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Balanced diet (if you don’t know for sure what would be better)

Schedule I
Critically Important
Estimated life impact: 3-5 years
Evidence level: Overwhelming

There are a lot of different diets and belief systems about nutrition out there. So much that it is more appropriate to talk about oversaturation of information, than lack of it. This is partly because we know so much more about nutrition now than we did even just decades ago. What is lacking however – is reliability of this information. Nowadays it’s very hard to check the information. It’s not only hard for an average person to judge it, but it is also harder for scientists and experts. They will usually not talk about this, but they have much less reliable information nowadays, compared to the total amount of information.

In part, this is of course because nowadays we are trying to make diets which are very effective and healthy, much more so than we had a possibility to even dream about before.

But in any case, what this situation means for us is that it is much more risky to just take some diet and blindly believe it. It doesn’t matter if your favorite TV person uses it, or if you have a friend who has been using it and had great results. You don’t actually know what those results will translate to health-wise for that person in 10 years, nor whether the person actually has a specific gene deficiency, or otherwise a certain specificity of his organism, which means that the diet works for him, but not necessarily for you. Actually, more and more research shows that the human specificity actually plays a much more important role in what food this person needs, than we thought earlier.

So there are a lot of issues within the nutrition research, a lot of discussions, a lot of different opinions, but what does this all amount to?

For me, some logical conclusions are these:

Nutrition requires a lot of personal research

It is a practically challenging task to find out proper information about nutrition, given the amount of difficulties within researching it, publishing it, bias of different authors, psychological issues linked to it, etc. etc.

Certain specific diets can have a negative effect, either because they are simply poorly constructed (which is hard for society to establish quickly), inapplicable to you personally, but sometimes also because you haven’t researched them completely yet and will not follow them properly.

Even if certain diets would be good for you if you actually followed them – that requires that you dive into them and study all the intricacies of them. If you just hear the basics and try to implement on your own, the chances are that you will miss something.

The more restrictive a diet is, the more the chance of missing an important nutrient.

This is why the very first step, the first framework to have while figuring out your nutrition is to stay away from hardcore restrictive diets. At least until you have a very specific knowledge about that diet, you have established that it will work for you personally, and you are prepared to spend time and energy on actually following the diet completely. (For some of them this must mean drastically changing your lifestyle or at least eating habits. Are you truly prepared to do that? Or will you be slacking off and missing important components?). Instead, you should start off with a basic balanced diet which is more likely to at least include all the nutrients that you need, even if it would technically mean that you will get some of the bad stuff into you as well.

The general consensus seems to be that our body is much better at dealing with stuff it does not really want, and with weird combinations of things, than with completely missing nutrients. We have a huge number of cleaning mechanisms in us (they sometimes do require to be let to function properly though), but we don’t have any mechanisms for creating new minerals or other compounds out of nothing.

Since mineral deficiencies play a big role in nutrition-related diseases, it’s better to stay on the safe side and eat large amounts of as many minerals as possible.

Mineral deficiencies are increasingly quoted by trustworthy scientists as the principal issues with nutrition nowadays. The reasons for those deficiencies are important too, of course, and the origin of a problem does not always exclusively lie in the nutrition, but in any case, the nutrition can be used to mitigate the problem. It’s not always easy to diagnose without proper testing, and there is a great number of different minerals that can cause trouble, so until you have tested yourself and properly figured this out, the chances are that you are deficient in some minerals and you do now know which ones.

Additionally, when the mineral balance in your system is in poor condition, it also affects the body’s ability to even extract the minerals from food.

In this environment, it seems to be safest to just make sure that you eat balanced food with a lot of different nutrients, and try to cover all of the possible needs of different deficiencies. Of course, if you have specific knowledge of what you lack, you should work on that instead. This is just a first phase solution before you have figured it out.

Your dormant psychological issues might use food as pressure valves and blindly removing those can lead to adverse negative effects.

It should not be a secret that many of eating disorders, even very mild ones have their roots in psychological issues. Many of us have learned to deal with the pain that they otherwise cannot take out through certain kinds of foods, be it sugar, meat, pastries, etc. etc. Sometimes even alcohol. The food affects the state of the mind, many times dulling it down so that the pain is not felt as acutely.

Is this really a reason to eat food that is bad for your body? Well yes and no.

Of course if you have a choice right now of just dealing with your pain, without causing yourself too much stress, and just learning to live your life happily – so that you will not have to dull yourself with bad food – you should do that.

But realistically, at this early stage (this being a Schedule I article) you most likely are not even aware of how you use food to dull the pain, and what deep issues this is related to. If you would just remove some foods that you really love at this point, the deep issues could come to the surface. This might lead to you starting to abuse something more dangerous, or change your behavior or your personality, which could affect your work life, your relationships, etc. Even if those issues would simply make you more stressed (because instead of dulling the pain you are now living with it, still not knowing how to deal with it properly) – that would mean that instead of eating a snickers once a week you now live in constant stress. That is actually not good for your body either. It could actually be worse!

An interesting insight is that studies show that the people who drink alcohol rarely (once a month) actually live longer than people who do not drink at all (people drinking often are worse off than both of those). Aside from all the possible biases in such broad studies, it seems like a very common sense thing to me that the benefits from being able to relax far outweigh the damage that is being done to the body from drinking alcohol once a month. It should be the same with food. (Until you know better and can support a better diet.)

Obviously, if you have any hardcore issues (like you are eating candy all day every day) – you should definitely focus on that first. But that wouldn’t really be called a “balanced diet”.

And of course, when you deal with your issues you should be switching your diet from “bad” things as well. But removing them blindly, without dealing with the whole problem, and creating huge unbalance and stress – that just doesn’t seem smart in the long run.

 

More specifically, it seems that in the beginning, before acquiring proper knowledge one should abstain from:

100% vegetarian diet. There seems to be ways to get everything you need from non-meat products, but those ways are complex. You need to figure this out first, and make sure that you will follow them.

100% vegan diet. Same thinking here, but this is even more extreme. The chances that you will not know how to get all the nutrients you need is much higher.

More generally, completely eliminating a certain macronutrient or a type of food. The more strict the diet – the more careful you should be with it, (because most likely the drawbacks will outweigh the benefits), and the more research you should do first before committing to it.

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