THE WEEKEND READER: This submitted essay proposes an alternative way of living this new year, with a mind set to be more international and conscious of what we do—beginning with what we eat
By Khennan John Suarez
The year 2020 has been… unhealthy. But if there’s one thing we were given a chance for, it’s to take a harder look at our lifestyles in retrospect. For some, myself included, this means becoming more conscious of the food that goes into my body.
The advancement in nutritionism over the past 20 years has changed the way we look at our plates. Once colorful meals that consisted of “go, grow, and glow” staples are now replaced with single, nutrient-packed breakfast bars coupled with energy drinks endorsed by the influencer-of-the-week. One would think that all these diet bars, and pills, would’ve transformed people healthier, with lifestyle diseases kept at bay. Sadly, this remains a dream today as it was 10 years ago.
Data from WHO, CDC, and UN reveal that some of the top killer diseases in our country are attributed to lifestyle. And while life expectancy has increased over the past decade, so have cases of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and stroke.
This fact raises more questions in nutrition. Despite crazy fads that promise longevity, what are we doing wrong? It makes sense to start a closer examination of what goes into our bodies.
In An Eater’s Manifesto—highly recommended!—by Sam Pollan, there is a mantra that could be an ultimate guide to eating better.
And by this, he means eat whole food.
For a beat, let’s forget about these canned goods, boxed cereals, processed fruit juices, and everything with ingredients we can’t even pronounce. Let’s forget about the most recent trend in nutrition and trace back to what our bodies (and our ancestors’ bodies) instinctively know as good food—whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables, sizeable portions of animal meats, milk, nuts, and all other products that are organic. Food products that are as close to their most natural forms as possible.
Let’s assemble our plates in a way that pushes highly processed and artificial products away from it, whenever we can. For as hard as science has been working to understand nutrition better, and until we eventually come up with a “fountain-of-youth” pill, there remain cellular processes that we are yet to discover. For the meantime, it makes more sense to stick with natural basics.
It’s also quite notable to know that while nutritionists still argue about which diet is best for us, they can all agree that plants do not kill us. Becoming more in tune with our nutrition is also an opportunity to start building relations to our farmers, and ask how produce is grown.
Is the ground healthy? Are they showered with chemicals? Are the animals that supplied our food well-fed? This even raises ethical questions as to how they were raised and slaughtered. This strengthens the relationships we have with people that grow our food, our connection to our community, and the relationship we have with the earth around us. After all, nutrition is just a portion of more complex symbiotic relationship bigger than all of us.
With the dawn of a new year, it pays that we become more intentional and more conscious of what we do. And today, we can start by asking, “Ma, what’s on my plate?”
About the author: Khennan John is a 20-something health enthusiast with a knack for writing.
The Weekend Reader is a Sunday submission segment of Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Arts + Culture. Those who wish to submit their essays for the Weekend Reader may do so via email: [email protected] As subject of the email, write WEEKEND READER followed by the title of your essay.
The opinions and views expressed in The Weekend Reader are of the respective authors and not of the Manila Bulletin.