By Don Bennett, DAS

One of the keys to a happy and healthy life is balance. We'd all agree that having good balance as we walk is a good thing, and balancing a checkbook for some people elicits a sigh of relief. And there's no doubt that emotional balance is what allows us to experience the joys of life. But now let's talk about balance as it relates to information.

When you look at something in isolation, you can get a distorted view. If you find and focus on a health-promoting aspect of something, any health-damaging aspects that exist can become overlooked. Indeed, if you try, you can take almost anything that would be universally recognized as an unhealthy thing, and find something positive to say about it, but obviously that doesn't make it a good thing to consider.

An article on how to get a good night's sleep can include, among the healthy suggestions, the recommendation to drink a glass of warm milk. With what is known about dairy products today, some people no longer drink it (see health101.org/milk). Why does the article on getting a good night's sleep contain the benefit (milk can help you sleep), but not the detrimental items (contributes to osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, MS-like symptoms, contains hormones that can upset your hormonal balance, pasteurization can damage nutrients, homogenization makes it a rocket fuel for cancer). Wouldn't a tea containing valerian root be a better, healthier suggestion? Or how about a lamp that mimics a sunset which causes the brain to make melatonin which helps prepare the body for sleep? Why not suggest a healthier alternative that still fills the bill, but one that doesn't have any detrimental properties.

And an article that suggests that eating fish helps prevent strokes doesn't mention the health-damaging aspects of fish (PCBs, mercury). And since most fish is cooked, the healthful Omega-3 fatty acids are damaged in the process. So even though the fish oil may indeed make blood less sticky and therefore less likely to clog blood vessels, on balance, is fish such a good thing to eat? Isn't there a healthier alternative that can help prevent strokes without the negative aspects of fish? Sure there is, but by not including that information in the article, and by not mentioning the unhealthy aspects of cooked fish, the article isn't a balanced one.

And what about the idea that cooking food makes certain nutrients more bioavailable? You'll see articles about this, but they fail to mention the dozens of nutrients that are made less available from cooking (and they fail to mention that the amount of the increased nutrients are plenty when consumed in uncooked/raw tomatoes for example). Not a very balanced way of looking at the issue of cooked food versus plant-based foods that can easily be eaten raw.

And yes, drinking wine has been shown to improve cardiovascular function. But the news stories that tout this factoid don't mention the health-damaging aspects of alcoholic beverages, which, on balance, make them a poor choice for maintaining a healthy heart and arteries (and by-the-way, it's the red in wine that's healthy, not the alcohol). Isn't there a healthier alternative that still provides the same benefit without the harm? Sure there is (red grapes and anything red). But you don't hear about that in that news piece, making it an unbalanced piece of information.

And what about the discussions that contain people at both ends of the topic's spectrum? Eating a vegan diet is very health for you. No! Eating a vegan diet is unhealthy! Very often, the truth can be found somewhere in the middle... where there is balance. Eating a vegan can be a very healthy way to eat, much healthier than the Typical Western Diet, but it can also be less healthy than the Typical Western Diet in some important respects. But those at both ends of the discussion won't know about the nuances of the vegan diet that exist in the "middle" unless they stop living in the extremes of the issue where "all things considered" does not exist.

What can you do about unbalanced information? If you don't see pros and cons mentioned, or, where health is concerned, healthier alternatives and a discussion of both benefical and detrimental aspects, then there's probably information that you're not getting. Important information. Information you need to make an informed decision... a decision that's in your best interest. A decision that has the potential to be an investment in your future health.

So don't focus on just the good or just the bad, focus on looking at something on balance; all things considered. In most cases this will require further research. Yes, that's time consuming, but, on balance, aren't you worth it?

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Don Bennett is an insightful, reality-based author, and health creation counselor who uses the tools in his toolbox like logic, common sense, critical thinking, and independent thought to figure out how to live so we can be optimally healthy.