Food is a subject near and dear to my heart. I don’t consider myself a “foodie”, but I do love to eat, and I love good food well prepared. I like my food as fresh as possible, and I tend to stay away from processed food as much as I possibly can. It is a little more work in some cases, but it is worth it, for many reasons.
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to “go on a diet”, I hope you will consider the following:
- Eat out less – better yet, commit to eating dinner at home 6 days a week
- Eat less processed food (which leads to number 3)
- Eat more whole food (food as close to nature as possible, with no additives or preservatives)
- Lean more towards vegetables, fruits and grains, and less towards meat, poultry and fish
In my own life, this is how I try to live. This is not to say I am always successful, but I place a high value on my health, and I have learned that the two greatest factors in the state of my health are 1) diet and 2) exercise.
I have very personal reasons for the choice to make health my first priority. I was adopted as an infant. Consequently, I do not know my Medical History. I have no idea what possible diseases or tendencies run in my family. So I am playing it safe – I am doing everything I know to avoid anything that is brought about by poor diet and lifestyle choices.
And make no mistake – most of the health issues we see rising in this country and around the world are caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices (aided by some very smart marketing executives and well-paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C.!). Do not be deceived – there is much you can do to avoid many of the conditions and diseases people have come to believe are just part of life.
For instance, the following nutrition-disease links are well-known:
- Calcium and bone health
- Sodium and hypertension
- Saturated Fat and cancer/coronary heart disease
- Fiber and cancer/coronary heart disease prevention
- Fruits & Vegetables and cancer prevention
- Alcohol and liver cancer
With the Human Genome Project, the science of nutrigenomics (the effects of food on gene expression) has proven scientifically the relationship between whole foods, or elements of whole foods, and disease prevention. It has also shown that whole foods work synergistically. For example, the benefits of combining various vegetables in a salad are greater than eating a single vegetable, because the nutritional elements of each vegetable work together. Even the best multi-vitamin-mineral tablet cannot duplicate Mother Nature’s storehouse of nutrition.
There is also a relationship between the ingredients in processed food and disease:
- Trans fat and heart disease, cancer, digestive disorders,
- High Fructose Corn Syrup and cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and hypoglycemia
- White sugar and obesity, cancer and diabetes
- Artificial sweeteners and cancer and metabolic syndrome
- MSG (monosodium glutamate) and nerve damage and vision loss
The following link is an excellent source of information on the top ten additives to avoid and why. http://www.foodmatters.tv/_webapp_427697/Top_10_Food_Additives_to_Avoid
I am fond of repeating something I heard from Dr. Mitra Ray (http://drmitraray.com), a biochemist and health activist. Processed foods contain ingredients to extend shelf life – that is, they retard spoilage by deterring bacteria. If bacteria will not eat a food, why would you? The best example of an illustration of this is the Happy Meal that did not decompose after 6 months. You can see it here. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1319562/McDonalds-Happy-Meal-bought-Sally-Davies-shows-sign-mould-6-months.html.
Is this something you want to eat – or to feed to your children?
And speaking of what you are feeding your children, check out the difference between the Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars sold in the U.S. and those sold in Europe. http://www.fooducate.com/blog/2010/12/02/nutri-grain-fake-color-and-why-do-american-kids-deserve-less-than-europeans/
After reading these articles, it should be clear that while food companies go to great lengths to convince us that they are interested in our health, they are much more interested in our money. They are, after all, in business to make money. But the rise of dietary disease parallels the rise of the “food businesses” of the 20th century.
Before industrialization, we mostly grew our own food and ate it before it spoiled. There are movements advocating that we return to a simpler food model, notably the “Slow Food” movement (http://slowfood.com/) and not merely for dietary reasons linked to disease prevention – it’s also an environmental issue and a political one as well. Don’t believe me? Read this article about corn – http://www.corporateknights.ca/article/killer-kernel.
Food, as an issue, is complex. Food as nutrition, at least for me, has become simpler as I have gotten older. The best diet, and the one I try hard to adhere to, is the one found in the opening line of Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food”.
“Eat food, not much, mostly plants.” (http://michaelpollan.com/reviews/how-to-eat/).
I have moved closer and closer to a vegetarian diet with each passing year. There is so much evidence that it is the optimum diet that it’s hard to ignore. Even Weight Watchers has moved in the direction or “more plants” with its new program, PointsPlus+ (http://www.weightwatchers.com/).
If you want to try going vegan, The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine has a wonderful program that will help you: http://pcrm.org/kickstartHome/.
If at this time of year you have determined that it’s time to get your nutritional intake in order, please consider my suggestions, especially the one regarding dinner at home 6 nights a week. In addition to being a great way to spend time with family and friends, it’s a great way to try new recipes, control more of what you eat, and cut the cost of eating out.
Best of health to you in 2011!