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The Common Health Thread That Often Goes Unseen

EskimoFamilyFood glorification is common in the field of nutrition (often perpetrated by individuals who profit from books and products that focus on one “miracle” food).

Many “miracle food” claims go like this: a group of people in the world (usually an elusive tribe, for maximum marketing effect) eat “food X” on a regular basis and enjoy long, healthful lives; ergo, this one food will help you live until you’re 90, with fabulous skin to boot.

There is no doubt that, in certain cultures, healthful foods are daily staples.

However, when I hear things like “Eskimos eat whale blubber all the time and have low rates of heart disease!” or “there’s a tribe in the middle of Rwanda that eats nothing but berries and goat’s blood and no one ever gets cancer” I wish the conversation would revolve around what truly matters — what these people are not eating.

These healthful groups of people have very different diets, but one common thread — their intake of processed foods, added sugars, trans fats, and refined carbohydrates is very low, if at all existent.

The notion that eating wild salmon every night (“like the Eskimos!”) is the key to health is reductionist and silly if the foods one eats throughout the rest of the day are highly processed, artificial, or loaded with sodium and added sugars.

Yes, omega-3 fatty acids (to give one example) are very healthful, and the average adult in the United States can greatly benefit from adding more to their diet (from foods that inherently contain them, not fortified candy bars).  Let’s not overlook, though, that populations with superior health profiles don’t have Zone bars in their desk drawers, soda with lunch, or Cheetos as an afternoon snack.

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