I am completely fascinated with the healing natural world around us. I think that it is crazy that we find cancer preventing elements in funny shaped roots such as turmeric, and tree shapes vegetables such as broccoli. I’ve been impressed with the relationship apparent between food swarming with bacteria (like yogurt and sauerkraut) and the health of our own digestive tract. Or how coconut oil can do so many body building things, yet is only one food substance.
And as someone impressed with these sorts of things, I often encounter two reactions to eating a nourishing, healthy diet. One is the voice of skepticism. This type of person (and I’ve been there myself) has a sort of fatalistic viewpoint on life. The viewpoint that says bad things will happen no matter what I eat, so I might as well eat whatever is most convenient. Studies showing this or that benefit, personal stories of dramatic recovery, or even their own experience is often not enough to make an impression or real change in eating habits. It’s good to be skeptical, and if I wasn’t a skeptical person on at least some levels, this blog would have never been born ( that’s another story for another day), but it can also lead us to ignore the realities of how we reap what we sow.
The other voice I hear often is the voice of a fanatic. This is the person who feels that a good diet will literally make the world a perfect place, or at least, almost perfect. This is the person whose whole world view would be crushed to smithereens if they, or a close friend who also ate well, ever had to deal with cancer, or any other serious health issue. Because, after all, that friend had regularly eaten broccoli, and shouldn’t they have escaped the curse of cancer?
I thought it would be helpful to share at the start of our series, 21 days to a nourishing diet, what I personally think the benefits of eating a healthy diet are. It may be different than you think.
What a healthy diet can do for you
A nourishing diet can nourish you. I know, profound. But stay with me here.
Dr. Price’s research into a nourishing diet was based on the concept that our diet can have a direct effect on our dental health, our overall health, and our mental health. Those are big promises.
He found that when a diet was high in vitamins such as A, D, and K2, and in minerals such as calcium and magnesium, that the diet was better able to support healthy teeth. He even found that he was able to halt the quickly decaying teeth of malnourished children of his time by giving them a generously nourishing midday meal.
That’s pretty promising research.
He also found that those who ate traditional diets had general better health, had healthier babies, easier labors, and he became convinced that our nourishment also had a relationship with our mental health.
More modern research has backed some of those claims, such as linking certain vitamin deficiencies to birth defects. They’ve even found that the traditional view that men’s health could have effect on their children also to be true. Being well nourished before conception shows promise of better chances of having healthy children. That’s enough to influence how I eat!
A growing body of research supports the idea that proper nutrition could also help protect us from depression and something as simple as Vitamin D could be helpful to look into when dealing with psychiatric illnesses. Dr. Price was ahead of his time in many ways.
Whether it’s about growing babies, recovering from depression, or having enough energy to enjoy life, food holds promise to be helpful to us in many, many ways.
But it can’t take away the fact that we live in an imperfect world.
What a healthy diet can’t always do for you
I think that it would be naive to think that eating well will mean that we will never deal with any health issues. I know loads of lovely people who have had their lives changed in amazing, life saving ways through diet and supplements. Their stories inspire me. But not all of them can say that they live trouble-free, health perfect lives. Their lives are greatly improved, but not always perfect. Some of my friends who have worked through terrible depression with natural methods, have not been able to solve other pressing health issues. Some of those who ate lots of cancer-preventing foods, still got cancer in the end. It does happen (And one should always be aware of the fact that cancer-preventing diets are about getting better chances of not getting cancer – it’s not a guarantee. Plus, there are other factors in play as well – some of which we can’t control.).
As someone who has lost a baby to a birth defect, I’m well aware of the hope that a nutrient dense diet has for helping nourishing our unborn baby, but also the need to acknowledge that our world is imperfect and that diet doesn’t control everything, or guarantee anything. Pre-modern days may have seen birth defects less common, but they were not absolutely unknown. Dr. Price may have seen dramatic improvements with dental health, but that doesn’t mean he thought that no tribal person had ever suffered from dental decay.
I think about the Native Americans and how entire tribes were decimated by the common colds and viruses Europeans brought over with them. Think of how much purer their diets were in comparison to our diet (or the Europeans of the time, for that matter), and how nutrient-rich their food was, and how much physical activity was part of their norm. They probably had really healthy babies, little cancer, and perfect blood sugar, but a common cold may have killed them in the end. Were their lives absolutely better because of their excellent diets? Of course. Would have a junk food diet improved their chances? Absolutely not. But their nutrient dense diet didn’t prevent them from ever getting seriously sick from viruses that hadn’t had the chance to be built through their tribe’s immune systems.
So, if a nutrient-rich diet holds such hope, but guarantees so little, should we bother?
In my opinion, absolutely yes. My personal experience has been that eating well has life changing, daily benefits. If I were to die of cancer, I’d be thankful that so many of my pre-cancer days were spent with better energy, better mental clarify, less low spirits, and better ability to enjoy the days I had. (And just to clarify, I find the amazing world of disease fighting research fascinating and helpful, and think that there is real help with expert alternative health care practitioners who treat as well as help prevent cancer, heart disease and diabetes through natural means).
Can a diet control all of the other toxins in our world that we were even daily exposed too? No, but it can give our body an edge in dealing with them. Can we guarantee ourselves healthy long lives with healthy long living children? No, but we can certainly give ourselves a fighting chance for those things. Why not fight for health with the many tools we know and have already? It would be silly to not try just because we have no guarantees or because we don’t know everything.
There is a tension we need to find. A good tension that allows us to balance between the real hope a good diet gives us, and the reality that it may not solve everything every time. If we don’t have realistic expectations, we could grow discouraged. But if we find peace living in an imperfect world, while still being able to fight for a better understanding of how we can grow healthier, I think we can find a happy medium to stay in.
A find that happy medium by enjoying beautiful foods that also just happen to be body-building. In case you were wondering, the pictures above are of local organic strawberries from summer served with chocolate coconut milk whipped cream. With food like this, why not enjoy healthy foods as well as their benefits?