More correctly, one facet of healthy living (we have all the time in the world to explore more, and let's be honest, we're probably going to need a lot of time for that.) Specifically, our diet, and the way in which much of what we've been taught about healthy food may be wrong.
We all remember the food pyramid, that pseudo-geometric chart you're shown in grade school that purports to tell you exactly what a healthy, balanced diet looks like. New research, however, is shedding light on the idea that the food pyramid may be fatally flawed. This should come as no surprise; we live in a real, often cynical world, and competing concerns usually have to be balanced. In the case of the food pyramid, public health is balanced with economics, according to Denise Minger, author of "Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health."
"The pyramid wasn't designed exclusively with human health in mind," Minger says. "it was also shaped by the country's economic state - a casualty of the USDA's catch-22 duty of protecting agricultural interests while also supporting human health." A fatal flaw in this balance, she points out, is that "The most profitable foods tend to be the worst ones for our bodies." The food pyramid promotes six to eleven servings of grains, an overload of carbohydrates that also ignores the fact that "the vast majority of carbs in the U.S. are refined and bad for you," according to Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health.
A growing cadre of experts, including Minger, Willett, and their peers, advocate for a diet that is low in carbohydrates, but high in protein and healthy fats. Refined carbohydrates have been repeatedly linked to obesity and diabetes, and since the food pyramid was first introduced, incidences of these diseases have skyrocketed. Advocates of low carb diets point out not only the weight loss benefits of such a lifestyle, but also the health benefits, claiming that nutrition can aid immensely in the prevention of inflammatory diseases, some of the most reliable killers in modern America.
Minger and her colleagues advocate a Paleo/Primal-style diet, as championed by Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, and many others. Such a diet involves not only a drastically reduced carb intake, but a greater dietary role for healthy fats. In addition to vegetables, fruits, and protein, she recommends "nuts, avocado, bone marrow, organ meats, fish eggs, oily seafood like salmon, coconut, egg yolks, and dairy from animals eating very good diets," all sources of healthy fats.
If you rely on the current food pyramid (which is being updated to include recent research - target date: 2015), Minger says, you're left with "the impression that starchy foods - even heavily processed and refined ones - are a dietary free-for-all, while fat is inherently harmful. It's taken decades to finally start reversing that mentality and dissolve the fat-phobia instilled by the pyramid."
Changing a lifestyle is never easy. When we talk about diet, we aren't mentioning a fad but rather a way of life; dietary needs, not a quick solution to be used and abandoned. Changing our attitudes and challenging our preconceptions about what we put in our bodies is the first step down a road that often leads to a new outlook on life, and health benefits far beyond our expectations.