It’s the first Monday of the New Year and many of us may feel like we should begin acting on those resolutions. “Eat healthier” is one that tends to be at the top of everyone’s list. But when it comes down to what kind of diet we should pursue, we can quickly get bogged down in what science to follow.
“Food is a very sensitive, personal issue,” food author and journalist Michael Pollan told Fast Company in an interview. “So much of the discussion about food is very dour. Eating should be about pleasure, and we’ve turned it into this high-anxiety pursuit. One of the things I’m trying to do is get people to relax a little bit about food and realize that there’s so many other ways to look at it.”
Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones Solution, and his team have traveled the world, looking at regions where populations enjoy longer-than-average lifespans. What makes them so special?
“Longevity happened to them,” Buettner explained. “In other words, it was something that ensued from their environment as opposed to something they tried for.”
It’s not to say changing one’s diet cannot happen for us. Buettner and his team had the opportunity to observe a different lifestyle surrounding food. Beans and whole grains were a big part of their diets (about 65 percent) and next came fats (most of which came from vegetables). Meat was not a big part of their diet — 90 percent of calories came from plants.
Pollan has found the same to be true in his own research, summing up Buettner’s findings into one simple piece of advice: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
But as Buettner explained, this lifestyle happened to these people. It’s ingrained in their culture. For Americans, it takes more resolve to change a lifestyle of meaty BBQs to one of beans and nuts. It could explain why many New Year’s resolutions fail.
It’s important, Pollan says, to not let the food industry set the agenda for you. While many of the salty, sweet snacks push our evolutionary buttons, we can help ourselves to better, home-cooked meals. The task will just require more resolve.
Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker
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