Top 7 Nutrition Myths: Number 2

Myth 7: A Plant-Based Diet is Healthiest
Myth 6: Counting Calories
Myth 5: Government and Nutrition Organizations Provide Healthy Advice
Myth 4: Eating carbohydrates, especially complex carbs, is vital for health
Myth 3: Grains are Good for You
Myth 2: Exercise is Integral to Health
Myth 1: Saturated Fat Causes Heart Disease

Myth: Exercise is Integral to Health

In my university town, I see people running all the time. Despite this, many of these people are still overweight, and most of them get sick a few times a year and have a chronic sniffle. In Wheat Belly, author William Davis, MD, notes how skinny our grandparents and great-grandparents were in photos, including the women, despite the average housewife getting little to no exercise–certainly not running three times a week like some of my overweight friends.  Why is it that this housewife remained skinny and had a lower chance of being diagnosed with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc?

When I lived in China for two months, I noticed that almost no one was overweight, and older people walked without canes or walkers, and always appeared in good health. The Chinese person did not appear to exercise any more than us, and most of them worked too much to be able to exercise. (While some of them did do Tai-Chi in the morning, the vast majority of them did not). They also had a large population of smokers, and their air was so polluted that when you blew your nose into a tissue, the snot came out black. No joke. The difference between them and us? Their food. It was delicious, wholesome, and nutritious. When they went shopping, they bought whole, unprocessed foods, and cooked it at home. When I ate at a food court in a mall, I could see a cook in the back chopping up fresh vegetables.

If you think about it, exercising does not literally give our bodies anything it does not already have. What our bodies do not already have, however, is good nutrition–unless we provide it. Our bodies can and do adapt to being sedentary, a helluva lot better than they can adapt to what we put into it. I have yet to hear how doing a push-up can prevent disease, but the physiological process by which a given nutrient, say, vitamin D, prevents a particular disease can be explained. Yes, numerous studies show a correlation between regular exercise and health, but people who exercise regularly also tend to watch what they eat as well.

So how was it that many housewives in the past could live long lives, stay skinny, and without all the exercise? Because their diet of natural foods (and when I say natural, I mean from nature: lard instead of vegetable oil, butter instead of margarine, pastured animals instead of animals from Confined Animal Feeding Operations) provided them with an extremely high amount of nutrients, MUCH higher than the average diet of today.

Now hold on there cowpoke! I think everyone should get outside and run through forests, jump over creeks, cartwheel in the backyard , enjoy the sun, swim in some water, bike around the neighborhood, and in general exercise their butts off. I write this post not to diminish the importance of exercise, but to elevate the importance of diet as the main factor behind why people gain weight and become sick. A natural diet, rich in nutrients (that the body can actually absorb) will do wonders for the health. When you ditch the stuff that comes in boxes and bags and bottles and cans, and eat wholesome food from the farm, you suddenly feel…better, alive, and you have so much energy you want to exercise. Exercising is the product of good health, not the other way around.

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7 thoughts on “Top 7 Nutrition Myths: Number 2

  1. I think that this is such an important myth to point out. I know so many of my friends think that they can eat whatever they want (unhealthy, processed foods) and then counter-act that with a jog around the block. You and I both know that just doesn’t work. I think active lifestyles are important for health and balance in life but without a healthy diet to accompany it, the desired results won’t happen. Great post!

    • I would say that if your friends are going to choose one or the other, they should choose diet (however this can be expensive for college kids). Eating rich, heavy foods would make it so they wouldn’t necessarily have to exercise, but it would probably give them so much energy that they would want to complete their healthy regimen with outdoor activity.

      Either way I feel that exercise shouldn’t be something done because it has to be done, it should be done because it’s great to be outside and be moving! People who work out like that are undoubtedly healthier.

  2. Yes, I agree. However, I’m in what could be called the older segment of the population and know from experience that you have to keep your body moving if you don’t want to end up with a walker. In fact, I’m all for people who are desk-bound to computers to use a standing desk. Stay on your feet, guys! And eat healthy foods!

    • To be honest, most of the older population in countries where disease is low, as far as I’ve read, walk quite a bit. This was true in the city of China that I lived in for two months; the older people had to walk to the buses and down the sidewalks, but I wonder if it’s not the same in the big cities of the USA (I live in a small town where most people own a car and walking is not a necessity).

      However, I do know that a good diet will ensure that arthritis and stiff joints don’t happen (or don’t happen in excess), which can make walking without a cane or a walker a possibility.

    • For me it’s just getting out once in a while. If I don’t make my way through the forest and to the river every month or so I go stir crazy. I hope someday to be less busy and to get out more and exercise more outside.

  3. Pingback: Top 7 Nutrition Myths: Number 1 | Uncanned Health

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