Eat like Grandma, live longer

Chilli PeppersAccording to an article in the New York Times magazine recently, there are nine golden rules of nutrition that in these days of overweight obesics, rising sugar levels, and general all-round fitness collapse, we could all do well to follow. Or, could we?

I’ll list the rules, as compiled by article author Michael Pollan, and re-compiled by Jess3 and then discuss briefly whether the concept is valid or not.

So, here are the rules, in summary:

  1. Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food
  2. Avoid so-called “health” foods
  3. Don’t eat anything you can’t pronounce
  4. Avoid supermarkets
  5. Never mind the quality, feel the quality
  6. Eat shoots and leaves
  7. Eat in the French, Japanese, Italian, or Greek style
  8. Avoid fast food, by growing and cooking your own
  9. Eat omnivorously, like a dog, not a cat

    So, are these rules valid or not? Broadly speaking yes, but we must remember that our great-great-grandmothers and fathers and those romantic country folk from around the Mediterranean Sea do not necessarily have a lower incidence of heart disease and diabetes nor do they live longer, healthier lives than we may care to think. The average life expectancy of our ancestors was very different from our own for all sorts of reasons and we’re only now seeing changes in health in the Med, Japan etc that are impacted by changes that happened during the twentieth century, such as war and not necessarily the shift to a more “American” diet. This difference in life expectancy is partly due to the fact that infant mortality was a lot higher, death in childbirth was common, disease was rampant, and the availability of food, of poor or high quality, was low.

    As to the Mediterranean diet, delicious yet, but it has not been proved that a diet rich in olive oil, red wine, eggplant, capsicums, and wholemeal pasta is any better than any other diet. Until well after WWII most of the countries around the Med were well below the poverty levels we see, generally, today in the West. There could be a residual effect of this poverty that has provided a buffer to disease from one generation to the next in the last fifty years, but we could soon see an interesting shift in cardiovascular disease among the baby-boomers of the Med in the next few years, perhaps as the poor diet of the grandparents of baby-boomers kicks in.

    Meanwhile, why shouldn’t you eat anything you can’t pronounce? I presume this alludes to “chemicals” in our foods, but I don’t know any two people who pronounce or even spell yogurt the same and as to Brits knowing what zucchini are, I daren’t say. Of course, maybe that’s the point – we shouldn’t be eating yogurt, or any dairy products; after it’s only relatively recently that we started tugging on the teats of bovine mammals. As to chemicals in our foods, there is nothing in any food that isn’t a chemical, we’ve had millions of years to evolve to cope with all kinds of natural toxins and pesticides, so there’s no reason to think that our bodies cannot cope, just because a chemical is synthetic. Moreover, nature is full of natural compounds that we cannot digest and at worst can kill.

    All that said, eating omnivorously, dedicating a bigger proportion of your money to quality food, and avoiding mass produced processed materials, is most certainly a good idea for many reasons other than personal health.

4 thoughts on “Eat like Grandma, live longer”

  1. Undoubtedly good advice here but there are many other factors that can also be addressed. These are nicely summed up in The Longevity Pyramid easily found via Google. These include avoidance of overeating, judicial use of red wine with meals, social factors, religion, feelings of situational control and so on. Take a look.

  2. Grandma diet…means common sense…my grandma used to say, “eat like a cat…they only eat just enough for energy.”

    People get fat due to focusing on the bad whatever. So every night when you go to bed think about things you really enjoy…like a fresh cup of coffee in the morning…sheets hung in the sunshine…morning dew on the garden…this prepares your body for a RESTFUL sleep which is required to be thin and healthy. Mulling over bad thoughts tells your body you’re unhappy…hence cortisol pumps us to produce fat cells that need filling tomorrow morning so you can take all the punches tomorrow will bring (your sure of will happen).

    Attitude is everything, and linked directly to our weight, and overall health. I myself didn’t realize this until I got fat…and one day it hit me…attitude is everything. My stress was feeding the very problem I was stressing over…it wasn’t helping me at all….or fixing the problem. And, it created more problems for me.

    So…I made a concerted effort to think of things I really like, love, enjoy, and from that day forward my life changed…and my weight…and my overall health….which led to a helluva lot better life for me and for everyone else too!

    Because when we become fat and miserable and make no effort to improve our situation…we reflect what we want out of life…which tells everyone else we want nothing. And that makes people who doe want more out of life angry. It makes others feel bad….and most people don’t know how to interpret these feelings…so they get insulting as a general rule.

    So…you see…our emotions are directly linked to our weight and overall health. You have to make a choice….no one else can do this for you….are you going to live? Or more importantly, how are you going to live? No diet in the world can help you if you’re so unhappy, so empty you don’t want to live and bounce and stretch to the sun. Might as well find the TV clicker and see who’s got a life besides you, and be more miserable.

    Know what I noticed? Movie stars don’t care who laughs at their antics… they live and bounce and stretch to the stars. They call it good advertising. And when they fall down, they get up laughing at themselves…in fact…they usually make a new show you can watch about it….while you sit there eating wanting a life like that. Or any life that’s different from yours.

    Hmmmm…now that’s something to think about isn’t it? Happiness isn’t expensive or tough to come by…you simply have to allow it. And remember…if someone is unpleasant to you tomorrow…just remember you’re not in their shoes. You’re not scared of life anymore.

  3. I agree entirely, the quantity of calorie consumption is terrifying, it’s bad in N Amer, but getting bad in Europe too, I believe the shift to processed meat (from a fishy diet) in Japan has led to an increase in average height in the youngsters but also increased risk of obesity and all that brings. Yes, the issue about grandma’s diet not necessarily being so great is what I was trying to get at and the fact that the health of grandparents and their diet seems to skip a generation in terms of its effects means part of the current CV disease problems could be partly a knock-on effect.

  4. Good rules I’m sure, however they seem to leave out the fact that in the West we eat too damned much. Here in North America we are committing slow suicide with our knives and forks.

    That being said MY great-great-grandmother’s diet was probably lacking in many essential nutrients given where she grew up and lived, substance farming in rural Quebec.

    So I would change the first rule to: “Eat less than you think you need”

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