Day in, day out, we’re bombarded with information, ‘fact’, advice and opinion on what’s good for us and what’s not. Whether it’s the things we do, what we drink, what we live next to, or what we eat, there’s always a good or bad label attached to it.
It seems, however, that what’s in favour seems to change more quickly than we change our undies. Some of the bigger fads and public opinion has been more long standing, only to do a 180 turnaround in more recent times, such as the whole whole-milk-is-bad-for-you business. We’re now told, after years of this line of thought, that we should in fact be drinking it because there’s where all the goodness is. We used to be scared of fat because it would make us, well, fat. Not so any more; today, we need to fear sugar. And just to rub it in our faces even more, there’s Jamie Bloody Oliver at it again, looking down on everyone from his almighty perch and telling the government to tax sugar and remove our free will and freedom to choose.
Smoking, if you can believe it, was originally touted as being good for you. In original advertising, it was said to be a way of getting you to breathe. In one sense that’s true; I certainly notice myself breathing more when puffing on a cig. Now, it’s evil incarnate. At least there’s more ‘truth’ to the evil of cigarettes when you look at some of the corrosive ingredients. Other things weren’t deemed to be such a risk at first appearance, such as living next to an airport. Now that might shave 10 years off your life. Heck, even drinking a hot (over 65 degrees) cup of tea will give you throat cancer.
Better not get me started on all the various food fads and scares. Fibre – wholegrains are the key to good nutrition and digestive health and you should eat them aplenty if you have constipation in particular or want to prevent it. Despite clarifying the difference between soluble and insoluble fibre, this ‘guideline’ is still very damaging as fibre can actually make many with gut troubles far worse. Alcohol will kill you, but one glass of wine a day will save your life from heart disease. Caffeine will wreak havoc with your health, but it could save your life if you drink a specified number of cups and certain times of the day. Kale is a superfood, a wonderful miracle of a green thing; no, wait, it’s not. That was a mistake. It’s açai, that’ll fight cancer and heart disease. But don’t touch oil, use sunflower oil instead. Or maybe that’s the other way around; yes, don’t use sunflower oil. And whatever you do, make sure to eat breakfast: it’s the most important meal of the day and will lengthen your life, protect against weight gain and stave off diabetes (apparently now it won’t, it may be best to give it a miss and go for a coffee instead).
With each new turn, the market changes. ‘Rainbow coloured bananas protect against lung cancer’ – suddenly, there are rainbow nanas on the shelves for 3 times the price of regular nanas, going for 10 times that price in capsule form on the black market, and success stories are filling the media and Internet. Sales go up as we buy in to it. Then it fizzles out, or we’re told they’re not as healthy as they thought. Don’t worry, the next fad is about to kick in where half the population will be filling their fridge with pigeon poo butter, the possible saviour in the fight against dementia!
You get the picture. This could go on and on, and it will, because there are real truths or ‘facts’. These are fads, myths, and you need to question where they’re coming from. The government, corporations, celebrity endorsements, political agendas, profit margins and imports, and production companies all have something to win and lose when they tell us their findings and dictate what is good and what is evil. That’s partly why it changes like the wind. It also flip flops around because research is flimsy and each time a new ‘trial’ comes to light it uses different samples of people with different criteria, eliciting very different results.
There are, of course, some general rules of thumb that make sense, are logical, and reasonable enough to use as guidelines and suggestions. Such as including calcium, protein, carbs for energy, some salt, some fat, some fruit etc in your diet. Getting some fresh air and moving your body. Keeping stress levels low and not overdoing things with added manufactured nasties.
The best thing we can do is protect ourselves from buying in to these myths and see them for what they are. At best, they’re guidelines and suggestions. At worse, they’re money-making nonsense. Take it all with a pinch of salt; balance is our best bet, to not overdo anything too much one way or the other, and to work out what we feel is best for ourselves, what suits us as unique individuals, and make our own choices.