You have probably noticed the Internet is awash with articles, blogs and websites promoting ‘natural health,’ or ads for the latest new ‘wonder food’ that will make you thinner, healthier or smarter than Einstein.
There is also a steady stream of stories in the media telling us how this latest study contradicts the many previous studies, and in fact a diet based around lard, cigarettes and heroin is perfectly fine, in moderation of course.
Woody Allen satirised it all rather wonderfully in his 1973 movie, Sleeper. His character, Miles, is frozen and wakes up in the distant future – 2173. Our hero is soon requesting ‘wheatgerm, organic honey and tigers milk’ for breakfast. The doctors laugh and one says ‘You mean there was no deep fat, no steak, cream pies or hot fudge back then?’ The other says, ‘Those were the things thought to be unhealthy, precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.’ The doctor later offers Miles a cigarette, insisting ‘Go on, it’s tobacco! One of the healthiest things for your body.’
How can any of us make sense of all the information, misinformation and bad science that is flung at us every day? It’s all very confusing and presents a perfect opportunity for our old friends, the snake-oil salesmen (and women) to step in and make a killing.
So in an effort to further muddy the waters, here is the handy halfbananas guide to healthy living. NB All advice is provided purely for infotainment purposes only.
1. Moderation – sounds boring, nobody wants to be remembered as a champion of commonsense eating or living habits. Sensible also doesn’t sell diet books in quite the same ways as ‘The mud diet!’ eat dirt – look fabulous! or ‘Elephant dung – the wonder food that will double your IQ!’ But moderation does work – just don’t overdo it.
2. Fruit and vegetables – eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables is good for you. Just avoid too much cabbage if you work as a welder. Fruit is generally healthy, but a Fruitarian diet is not. To have a balanced diet, you need other things too – things containing protein, carbohydrates, iron and vitamin B12. Bananas are great and full of potassium, but don’t go mad: too much potassium isn’t good either. Bananas are also radioactive, thanks to that potassium, although eating lots will not make you glow in the dark or grow an extra head. (A common side-effect of eating too many gooseberries)
3. Fat – possibly not the great villain it was once painted. But beware of going overboard and turning into a total lard-bucket. A battered and deep-fried Mars bar and fries is not a wise choice as a regular meal option. Or even once.
4. Sugar – it may (or may not) turn out to be the real villain of the modern age. It certainly doesn’t look too good right now for this ubiquitous ingredient. With an epidemic of obesity and diabetes sweeping the western world, cutting down your intake to less than one or two truckloads a week is probably the smart move.
5. Meat – a good source of protein, but not very kind – how would like to be kept in a grim prison camp for a few months and then eaten? Of course there are those who will argue that it is ‘natural’ to eat meat, whatever that means. ‘We are omnivores’, they say. ‘Look at our teeth,’ Clearly they have never seen a Gorilla. Putting aside the complex ethical questions around eating the other species that share our planet, there are plenty of much more sustainable alternative protein sources and many sound environmental reasons to avoid meat, or at least try to cut down. You don’t have to take up yoga, or eat only tofu and lentils all day. Being kinder to the planet and non-human animals is not just for old (and young) hippy idealists, man.
6. Exercise – we all know this is very important, perhaps the one irrefutable fact that can be stated without question. Of course tomorrow you may read a new study suggesting just the very opposite – ‘exercise worse than eating deep-fried Mars bars!’ But the huge weight of the evidence to date suggests regular exercise is one of the biggest factors if you want to try and live a long and healthy life, along with not smoking and not annoying tetchy hippopotamuses.
The type of exercise seems less important than having a modest amount every day. Recommendations vary, but even a bit of housework or light gardening can be enough. Sex is good too, especially if it involves a trapeze. Lifting the TV remote control repeatedly, or opening the fridge door or biscuit tin doesn’t count, unless you’ve put a very strong elastic bungee on these items and do it a lot. But you will still get fat, so don’t. Go for a walk and look at nature instead and it will make you happier too.
7. Fad diets – try to avoid them, as they generally offer no advantages except to the bank accounts of the many so-called ‘nutritionists’ and various celebrities selling them. One of my neighbours tried the Paleo diet and was killed by a woolly mammoth, which was a huge shock to his wife, as well as to the science community at large.
8. Alcohol – OK in moderation. Probably. But then where’s the fun in that? They say it’s important to simply take regular breaks, with at least a couple of non-drinking days a week. Failing that, a half-hour break every leap year is better than nothing.
9. Natural health – beware of the wild claims made for so-called ‘natural health’ products or cures. In many cases you are getting untested or ineffective products promoted by quacks. Snake-oil is now a multi-billion dollar industry! The only benefit is in many cases the placebo effect, something that makes you feel better but does not offer a cure, and they should never be used for treating any illness without first consulting a licensed medical practitioner – checkout Mitchell and Webb’s hilarious look at alternative medicine – Homeopathic A&E
There are also many myths and urban legends surrounding food and health:
- You should never swim after a meal – false: it’s fine to swim after a meal, just don’t swim during a meal, especially if you’re having soup.
- Fizzy cola drinks can dissolve a tooth or coin in a couple of days – false, so if you’re trying to dispose of a body, get something stronger (see Breaking Bad for details)
- Special healthy drinks or diets can detox your liver – false, there is no such thing as a detox diet or drink. This is pure snake-oil marketing. Your liver is just fine, unless it isn’t, in which case you will know about it very quickly.
- Vitamins in mega-doses will keep you young and help you live longer than Methuselah – False: too many vitamins can be toxic and there is no evidence they extend life. Most people with healthy diets don’t need supplements, so don’t waste your money.
- Swallowing chewing gum is dangerous, as it can stay inside you for seven years, and may even turn into a monster that bursts out of your stomach, like the alien in the movie, Alien – This is true!*, so be very careful and never give gum to children. Unless you hate them.
So there you have it. Whether you’re a fit and toned super-athlete (like me), or a boozy, Internet and TV addict with a fondness for chocolate (not at all like me), there are many ways to revolutionise your life. Many more of my top nutrition and health tips will be revealed in my forthcoming book: ‘How to live forever, become super-rich and shag lots, without leaving your sofa.‘ I suspect it will be a game changer.
© Copyright J.Lennick 2016. All rights reserved.