You will often read articles in the press and social media about things to do to improve your health. Eat Blueberries, says one. Do Oil pulling, says another. A third one will recommend drinking half a litre of water on an empty stomach upon waking up or kombucha or tea with kefir leaves. And so on. The more exotic, the more people will be curious and willing to try it.
But the fact of the matter is, health is more often a matter of subtraction rather than addition. It is a list of things we ought to stop doing, rather than start doing, to improve our health. These are things which we
(a) know are bad for health (the “black” areas)
(b) suspect are bad for health (the “grey” areas)
(c) have absolutely no clue that they are bad for health (the “white” areas)
The “black” areas are the known bad actors. The ones we clearly know are bad for our health, the ones we know we need to stop doing, need to subtract from our lives. Stop smoking. Stop Drinking. Don’t do drugs etc. But though these are real problems, they are not as bad as the things we do, not knowing that they harm our health. These are the grey and white areas. Let us take grey first.
Refined sugar is a classic “grey” case. It's actually dark grey, almost black .. Look on the Internet, and I doubt if you will find a single article extolling the virtues of refined white sugar. But you will have to search a bit more to find out the ill effects of sugar – but they are there. Cavities in your teeth and weight gain are things you can understand. But Cardiovascular problems, inflammation, diabetes, insulin resistance? Yes, these are related to sugar too. You will be much better off subtracting (or at least significantly reducing) sugar from your diet
Meat is another example of a “grey” area. Everyone agrees that over-consumption – at least of red meat – is not a good idea. But there are many voices that say it is good for protein, strength and so on. The true extent of the problems meat causes is not well known. But if you do your research, you will be surprised to see what you will find. That subtracting meat from your diet will do you more good than harm. Many people are thus making conscious efforts to subtract, i.e. reduce the amount of meat they consume.
The actual danger areas are the “white” areas – where almost everyone is extolling their virtues and hardly anyone pointing out the problems with them. Instead, people who call these out are either ridiculed or thought of as tree huggers, conspiracy theorists or worse. Milk is a classic “white” case. Ask a hundred people, and ninety-nine of them will say it's good for health. Bringing about change here, asking people to subtract milk and milk products from their diet is challenging. But that’s where the value is.
Good luck in identifying the black, white and grey areas in your life!
Author of “I am NOT a Doctor”