Good health is neither mystical nor unattainable. A proper diet combined with some light daily exercise would do wonders in itself. A “proper diet” is, however, an unclear concept. There are 1001 diets and superfoods on the market, each wanting to position themselves as “the best.”
So, why so many diets? Let’s start with the basics. The word “diet” has become synonymous with “weight loss,” or is associated with a highly-specialized set of food items. This is not the original meaning; “Diet” comes from the Greek word “Diata” which means “way of life.” The word used to have a much broader meaning, referring to of the types of foods one generally eats.
For instance, if you primarily eat at Burger King, McDonald’s, or another fast food chain, you are on a fast food diet. This is the food you normally eat; it is your way of life.
Any diet is only as good as it supplies complete nutrition. So, to determine whether a diet is good or not, you have to know something about nutrition and how the human body functions. Without knowing something about these two elements, you can not make an informed judgement, you just have to take someone’s word that what they are saying is correct.
The reason there are so many specialized diets around is because many physical conditions are caused by the lack of particular nutritional element. Classic examples of disease brought about are scurvy and beribery. Both of these diseases are nutritional deficiencies that lead to eventual death. But both are easily avoided or fixed by a change in diet.
Mild forms of these nutritional diseases are common these days, but almost never diagnosed or recognized. For example, bleeding gums is today referred to as a dental disease, and treated with a specialized “toothpaste”. Well bleeding gums is one of the primary symptoms of vitamin C deficiency or scurvy. It is avoided or fixed by adjusting one’s diet to have more vitamin C.
Beribery which has symptoms such as decreased muscle function, particularly in the lower legs, tingling or loss of feeling in the feet and hands, pain and mental confusion, is fixed by adjusting one’s diet to include more vitamin B1.
Likewise every other major vitamin deficiency will produce its own set of symptoms that are very worrisome and look like major diseases. Yet all of them are corrected and fixed by adjusting diet based on the deficiency one has.
In the case of a nutritional deficiency, one would temporarily go onto a special diet to fix the nutritional deficiency. Once the nutritional deficiency has been repaired, one would then readjust his diet to become more balanced, so as to provide the proper proportion of every nutritional element.
This, by the way, is why some specific diets work wonders for some people, and do nothing for others. Someone who is ill because he is low on a particular set of vitamins or minerals will most likely feel a lot better if he suddenly begins to eat a lot of vegetables. Why? Well, he is addressing the deficiencies he has. Someone who has other deficiencies might not notice any difference on that same diet. That person needs a diet tailored to what he is missing, in terms of nutrients, in order to get well.
Let’s take a look at the function of nutrition in broad general terms:
The human body requires an exact set of nutrients and vitamins in order to operate. In fact, the term “vitamin” comes from vita (the Latin word for life) and amine, because they were thought to contain amino acids (amino acids are some of the primary building blocks of the human body). So, vitamins are the essential component parts for life. When they are lacking, the body starts to break down and deteriorate. This is when aches and pains begin to surface and diseases begin to develop. Some vitamins are more important than others, but all are needed for good health.
Factually, you should not need any supplemental vitamin tablets. All vitamins should ideally come from your food. The standard modern-day TV advertised diet, however, consists largely of processed food. Processed food of any type contains very few nutrients. Dog food is generally more nutritious than a meal you purchase at a fast food chain. I don’t recommend it, but there is a pretty sound logic in science-fiction and post-apocalyptic movies depicting its characters as scavenging for cans of dog or cat food.
Vitamins and minerals have a relationship. They function within your body to work hand-in-glove with one another. Taking only one vitamin, because “it’s good for you,” doesn’t usually resolve much, as it needs other vitamins to work effectively.
Some vitamins will not work at all without their partner vitamins. A rough analogy would be trying to bake a cake with only one ingredient: flour … Well, you won’t get a cake. The same goes for building cells in your body. If you try build a cell with only one ingredient, it won’t work.
The only time a single vitamin or mineral does produce a startling result, is when it’s the only missing ingredient, and you have supplied the final piece to a puzzle. This is where you get a magic recovery using only that one vitamin – but this is a specialized case.
This factor (the one missing ingredient or vitamin) is how you get cult following and fanatical dietists, claiming that only one food is right for human subsistence. These people may swear by a particular diet, as it worked for them and brought on a miraculous recovery. They did the “juiced carrot” diet and got well … now they eat only carrots, and look like carrots, and swear by their carrot diet. I have met such people, and I’m sure you have as well. So, what happened here?
These people were only ill due to a missing nutrient that carrots (or whatever their “specialized” diet was) supplied. So they got well. Instead of realizing that they added a missing nutrient, they now worship carrots, and drop the remaining parts of their diet which were beneficial. They won’t stay well for long. The human body needs a full range of nutrients, minerals, amino acids, etc. It needs to be supplied with all of the building blocks – not just a few of them.
Similarly, there are people that get well because their “specialized diet” prevents them from eating the toxic food they were eating before. Here, you see an improvement because they essentially stopped poisoning themselves on a daily basis.
The raw vegetable diet is an example of this. For instance lets look at a person whose normal habit is to eat fast food with zero nutritional value and to drink half a gallon of Coke (or other sugary soda) every day. He is unhappy with his weight, is fatigued, and has a host of chronic issues. He switches to eating raw vegetables only. All of a sudden his body feels a lot better – a million times better! Conclusion: “Raw vegetables are the only way to go from now on. Anyone who eats cooked food is a heathen and needs to be burned at the stake, like a steak …. ”
No, not so fast.
In comparison to the earlier fast-food and sugar-soda diet, this new diet of raw vegetables makes his body feel like it has entered the gates of heaven and found ambrosia (food from the gods). He naturally feels better as he is no longer poisoning himself on a daily basis with sodas and fast food. And as an added bonus, he is now getting at least partial nutrition and has made a giant improvement in his diet and lifestyle.
The Internet and Facebook are full of the latest “tips and tricks” as to how to avoid one particular malady by eating a specific fruit or vegetable every day. Each of these food items is probably healthy in its own right. There is, however, no single food item on earth that provides every nutrient necessary to good health. Yes, you could survive on a single food for a while – years maybe. But doing so would take its toll on your health, because you would not be obtaining full nutrition.
The key thing to understand about diet and nutrition is as follows:
- Nutrition consists of a complete package, including all of the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc. that the body needs.
- Ideally, nutrition is obtained through one’s food. It is now, and always will be, the best way to get ones vitamins and minerals
- Supplements are only needed when the diet is insufficient or where the nutritional content of food is lacking (usually due to factory farming, chemical fertilization, or mass processing of food).
By understanding the above 3 points, and taking some time to learn about nutrition, one can set oneself and one’s family up for far better health.