Fruits should be eaten in moderation as well. According to the Rambam, fruits are healthy but not in big amounts and only when ripe. And the healthiest fruits are grapes , figs and almonds. However, in todays world where most fruits are tampered with and where many fruits are not organically grown, we need to exercise caution when consuming fruits. Grapes often are seedless, which is not the way grapes were originally created. Even organic fruits are often not the best quality anymore. They may be grown with organically approved pesticides or on organic soil, but that does not mean they are 100% healthy or to be trusted. Most fruits are picked before ripening and then artificially ripened, which also affects quality. So the rule of thumb is to try to get organic fruits and to eat them in moderation. But they do provide vitamins and are a good addition to a healthy lifestyle. They also provide fiber and have a calming effect on a person, especially in hot weather. They also can help for constipation.
That is another point: weather matters. In hot humid climates one’s diet will be different than in cold climates. The Rambam (Maimonides) discusses this as well, mentioning that in cold weather one needs more meat and food in general. Hot weather requires cooling foods and less food, as digestion is more sluggish in the heat. But it goes further than that. In hot weather one needs more fruits and vegetables and raw foods and less fatty and heavy foods. In cold weather one needs more fat, and hot foods such as soups and hot drinks to give proper energy and heat to the body.
For example, people who suffer from arthritis may find it is worse in hot, humid climates….or for some, it gets worse in cold damp weather. Depending upon what aggravates the condition will be the solution: if the cause is damp heat, specific herbs and diet will be prescribed. If the cause is cold or damp cold, the prescription of herbs and diet will be different. This is part of the Chinese medicine system. And even in western medicine, it is acknowledged that for some, cold weather makes arthritis worse. For others damp or hot weather increases pain and swelling. That is why many people are advised to live in hot dry climates, and it often is helpful.
Now let’s talk about vegetables. Everyone knows vegetables are healthy but in general vegetables are better when organic… if truly organic. There is a lot of corruption concerning organic produce so try to buy from a reliable responsible source. Nevertheless, avoiding dangerous pesticides is always beneficial so the more one can purchase organically grown produce is advisable. If the cost is prohibitory at least look for produce grown in a healthier way, perhaps on small farms which use few pesticides and are more natural. And definitely try to avoid gmo crops! I have noticed that certain vegetables (beets for example) would cause me digestive issues if they were not organic, but the organic ones I can eat with no problem. So there definitely is a difference when it comes to organic, but hopefully the produce labeled organic is truly so. There is another issue with vegetables: they may even be organic, but the soil is not necessarily very healthy and can actually be lacking minerals, so the foods grown there are not great quality and can even negatively affect our digestive systems. If we can grow our own foods, in re-generated or virgin and organic soil, that is certainly healthier. When we go to the grocery store, we often see bright, colorful fruits and vegetables….but when we look closer, many are not ripe, many are wilted and old looking and the quality is not what it should be. Peaches, if picked when ripe, are nutritious. If picked when unripe and ripened off the tree, I am not sure how healthy those peaches are. Tomatoes grown in a proper , healthy soil are good. But many tomatoes these days, especially from Mexico, are grown in hot houses. They often are grown hydroponically. How healthy are vegetables grown in water as opposed to healthy earth? So many things look good, but are they truly of much benefit? That is one reason vegan diets can be a problem because the vegetables nowadays do not offer the amount of nutrition needed. So many of our fruits and vegetables are missing minerals and that is why many people are depleted in minerals. Teeth decay easily, bones lose calcium and in general there are many health issues that arise from mineral depletion.
I remember as a child going berry picking up in the country and the berries were tiny, flavorful and had an amazing smell. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries…they were all small and healthy. Nowadays, even the organic berries are large and do not look like a berry should look. So what is going on? Even organic foods are somehow manipulated or changed or given certain “organic” chemicals which make them grow bigger etc. But it compromises other aspects of health or taste. Unfortunately, in America, the quality of food has gone down a lot. Back in the 1920’s , a carrot in USA had almost no vitamin A because of the soil quality! Imagine today…….but organic carrots should still be a better choice, and they are not expensive.
Vegetables form the basis of most recipes in many cultures. They are combined with beans or other proteins, but they are always eaten and considered beneficial in so many ways. I do advocate for vegetables but again, each person reacts differently to different vegetables. Some people can eat lots of cruciferous vegetables…some people cannot. Some people do well with potatoes; some find it flares arthritis. (in general, some people with arthritis find that night shade vegetables such as tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes and eggplant could aggravate inflammation). Some people can eat salads and feel great; others become bloated or find that they get diarrhea or other stomach issues. Some people can eat onions but others react to it with itching or other symptoms. Every person’s constitution differs and that has to be taken into consideration.
Another issue is histamines: some vegetables (including fermented ones) are high in histamines and for people who are sensitive to that, too much can cause reactions.
Vegetables (especially greens, sprouts etc) provide micronutrients which are beneficial so there is a place to incorporate them in one’s diet. Some people cannot tolerate a lot of raw vegetables and eat more steamed or cooked ones. Greens are important. We should eat more green vegetables, both cruciferous ones like cabbage and kale and broccoli, and also salad greens, or even herbs like basil and parsley. Middle eastern diets use a lot of cooked salads but they garnish them with parsley and other raw greens. This is a healthy way to balance one’s meals with a variety of salads and flavors. However, many greens grown today are grown in hot houses or in water rather than earth…many are lacking real nutrition. So even though greens are supposedly healthy, it depends on how authentic they are and how they are grown and where they are grown etc.
When food is tasty with proper healthy spices, it enhances one’s meal and makes it easier to eat a balanced diet. Food needs to have flavor but not to be full of sugar or oil or even salt. One needs to use herbs and good quality spices, which also have medicinal benefits. Spices are also helpful for digestion. For example, in many cultures cumin is used with beans. Not only for flavor, but because it helps to digest the beans and prevent gas. Ancient cultures knew the medicinal value of different spices.
Let’s talk for a moment about beans. Many diets advocate using beans for health (including the Esselstyn diet). Paleo is against all beans. Many people say beans have a lot of phytic acid and the skin of beans is really hard to digest as well. Some people claim those who eat beans live longer. I would say beans can be healthy and are a good source of fiber, but if a person has a really hard time digesting them, and they throw their system off too much, maybe for that person beans are not great. Or, perhaps certain beans are good (for example, some people can eat lentils or chic peas with no problems but red beans or black beans are very hard to digest. Some people can handle soy beans but cannot eat other beans) Soy beans are “healthy”, but only if the soy is organic and if the products made from soy are fermented , such as miso or tofu. Soy milk may not be the best. There are studies indicating one should limit one’s consumption of soy. Other studies show soy is very healthy and even contains all the amino acids. We are talking about health versions of soy, not soy protein isolate. Soy must be organic and even better if fermented like tofu. So, like with everything else, there are conflicting opinions and data, and one needs to use everything in moderation, according to how that food affects one’s particular constitution and digestive system. Every person is unique and reacts differently to food.