To really know about health, is to properly understand your own body and its functions, but not just a theoretical learning from words and pictures. Experiential understanding is needed and this grows from awareness in action. To best learn more about your own body and its workings where that awareness can be systematically developed, yoga is the best way I have ever heard of.
Breath, food and sex. The 3 most necessary elements for survival of the human species. For some, reproduction of their genes and continuation of the family lineage is not such a strong instinct, but for every one of us on this planet, we need to breathe constantly and eat regularly just to keep alive. It's just the quality that's the problem these days, (but I won't go into that here)! And in the food department ... well ... there's definitely big problems happening here - all over the world. From extremes of shortage to extremes of wastage, never before has the planetary kitchen been so disorganised.
We in the so-called "civilised, first world countries" look at the images of the poor, starving peoples in their lands of famine, and naturally feel great compassion for their state of under-nourishment. From within the comforts of our own domicile, we feel secure in the knowledge that our next meal will be coming just when we want it. Relative to the starving nations, malnutrition (or bad imbalance of diet) is thought of as highly unlikely in our culture. But is it in fact? We imagine such a thing can happen to a few "poverty stricken hillbillies", "drunken winos under a bridge" or "street kids" struggling to make ends meet. But isn't death by heart attack due to hardening of the arteries from excessive cholesterol from over-indulgence of fatty foods, a case of malnutrition? Isn't death by lung cancer due to nicotine poisoning a case of malnutrition?
Isn't death by liver failure due to years of alcohol abuse a case of malnutrition? What about throat, stomach and bowel cancers caused by years of dietary excess? So many diseases and deaths in modern times can in some way be attributed to consumption of substances in either too small or too great amounts. This, in the broadest sense of the term, equates with malnutrition. The many chronic day-to-day ailments which people just learn to live with or medicate to a point of insensitivity have causes connected with poor consumption habits.
All of this suggests we should reappraise our definition and understanding of the term "malnutrition".
So what is the basic cause of this blindness to our own social reality? Neither as individuals nor as nations, have we ever been properly educated about such subjects. We have never been taught to properly respect our bodies and as a result we have continued on with our affluent attitudes taking our cultural wellbeing for granted. From the earliest age we have been denied the lessons on basic skills of good eating and nutrition. For most children, meal times were solely for pleasure (or else discipline) rather than for education, exploration and health understanding. Although many parents may try to feed their family well, the messages of the media are nowadays a far more persuasive force in the eating habits of children. Where are the public role models for good food, good health and long productive lives? As growing girls and boys, our self images were partly created by advertising for convenience foods, snack foods, compound foods, processed foods, "cool" foods, recom-mended by sports heroes (all between the ages of 20 and 30)! The "best" food was considered to come from the most expensive restaurants. Home cooked food was branded "ordinary, troublesome, too time consuming for busy lives". Children were banished from the kitchen unless a cake was being made, "only girls do home economics", "tinned produce is as fresh as you can get". Such are many of the previous and present generation's eating myths.
The inner workings of our bodies have been hidden, vulgarised or medically jargonised such that it requires 6 years of university study to properly understand the workings of the body and advise people on their health. Bodily solids and fluids were to be disposed of as quickly as possible and never mentioned again. The details of internal illnesses were only to be whispered about between the closest of family or friends. The real causes of death are often euphemised to cloud the layman's understanding of medicine. Folk remedies and natural therapies are frequently pilloried as "unscientific". These common mindsets have helped to keep people in the dark about how to look after their own health and manage illness self dependently.
Surrounding all these areas of food, health and the body, there are strong and long held forces of ignorance and fear. The best known antidote to both these bogies is education, which usually arises from finally realising in oneself - "I've had enough of not knowing". As adults we can choose this, but children can't. They are simply extensions of their own