Happy Valentines Day (in a week)!
I would like to dedicate this post to my beloved father. He recently underwent triple bypass (open heart surgery) due to occluded coronary arteries. Considering his father and many other relatives have had similar issues, I am reminded that I must be extra cautious to ward off the Grim Reaper!
Of course, part of heart disease (and many other ailments) is genetic. You always hear the story of that man who ran marathons and dropped dead of a heart attack; and the lady who smoked all of her life and lived to be 90. That leads some to believe that lifestyle really doesn’t affect your longevity. I believe differently. I believe that taking care of your body now increases chances of a longer life; and perhaps more importantly, better quality of life. Of course I am no physician, dietician, or any other expert in the world of health. So, my disclaimer is to listen to those qualified experts for specific instruction. Most, if not all, of what I recommend is not radical or dangerous. Following my advice will at worst do nothing, and will likely improve your life now and later. Remember, you are in charge of your life. You can make the decision to feed your body what it needs and deserves.
The single, most important thing I believe you can do for your health is to be informed and proactive. Know what you are eating. Read not only the nutritional facts, but especially the ingredients. Being healthy is sort of a fad nowadays… that is a good thing because it means health food is more readily available. However, marketers take advantage of this trend and identify their food as healthy, regardless of what the truth is. They put “Low Fat” on the front of packaging, and many people will pick that food up, assuming it is good for them. However, you will often find that these foods add lots of sugar, salt, or other additives to make up for the lost flavor. Most labels such as “low fat”, “low sodium”, “natural”, etc. are not regulated. The only ones I know of that are regulated are USDA Organic-the green and white circle, and Fair Trade. Be careful even with these, organic may mean it is free of preservatives, but it still may contain lots of added sugar, salt, fat, etc.
A few other rules I live by, that go along with the above statement:
I shop wisely. Whatever you buy at the grocery store and have around the house is what you will eat. If it’s not there, you won’t eat it. If you plan and read labels at the store, you won’t have to worry about it until your next grocery trip!
I almost never buy foods with high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils in them. I won’t go into the why, but basically these ingredients are a result of extensive processing.
I make sure whenever I buy any grain product; cereal, crackers, bread, tortillas, etc., that the first ingredient is some sort of whole grain; not enriched, refined, or any other variety. Just because it is wheat bread, or the crackers say “whole wheat” on the front, doesn’t mean it really is.
The farther your food travels to get to your plate, the more chemicals and processing it has likely undergone. Whenever possible, I buy local food. Over time, vegetables and fruit lose nutrients. Local produce has a short time between the ground and your mouth, making the nutritional content so much greater than food that traveled from far away. Traveling food will also get lots of chemicals so they look pretty at your grocery store. Local (and organic) is the way to go!
And finally, people become obsessed with what not to eat. Fat, sugar, salt… Yes, this is important to be cognizant of. But perhaps we should consider what to eat. I’ve said it before, and will a hundred more times: the more whole the food (i.e., the closer to its real, natural form), the better it will be for you (99% of the time). If you stick to what the Good Lord provided for us, and avoid what man has turned that into to… your body will appreciate you. Not only will this practice result in fewer ‘bad’ fats, sugar and salt, but it will make your body stronger! A stronger body means better health, no qualms!
It is really great that the general public is becoming interested in health. Use that to your benefit; we all know that saturated fats should be limited, trans fats avoided completely, sugar and salt limited, antioxidants are little miracles, as are probiotics. Don’t fall into the marketing scams; actually look at what it is you are feeding your body! And of course, food was created for our nutritional benefit; and should therefore be consumed in its most natural, whole state! Now go forth and enjoy some REAL GOOD food 🙂
If you feel overwhelmed by all the options of food out there, don’t be discouraged! Practice makes perfect; a little effort now will result in grocery shopping ease in the near future. You will be able to more readily recognize what is ‘good’ and what’s devoid of nutrition! Also, education is very helpful. Read a book, browse a website or even watch a show. My personal favorites are Dr. Oz and Jordan Rubin.
PS- Next I am going to share how to make the best salad dressing your palate has ever encountered!