Courage, cheerfulness and…
“Courage, cheerfulness, and a desire to work depend mostly on good nutrition.”
— Jacob Moleschott
The author of this quote lived more than 100 years ago, but he probably would get as much or more agreement with this statement today than he did when he first said it. Though the average diet has undergone substantial and somewhat amazing changes during the past century, the human body’s basic nutritional needs have changed little, if at all.
The dietary changes of the past century are a mixture of good news and bad news. On the plus side, we have a greater abundance of food available to more people than ever before. The downside is that most of us expend fewer calories and therefore need that abundance less than our ancestors might have needed it. And a great percentage of what is available is processed beyond the point of any nutritional value, or laden with chemical preservatives and other additives.
We’re fortunate to know more about our dietary needs than past generations knew. Less fortunate, for us, is the fact that our decreased need for calories make it more important than ever to maximize the nutritional content of what we eat. This translates to fewer (or no) rich pastries and fatty main courses, and more vegetables, many of which we learned to dislike from childhood on.
The good news is that we have an ever-increasing number of healthy options from which to plan our meals. The bad news is that most of us don’t have enough discipline to limit our intake of the delicious, less healthy choices in favor of the ones we know are better for us. We need not be gluttons to feel guilty about what we eat nowadays, with constant (and often confusing or conflicting) advice coming to us from almost every direction.
Despite the disadvantages of living in the twenty-first century, I would not want to go back to the centuries before childhood obesity and diabetes were among the major concerns. Malnutrition, rampant infectious disease and increased rates of infant mortality would hardly be acceptable trade-offs. Despite frequent hand-wringing and doom-and-gloom polemics to the contrary, we are lucky to be alive today.
I’d rather feel thankful for the blessings we enjoy, and renew my determination to use them wisely — which includes sharing them with others, as well as remaining interested (but not obsessed) with eating wisely and well. I’m convinced part of the nourishment that comes with eating is emotional and social. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, as long as we don’t go overboard with it.
So as the holiday season approaches, I encourage you to celebrate the blessing of good nutrition — the joys of having variety, satiety and sobriety as essential features of our dietary delights. Santé!
One year ago today: