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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

A wholesome diet for a wholesome life – how what you eat affects you

Our health is one of the topics that is consistently spoken about everywhere; on the news, on social media, in schools, on the streets. It seems that everywhere one looks these days, the topic of the right way to approach our health is put under a microscope and analysed until we are blue in the face. From the trends like juice cleanses and extreme diets, to the natural health tips and tricks like Gaia herbs that have been proven to work, we have seen it all – and a lot of individuals have tried it all. When it comes down to it, a lot of the “genuine” health kicks and tips have been, quite literally, put to the test – and the results are not always what we expect.

We live in a world where our health has been put through the ultimate test more times than we can count; we are exposed to the hot new products that promise instantaneous results, we are given countless tips and advice from people we deem fit to give that advice, and we constantly put our bodies through the countless tests that are the result of such advice. Contrary to popular belief – that there are countless tips and tricks and it is too hard to narrow down which of them genuinely work – we do have the information to make conscious decisions about our health that will impact our minds and bodies in the best of ways.

Having a healthy body is a privilege, and it is one that too many individuals take advantage of. There is an abundance of food and beverage institutions out there that create products that are high in sugars or fats that, frankly, our bodies do not need. The problem is that people are so accustomed to this absurdly high availability of unhealthy foods and drinks that they consume them without a second thought. Often, the fact that they are so readily available works against individuals; as much as we all want to think that we have a handle on our diet and overall health, the truth remains that with so many easy, near-instantaneous options available to us, we are less likely to go out of our way to put effort into constructing and maintaining our diet ourselves.

It is a double-edged sword, in a way. On the one hand, we are surrounded by unhealthy foods and drinks that are seeping with unnecessary fats and sugars. On the other, making a genuine effort with our diet and approach to health can backfire if we base those efforts on incorrect grounds. For example, there are those that believe that fueling their bodies with more proteins such as red meats will give them a stronger grasp on their health. The reality, however, is that which sources of protein, and how much of it, impacts our bodies far more than we might think it does. To put it into perspective, in comparison to other mammals, human beings have been naturally adapted to require a relatively low protein intake. Protein makes up just 10% of our daily calorie intake (this rounds up to around 50-60g of protein per day for the average person).

Adults that have a generally higher intake of protein sources such as beef, lamb, and pork (in addition to all processed or charred meat sources) have been proven in studies and research to have a higher chance of developing chronic illnesses. It isn’t all bad news for protein, however. Proteins from more natural sources, such as poultry, dairy, and plants (think beans, peas, and nuts) are praised as having considerable positive impact on the body – particularly on kidney and heart health. Like anything, though, healthy consumption comes down to moderation. Eating too much of any one thing can (and possibly will) cause a dietary imbalance somehow, so balance is key.

The ultimate healthy balance in a day is thought to be 10% protein, 50% fruits and vegetables (to be specific, five serves of fruit and eight serves of veggies a day), 30% natural fats (like avocados, nuts, and seeds), and 20% fiber (beans, brown rice, and whole grains). Of course, advice from your health technician and experimentation is the best way to figure out the best balance for yourself personally, but one thing is certain: fads like juice cleanses will ultimately prove to be unhealthy rather than positive reinforcements for the body, and creating and managing a diet that consists more of whole foods rather than processed foods is the best chance we all have at crafting the perfect diet and striking the perfect balance health-wise.

So often people find themselves in the circumstances of trying juice cleanses and extreme diet changes because they want to become the healthiest version of themselves. There is genuinely nothing wrong with this mindset. What is off-putting, however, is the blatant disregard for overall health and wellness that comes hand in hand with conforming to these “health kicks”. Rather than putting our bodies through health experiments with little knowledge, expert advice, or experience of what works, we should instead aim to educate ourselves and put that education into practice. This, and only this, is how one can ensure that their body is being fueled and taken care of in the healthiest, most wholesome way possible.


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