried it without, the taste was disgusting. But fast forward a few weeks, I accidentally picked up someone else’s sugared tea at work and almost spat it out.
- Aim to eat half of your every meal with vegetables. Variety of vegetables. Different colours. But why different vegetables of different colours? One of the reasons is that variety is good for the bugs that live in our gut, and their associated genes, collectively known as our microbiome. Scientists have only recently begun focusing on this area, and it’s becoming clear that the importance to our mental and physical health of having a healthy microbiome can hardly be overstated. And we have a lot of these bugs to feed.
- Introduce Fast in your every day eating habit. To start with a 12 hour fast. Preferably bring it to 16 hour fast and 8 hour eating window. Eating all your food in a restricted time window – for example, within twelve hours – allows your body to enhance its own natural house-cleaning.
- Hydrate well. Though how much water one needs will vary a lot on lifestyle and weather condition of where a person lives, but 2 litres of water generally works well with most people. About 60 per cent of the body is made up of water and we can only last a few days without it. Water helps us digest food and process substances such as alcohol. Losing just 2 per cent of body weight in fluid can actually reduce our physical and mental performance by up to 25 per cent. I’ve seen a host of different ailments clear up when people start drinking more water, including headaches, low energy levels, dry skin and tummy ache. It can even be helpful for constipation. If you’re feeling tired and sluggish in the afternoon, it could simply be that you are slightly dehydrated.
- Unprocess your diet. We’ve also been led to believe that all our dietary problems can be solved by controlling one single component of them, be it fat or carbs. I believe that the major problem is not that we’re simply eating too much food; it’s actually that we’re eating the wrong type of food. Our culinary environment has changed to the point that we are now eating large quantities of low-quality food. More and more people are finding out for themselves that when you return to diet of foods that are minimally processed, weight, appetite and general health all seem to take care of themselves. Consciously change your diet and you unconsciously change your health.