Bread, Pasta, Rice, Grains, Beans, Corn, Dairy. All of these foods have been consumed by many different cultures for thousands of years, how could they be bad for us? When we look to the past we see that many different cultures have been eating foods that just flat out are not good for us. Our brains have a way of justifying things to make us feel better about ourselves so when we don’t want to do something that’s difficult like changing the way we eat we look for excuses. One of the objections I hear all the time is,”[insert unhealthy food here] has been consumed for thousands of years by [insert culture or ethnicity here], how can it be bad for us?” What we have to do is learn how to separate what is optimal with what was convenient. Based on the time in history and location of a certain culture, there may not have been very many options for these people. Societies were built off resources that were available in that particular region, which would include agriculture and livestock. When we think of Asian cuisine we think of rice and other grains as the base of most meals. When we think if Italian cuisine we think of pasta and bread as the base of most meals. The unfortunate truth is that though it is important to embrace and have pride in our cultures, the food that we consume as a result may be making us less healthy. There are three important differences between the society we live in today and how our ancestors lived hundreds and thousands of years ago.
- We now have access to almost any type of food we want at any time. We do not rely on solely what can be produced by the resources in our area.
- We now have proven research on why certain foods are/are not healthy that was not understood thousands of years ago.
- The foods our ancestors consumed weren't pumped full of antibiotics, steroids, added hormones, pesticides, and weren't genetically modified like much of our "food" is today. Grains, dairy and legumes, though not optimal were much healthier before we started processing them with added ingredients for mass production.
Fast forward to America 2017. We can have any food that we could possibly imagine pretty much whenever we want. We have been plagued with ‘franken foods’ that really aren’t food at all. Most of us like to think we are healthy by avoiding things like fast food and sugary, processed ‘franken foods’. It’s pretty much common knowledge at this point that eating McDonald’s 5 nights a week isn’t the healthiest choice for us. As a result we usually look to the healthier option of preparing our own meals at home. Naturally, we look to prepare dishes that we grew up on which often times are the cultural dishes. Though avoiding the processed foods is a huge step in the right direction, this blog post is about bringing to light the fact that options that are perceived to be healthy cultural foods may not be so healthy. For example, I am Italian. If I ate Italian style dishes every night consisting of bread and pasta I can guarantee rapid weight gain, digestion issues, hormone dysregulation, metabolic dependence on carbohydrate for fuel, and if this way of eating continued over the years possible development of chronic disease.
The great thing about living in this day and age is that while we have the choice to consume the processed foods, we also have the choice to consume organic foods that make us healthier and all of these foods are easier to access and consume than ever before. When preparing a cultural dish, look to avoid or replace the grains, dairy, bread, pasta and sugar. There are plenty of ways to prepare meals with substitutes for these items that taste amazing and still remind us of the culture we are embracing.
So how do we make sure that we are health conscious without sacrificing our culture and food that we love? First, we must come to terms with the fact that the foods we grew up eating may not be the healthiest foods for us. Second, we must try to prepare these dishes avoiding the items listed above if possible. Lastly, and most importantly, If there is a social situation where we know the food is not super healthy, we can choose to avoid it, or we can indulge! We shouldn’t feel guilty. It’s important to have pride in our cultures and indulge every once in a while. We just need to understand this meal is not all that healthy and that’s OK! Tomorrow is a new day!