One human being is not like another.
You with me?
(Yeah, I know, cue the silly song.)
But it’s self-explanatory, right? The fact that we aren’t clones?
So why is it that in all the fussing and fighting about nutrition, nobody seems to pay attention to this obvious fact?
The food one person needs to eat is not necessarily the same as the food another person needs to eat.
Why do the “experts” act like we’re interchangeable?
Yes, yes, I realize the USDA launched MyPyramid.gov to much fanfare not long ago. But guess what? For those of us who aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding, there are only 12 possible “food patterns” recommended by that system. And all 12 suggest the same mix of foodsâ€”they vary only by the number of calories “allowed.” That’s not individualized, folks. (I have a lot of other biting things to say about the USDA recommendations, but I’ll save them for future posts.)
So, what does a person need to know about herself to get a sense of what foods are good for her?
Ancestors. What did your ancestors eat before industrial food took over? (We evolve with our food, remember?) You don’t need to re-create some mythic ancestral diet, just pay attention to the broad strokes. Say your ancestors were Japaneseâ€”they probably didn’t drink much milk. So it might be best to skip the daily 2-3 cups recommended by the USDA. (Of course, it’s likely your digestive system already let you know about that via “lactose intolerance.”)
Don’t worry about this if you’re a mongrel like I am. (Cornwall? Potenza? Donegal? Normandy? Prague? And those are just my mother’s ancestors!) See “the bottom line” below.
Constitution. Someone asked me about her diet recently. She said she ate a “good diet”â€”mostly salads, fish, and yogurt. But she still didn’t feel well. Thing is, she has a cool constitution. Salads, fish, and yogurt are all cooling foods. So she was giving her body exactly what it didn’t need.
Do you run hot? Tend to irritation and inflammation? Eat cooling foods like, um, salads, fish, and yogurt! Do you tend to cold? Feel drained and depleted? Eat warming foods like spiced broths and braised meats. Tend to dryness? Eat moistening foods like flax and barley, and make sure you get enough fat. Does your body tend to feel damp and “bogged down”? Drying foods like bitter greens are in order, and be sure to go easy on grains. Notice a pattern here?
It goes beyond the traditional hot/cold, moist/dry constitutional categories too, of course. Some people just need more of certain foods than other people do. (Again, see “the bottom line” below.)
Climate. Live in a dry climate? You need more moistening foods. Hot climate? Cooling foods. You get the point. The same goes for seasons in temperate climates. Salads in the summer, soups in the winter. (You know this already, don’t you? Yep, see “the bottom line” below.)
Lifestyle. So, if you’re a logger you can probably afford to eat more grains and other carbohydrates than someone who types all day can. Hell, you need to eat more of everything. Your body will tell you. (You guessed itâ€”see “the bottom line” below.)
The bottom line. You know better than any “pyramid” or diet book (or blog post!) what your body needs. Really, you do. Just pay attention.