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WE are what we eat and drink, philosophically and medically.

Diet plays a most significant role in our health and longevity more than genetics and exercise in most instances.

Food provides us nutrition and also stimulates and controls the natural production of hormones, electrolytes and other chemicals, good or bad, depending on our mood and what we ingest.

Our body chemistry determines how we think, act and behave, the same way drugs, prescription or illegal, influence our psyche and demeanor.

Literally, the food we eat and the liquid we drink are digested and metabolized into chemicals in the body.

The various chemical reactions that follow are reflected in the person’s thinking, feeling, mood, disposition and judgment — all of which eventually affect health and longevity.

While exercise and our personal attitude also stimulate chemical reactions in our system, for this discussion we will concentrate on the effect of diet.

Diet determines life

What we have at the end of our fork and spoon in most days determines what bodily chemistry takes place inside our body during those days.

According to the 2013 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “diet ranks as the single most important factor when it comes to premature death and diseases.”

For example, occasionally eating chocolates or one’s favorite decadent snack stimulates the secretion of the happy hormones, resulting in a sense of joy and satisfaction, which is a positive state of mind.

Some of the major vital hormones are:

•Serotonin: Serotonin, the happiness hormone, regulates the mood, prevents depression and makes us feel happy. This substance can also be triggered by exercise, exposure to sunlight, or by eating foods rich in carbohydrates.

•Endorphins: Endorphins, also feel-good hormones, reduce your anxiety and our sensitivity to pain, and also released with exercise.

•Melatonin: The hormone secreted by the pineal gland that controls our circadian rhythm for normal sleep cycle. Now in a pill, it helps fight jet lag.

•Ghrelin: Gherlin is a relaxing hormone that lowers stress and anxiety. Hunger triggers release of this hormone. So, it is best not to eat a lot to full satiety where the Ghrelin level would fall. To maintain a good level of Ghrelin, push yourself away from the table less than full, which is a healthy habit, anyway.

•Dopamine: Dopamine induces  mental alertness. The lack of or reduced level of dopamine causes lack of attention and concentration and leads to bad moods. Eating foods rich in protein stimulates the secretion of dopamine.

•Phenylethamine: Phenylethamine is the substance that results in the feelings we get in the early stages of a relationship or love, and the good feeling following ingestion of chocolates and products from cocoa beans.

•Adrenalin/Epinephrine: This is the substance secreted in a fright, fight or flee situation when we face a catastrophe or an emergency. It prepares the body, sharpens our senses, and tones the muscles, ready for combat.

The ‘ideal’ diet?

Medical science and nutrition continue to evolve in man’s quest for the “ideal diet” and the fountain of youth that would lead to the healthiest body and the maximum longevity potential of every person.

From low-fat diet to low-carb, from Atkin’s diet to South Beach, to Mediterranean, to Paleo, and now to Pegan diet.

While Atkin’s emphasizes low-carb diet and allowed more meat and generous about calories, unlike the South Beach diet which is also a low-carb diet but also restricts red meat.

Both are advocating liberal amount of vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, olive oil and whole grain.

Vegan diet prohibits any food from animals, limiting its diet to mainly vegetable, fruits, nuts and legumes.

The Paleo diet is heavily focused on meat, a diet mimicking the diet of our Paleolithic cavemen ancestors of 10,000 years ago, who laboriously hunted for their food, also eating berries and nuts, not much vegetables because there was no agriculture then.

Pegan diet combines the best of paleo diet and vegan diet, to provide a balance and sustainable, easy-to-follow, daily eating habits.

While Paleo diet is heavy on red meat as the main event, the Pegan diet makes meat only a side-dish, with the large portion of vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruits, olive oil, as the main dish.

Scientifically, the Pegan diet appears to combine all the good features of the Adkin’s, South Beach, Mediterranean, Vegan and Paleo diets into one, with calorie-counting, which makes sense.

A fascinating trend

It is easy to notice nowadays that the human civilization is trending towards the past, the original old-fashioned natural ideas and ways of living, except in the continuously evolving world of technologies.

The women’s dresses, for instance, which used to cover their body from the neck all the way down to their feet, are now with plunging low neck lines, baring part of their breasts, and skirts up to mid-thigh, reminiscent of the cave woman’s bare-breasted past.

The popular addicting soft drinks of the past, like Coca Cola which was introduced in 1896 to practically all households, like other soft drinks that followed, are now gradually waning in sales, and purified water and its various forms are today gaining popularity around the world.

We seem to be going back to the past, and the trend is more natural and healthy.

We are today also zeroing on ecology by curtailing man’s abuse of Mother Earth to manage global warming and save the only hospitable planet we know.

And so goes the trend in our diet to maximize health and longevity.

People are more health conscious today, thanks to the various media, especially the Internet.

Anyway, besides benefits from daily exercise, abstinence from tobacco and moderation in alcoholic intake, the bottom line on diet is the obvious evidence-based medical recommendation that all refined and processed foods, and soft drinks are toxic to our body and responsible for the major diseases killing us today, including cancer...and that low carbohydrate, low to moderate lean-meat (preferably fish and chicken), generous portion of vegetables of all kinds and colors, nuts and other hi-fibers foods, are healthier for us.

The only ingredients in the recipe we need to add are our wisdom, personal responsibility and resolve.

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