Jan 122010

In earlier posts, I explored the question – “What one thing can you do that will make the most positive difference in your life”. Out of a host of good suggestions, I suggested that daily self reflection was my personal nomination. Now I’d like to extend this idea and narrow it down a bit. Let’s take the field of nutrition. Of all the health rules you can follow, is there any ONE rule that would make the most difference to your health? I’m focusing here on the area of nutrition. We’ll talk about movement or exercise later.

It seems like every week there are new diet tips in the magazines, and new fads make the rounds. There are things to take out of your diet and things to put in. There are so many possibilities, but it there  any ONE rule that can help you out?

I’m going to cheat a bit here and suggest the rule that makes up the thesis of Michael Pollan’s bestseller – In Defense of Food. Michael proposes a simple rule at the beginning of his book – and then spends the whole book explaining it. His rule for eating is this: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. ”

Let’s focus on the first part for our one rule. “Eat Food”. Here’s what Pollan means by this. Eat things that are actually food – not food imitations, or enhanced food, or artificial food, or synthetic food, or food substitutes. And frankly, that eliminates a lot of what passes for “food” these days. Pollan suggest a few simple guidelines to interpret the rule “Eat Food”.

It’s not food if your grandmother wouldn’t have recognized it as food. It’s not food if it has more than about five ingredients. It’s not food if it contains any chemicals that you can’t pronounce or that your grandfather would not have heard of. This PARTICULARLY excludes anything with high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or colors. If it doesn’t spoil fairly quickly, it probably not food. If it makes health claims, it’s probably not food. That stuff on the shelves wrapped in plastic that LOOKS like bread probably isn’t food at all by Pollan’s rule. Does it really require twenty ingredients to make a loaf of real bread?

You get the general idea. As much as possible, eat whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible, and with as little processing as possible. If you are currently following a standard American diet and implement this one rule, I think it will benefit your health more than anything else you could do. Yes, down the road it would be a good idea to pay attention to the “…mostly plants” part of Pollan’s rule. It would also be a good idea to consume more of your fruits and vegitables in a fresh raw state. But this one rule should get you started.

Anyone have any different nominations for the number-one nutrition rule, or variations on this one?

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