DO YOU EAT TO LIVE OR LIVE TO EAT?
“You are what you eat” is more that just a catchy phrase your mother used to get you to eat right. It’s a profound truth. From the Stone Age to the Industrial Age, people have recognized the healthful properties of certain foods. And now, in the Information Age, the importance of nutrition is so well recognized and supported by scientific evidence that virtually every major public health organization in the world makes dietary recommendations.
The link between good nutrition and disease prevention is similarly strong. In the United States, for example, the American Cancer Society estimates that 35% of cancers that are not genetically predetermined can be prevented simply by eating right! “We must shift our national focus from avoiding nutritional deficiencies to understanding the preventive miracles proper nutrition offers,” wrote Dr. Bernadine Healy, former director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, in her book A New Prescription for Women’s Health.
“The validity of nutrition as a legitimate scientific discipline can no longer be questioned.” The foods and supplements we consume make up our diet. In recent years, the belief that a balanced diet is a cornerstone of health has sparked a revolution in the way people think about food. Whereas meat, potatoes, and salad constituted “eating well” in much of the 20th century, the diet of the 21st century will likely incorporate Mediterranean, Asian, and vegetarian eating patterns and low-fat, low-salt, high-fiber foods.
Fueled by our growing knowledge of health and nutrition, our new view of food focuses on eating to achieve optimal health. But people have intuitively known the health benefits of foods for centuries, as evidenced by a well-quoted line from 17thcentury French playwright Molière: “One should eat to live, not live to eat.”