It turns out that what we put into our mouth is not nearly as important as what we believe about what we put into our mouth. It works like this.

If we truly believe that a food or food group is good for us (i.e., important to maintaining robust health), but we seldom eat it, for whatever reason, we are asking for trouble. Likewise, if there are foods and drinks that we know (i.e., strongly believe) are "bad" for us and we consume them frequently anyway, we are setting ourselves up for health problems in the future. Here's why!

Another name for beliefs is expectations. For our optimal well-being, our beliefs about what we consume or don't consume need to match our strong desire to be fit and healthy. When we are regularly taking actions that are thought to be in opposition to our desires, the result is stress. It shows itself in the form of feelings of guilt, remorse, anger or other negative emotions about what we've eaten, haven't been eating or the amount of food we've been downing AND it can eventually result in an unwanted health/disease condition.

The stress that builds up over time because our eating habits are not in sync with our desire to look, feel and perform at our best causes the stress hormone, cortisol, among others, to be released into the blood stream on a regular basis. Cortisol blocks the release of human growth hormone (Hgh). The release of Hgh into the blood stream starts the process of repair and regeneration of cells to counteract free-radical damage and the general wear and tear associated with aging. Cortisol has priority in that its job is to deal with the imminent threat that stress is perceived to pose. Therefore, energy is diverted from digesting food, killing microbes, repairing and regenerating cells, and other everyday functions in order to deal with the stress. If this disruption happens too often, we end up with dis-ease.

Nutritionists would have us believe that what we eat should match the latest findings of science (which are, as we well know, in constant flux -- e.g., first coffee is bad for us, then it's beneficial and then the latest findings determine that it is harmful -- or is it? ...). At present, the experts might say, for example, that we need a low-fat diet high in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and plenty of pure water. This sounds good with what we currently know, but ignores the fact that folks around the world thrive with very diverse eating habits:

•The Tarahumara Indians of northwestern Mexico, known for running 50, 80 and 100 miles at a time, thrive on a diet that's about 80% complex carbohydrates (almost exclusively corn, beans and squash) and a little meat / high-protein sources.

•On the other hand, the Eskimos (Inuit) of the northern frozen tundras in the early 20th century (before the Coca Cola trucks, etc. arrived) did quite well on a diet consisting almost completely of meat and fish with as little as two percent complex carbs (not too many peach trees up there in the Arctic).

•The inhabitants of Okinawa (island off coast of Japan), known for their longevity and overall well-being, eat few or no eggs or dairy products.

•In contrast to the Okinawans, the long-lived Bulgarians have a diet extremely high in dairy (cream, cottage cheese, kefir, sour cream) and eggs.

•Should we add that the inhabitants of the Greek Island of Crete consume a supposedly heart-stopping 40% of their calories in the form of fat, but not too long ago had a death rate from heart attacks that was only one-twentieth of the U.S. rate?

And how about this? There is a man living on Mars -- Mars Candy bars, that is. This gentleman from Liverpool, England, from the ages of 20 to 37, ate only Mars bars (12 or so per day). But not to worry, he also drinks large quantities of orange juice and takes his vitamins to balance his diet. Then, during weekends, he branches out and splurges by adding mixed alcoholic drinks of rum, vodka and -- you guessed it -- pieces of Mars bars blended in. Finally, his belief is that he's perfectly healthy on this extreme diet and he has no plans to change it.

Then there's the 88-year-old, as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, who had eaten 25 eggs a day (can we say compulsive disorder?) for 15 years, and who nevertheless maintained a normal cholesterol level.

Finally, there's the septuagenarian whose claim to fame was eating multiple hot dogs each and every day. When asked on the Tonight Show whether he fried his franks, he said something to the effect of -- of course not, frying foods is bad for you (his belief, shared by many).

These people and individuals have very diverse diets, but are among the healthiest and long-lived in the world (or at least seem to be doing okay in the case of the Mars bar, egg and hot dog eaters). What they all have in common is that they believe that their eating habits are healthful, or at least not very harmful in the case of the individuals mentioned, due to their experiences.Their beliefs to a large extent match their desires for vibrant well-being, and the result is low stress in relation to what they eat, which promotes good health and longevity.

The truth is: The easier thing to do is to align your eating habits with your beliefs about what is good for you. The harder way to go is to try to change your beliefs so you can eat whatever you want. Bottom line: Find healthful foods you like and eat them often and save the decadent desserts and treats for special occasions.

Always check with your health-care provider before making any lifestyle changes.

Author's Bio: 

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From Ed Mayhew -- the author of Fitter After 50, Fitter For Life and other books, CDs, videos and articles on how you, too, can make falling apart as you age merely an option -- NOT a mandate. Why not make the rest of your life the BEST of your life? and (click here for paperback or Kindle editions of AGE BLASTERS)