As noted in my page on sleep, I have a particular daily eating schedule for maximizing mental performance, which is most important to me. Also, I eat in moderation, not too much at one time. This page is about food quality.
There is a lot to write here, but I will emphasize these things:
Avoid free radicals, such as:
I eat a lot of:
During the mornings, I snack on nuts, especially sunflower seeds and almonds. I never eat the fried nuts common at 7-11, usually fried and salted. I eat raw and fresh nuts, and sometimes dry roasted nuts. In North America I will also eat peanuts, but not in the tropics where they often have aflatoxin (look that up in Google or wikipedia).
I don't take vitamin supplements. Maybe I should, especially as I get older. However, I won't take loads of vitamin C like Linus Pauling recommended because there are some natural and beneficial free radicals in the body.
There are a lot of fad diets and get-healthy-quick scams. There are no quick fixes, and the only way to maximize health is a longterm program.
A discussion of nutrition is way beyond the scope of this website, but it's worth noting that I constantly get disbelieving comments from people about my age, that I look a lot younger. I'm 48 as of 2007, and you can see some recent photos of me on this website.
Since I was around 20 years old, I've followed a health food diet. I read a lot about health and foods back then, and occasionally keep up. It's a lot easier now with Google and the various debates.
I'm not worried about my appearance, but I do want to optimize my mental performance as well as stay in good health for as long as I can, and live a long life.
I eat for nutrition first, with taste a far second in my selection. I avoid a lot of tasty and tempting things, for health reasons. Most people seem to be the opposite. Nonetheless, I find all my health foods to be tasty, and I can always prepare popular, tasty foods for my two girls, who won't eat it if it doesn't taste good. They ask for it by taste! (But I also must tolerate them eating a lot of junk food.)
When I first started my health food diet, I craved my old junk foods. However, after I was on it a few months, I had no attraction to my old junk foods and craved my health foods. When I would occasionally eat one of my old kinds of food, it just didn't hold the taste appeal I had for it before. Therefore, I think food preferences are largely learned and Pavlovian.
Oils and fatty acids are an important building block for your body -- brain, skin, and other tissues. The Omega-3 fatty acids comprise about 8% of the human brain by weight, and a lot of mental disorders have been significantly improved by Omega-3 supplements or changing peoples' diets. Child development is shown to be positively affected by Omega-3 fats in the diet.
I have always eaten a lot of natural vegetable oils, for 25 years, and did not gain weight. I actually eat a very high fat diet, especially compared to other people. I just don't eat much animal fat, except fatty fish, and I don't eat fried foods -- no fried foods at restaurants (including no french fries), and especially no packaged fried foods.
Fried foods are very common in restaurants because they cook quickly and are therefore more economical and productive to make. The high fat content also appeals to our cave man taste buds. However, they are usually broken down in part and full of free radicals, so I avoid them. I also believe that they stick to your body more as regards weight gain.
Avoid "transfats" or "hydrogenated" oils. These don't occur in nature, generally speaking (not in plants, but in some ruminant animals in small amounts), and are instead artificially created in food processing. Unlike natural oils, hydrogenated oils don't separate during storage (like natural peanut butter, or oil & vinegar) so the product remains uniform, they take much longer to spoil even at room temperature (thus not requiring refrigeration -- save costs), they are more stable at high temperatures such as frying, and have some other advantages in food manufacturing and economics. The problem is that mice fed these artificial oils developed health problems much more quickly and also performed worse on mental maze tests. Transfats also promote coronary heart disease, by both sticking (congesting) in the arteries and also adversely affecting both LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. Again, these oils don't occur in nature, generally speaking.
Do not cook with polyunsaturated oils like sunflower oil. They are great for salads, but if you're going to cook with oil, get palm or canola oil, which are much more stable at high temperatures.
I load up on foods rich in carotene (and I don't think vitamin A pills are any good substitute), and I eat these foods together with good quality oils.
I try to work as much variety into my diet as I can.
I mostly eat at home, preparing my own foods.
I live in Thailand, so when I eat out, my diet is constrained to what is available here. There are a lot of dishes rich in vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, Thai pumpkin, and green leafy vegetables.
Just about every western fast food chain is available in abundance, but I never eat at them. (Unfortunately, they are popular with kids here, and obesity, juvenile diabetes, and other ailments have skyrocketed.)
A lot of Thai food is great quality, cheap, and tasty, consisting of lean meats and vegetables with some sort of sauce, over rice.
At chain restaurants, I love sushi (Fuji, Oishi, others), and I eat the Western Sizzler salad bar (using the olive oil and balsamic vinegar there), together with a baked fish like Pacific Dory with pesto. At Sizzler, when you order a salad bar, you get a free meat! ;-)
Thailand and Asia have a lot of fried foods of the worst kind, where oil is reused for a long time, and temperatures are often raised higher for faster cooking. The oil in the pan is often brownish.
Avoid MSG (monosodium glutamate). It is a flavor enhancer, which works on the nervous system to dilate your taste buds ... but also some bad things to your nervous system. It is most commonly found in soups and curries. I look for the "No MSG" signs on windows and notices on menus, and also specifically request this during fresh food preparation.
Someday, I will get into even more detail about this important topic, and provide a menu. If I had the time, I'd start a tasty, REAL health food franchise with a good bit of literature, but I could only be a designer and advisor, not an implementer with my limited time. I could certainly show myself as an example, with my appearance at age 48. If anyone wants to partner, let me know.
If you are one of my readers in my resident country of Thailand, you might be interested in my page on grocery stores and food in Bangkok, Thailand.
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