Diversity, eating different foods, is a key aspect of diet; this includes eating different types and varieties of fruit, for example.
Diet is very important. However, it is also important to not think too hard about your diet. In the spirit of the slow food movement, I think it is better to think about food as something to be enjoyed and savored, than to think about diet in a mechanical, medical, or scientific fashion. My recommendations about diet are as follows:
- Eat as diverse a diet as possible. Eat everything only in moderation, since too much of any one thing can be harmful.
- Seek out whole, natural foods to whatever degree possible, and shy away from processed foods. In general, the less processed, the better, but practice this rule with moderation as well -- seeking out the extreme of the most unprocessed foods possible, as a raw food diet, is not necessarily the most healthy choice either.
- Eat fresh foods. Local foods are often (but not always) freshest. Try to eat fruits and vegetables that are in season when possible.
- Listen to your body. If something is unappetizing to you, do not force yourself to eat it just because it is "healthy". But when you have cravings for a healthy, natural food, eat it (in moderation).
In my opinion, how you eat is just as important as what you eat.
- Enjoy your food. Focus on taste.
- Take time to eat.
- Eat with people.
- Eat when hungry and eat until you feel full, no more, no less.
- Make gradual changes to your diet, rather than sudden changes, to give your body more time to adapt.
Healthy cooking is a big topic that, like diet, can go terribly wrong when people focus on the numbers or specific health properties of individual foods. I think a better guide to healthy cooking is to embrace a few general principles:
- Buy fresh ingredients and buy based on what is reasonably priced and in-season, rather than buying specific ingredients based on a pre-thought-out recipe. Learn to cook without a recipe, instead learning to improvize based on whatever ingredients you have on hand.
- Learn to use spices, keep a diverse array of spices, and use them liberally. Not only are they tasty, but there is compelling evidence of spices conveying numerous and diverse health benefits.
- If you have space for a garden, grow as much of your food as possible yourself: not only does this save money but you will get the freshest, healthiest food possible this way. If you have enough space and your zoning allows it, you can consider raising chickens or other livestock.
- Continuously work on improving your ability as a cook. The better you are at cooking, the more you will enjoy cooking healthy food from scratch, and the less effort it will take, and thus the less you will feel compelled to eat out or eat instant foods.
Proper diet can prevent or treat many medical conditions:
Depression, anxiety, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes are some of the most common disorders that can be prevented, treated, or managed by proper diet. Different disorders and conditions tend to have slightly different needs, but in general, an all-around good diet will tend to be good for treating or preventing a wide variety of conditions.
Keep in mind that when treating medical conditions, diet can be part of a holistic treatment, and does not need to be the only treatment or solution. For example, exercise and stress reduction can help to treat or prevent all of these conditions as well. And if you or another is going through counseling to treat depression or anxiety, diet and exercise can be used together to tackle your problems from multiple angles.
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