Last week I read on Rodale.com that nonstick pans raise your risk thyroid disease, along with other problems like infertility. I sent a copy of the story to my husband because, many years ago, he brought home a nonstick pan to replace our cast-iron pans and I made him get rid of it. He thought it was better since it wasn’t so heavy. I thought it was not better because lifting my cast-iron pans was the only daily weight lifting I was guaranteed to get. He thought it was better because you didn’t have to use things like olive oil and butter to keep food from sticking. I thought it was worse because after all, butter and olive oil are the secrets to good cooking. He thought it was better because it was “modern technology.” I thought it was worse because it seems like most newfangled things turn out to have something terrible about them a few years down the road. Of course, I was right.
So it made me think about how I have navigated the ever-changing, confusing world of new versus old, healthy versus unhealthy, and dangerous versus safe. I see almost every report and study that says this is good for you, this is bad for you, and often they contradict each other in the same week. So I have learned over the years to use a combination of trend spotting and good old-fashioned common sense. Here, then, are my five rules for navigating the hazards of life:
1. The closer something’s origins are to nature, the better it probably is for you. So therefore, butter must be better than margarine, fresh broccoli is better for you than deep-fried broccoli cheese-stuffed bites dipped in ranch dressing, and water is better than soda. Glass (which comes from sand) and paper (which comes from trees) are better than plastic. And cast-iron pans are better than nonstick.
2. Everything in moderation. That includes exercise and desserts, meat and ideologies, work and potato chips.
3. Keep it all in perspective. There are exceptions to every rule. My in-laws, who have been microwaving in plastic since the 1980s, are healthier and have lived longer than my mother, who refused to even own a microwave. It’s probably never just one little thing that does us in, but combinations of lots of things—and at the end of the day, and of our lives, it’s how we lived our lives in total that matters.
4. Activity of all kinds is what keeps you moving, but rest is just as essential. The people I know who have lived the longest, healthiest lives have stayed active through everything from walking to housework to gardening—but have also known that good rest, naps, and time off are important, too. I have known enough athletes who end up severely injured from overtraining to understand that if you don’t give your body and soul the rest they need, you’re in trouble sooner rather than later.
5. Organic is the only label you can trust. It may not be perfect, but it’s the only thing we have that lets us know there are no chemicals, no GMOs, no antibiotics, no sewage sludge, and no hormones applied to our foods—and, thus, to our environment and our bodies.