Eat to live or live to eat

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Recent estimates by medical historians suggest that our brains and digestive tracts have been unchanged for 150,000-300,000 years. Of course, our ancestors had different food options and priorities than we have today. But have you ever honestly thought about where your priorities lie when it comes to eating?

Healthy food on a plate

Picture from Sara Dubler on Unsplash

 "You are what you eat"

This proverb allows many interpretations. But here I would like to take up two views in particular. Our body is constantly renewing itself - tissue, bones, muscles, blood etc.. To do this, it needs energy, building materials and auxiliary substances. In our diet, these are carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. We are therefore made of our food. But I see the second view of this proverb as even more important: we eat for what we are or what we do. There is no one right way to eat - even though we are always told so in the media. Our lifestyle influences our nutritional needs, and if we meet these needs ideally, we are healthy and able to perform. If we fall short of our nutritional needs in quantitative (amount of food, i.e. energy measured in calories) or qualitative (food composition) terms, our performance and, in the medium term, our health will suffer.

The chicken-and-egg problem: exercise or diet 

The main reason why diet-related diseases such as obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases have increased sharply in the last 60 years is that we, as a partially digitalised service society, are much less physically active. But this is exactly what our bodies are designed for. A healthy amount of exercise keeps the body going and, to put it very simply, also makes it better able to cope with food. While for centuries we have always struggled to have enough food, today's affluent society is primarily concerned with ensuring that its diet conforms to social, ethical and fashion trends, while making us look extremely attractive. This puts enormous stress on our 300,000-year-old brain. Neurologists even go so far as to say that ( the mixture of stimulus overload and lack of exercise undermines our nervous system and thus disrupts our natural sense of hunger and our very sophisticated energy management, ultimately resulting in the high incidence of obesity and co.

But what is right for me now?

At first glance, it seems that the more science discovers, the more difficult it becomes to do everything right. However, I would like to give you 7 simple tips with which you are already doing a lot right for your well-being and your health:

  1. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, preferably outdoors, in the company of friends or family and without being distracted by music or films.
  2. "5 a day": 2 fist-sized portions of fruit and 3 portions of vegetables provide you with valuable dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.
  3. Minimum ingredients and packaging: when shopping, choose foods that have a short ingredient list or even only one ingredient and little packaging. This automatically gives you a lot of unprocessed, ergo fresh and home-prepared food.
  4. There are no bad nutrients! There is no point in branding carbohydrates or fat or glorifying anything that has a little more protein. Our bodies need the right amount of each. All extreme diets increase the risk of deficiencies.
  5. Eat slowly and consciously: when we eat slowly, we feel fuller. When eating, you should not stare at a screen, your attention should be on the food and your head should have a break.
  6. Eating is so much more than just taking in food: food has a highly social and emotional side. Sharing a meal with others and enjoying it is important. Food should not isolate us or force us into an uncomfortable corset.
  7. Trust no one on (social) media: a provocative statement in a blog, a ber the product of information quantity and quality is mainly confusion and commercial influence instead of constructive knowledge transfer.

Perhaps you are disappointed at this point because you were expecting concrete proposals and strategies? I did that on purpose. Take this article as an impulse to observe or even write down your eating habits and priorities. See which of these 7 tips you follow and try them out and let me know what you learn.

Author: Dani Hofstetter has a Master's degree in Food Science and works independently as a nutrition consultant with top performers in sports, business and medicine. More about him at


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