This year I’ve spent more time than I’d like receiving care in the American medical system with a heart ablation and one new knee. Luckily, I have good Medicare coverage and I’ve had good care for the most part. However, I’ve experienced our health care system that rarely focuses on disease prevention and healthier diets. Also, I’ve met many people who perhaps would have had a better outcome and less disease if they had better nutrition than the S.A.D. (standard American diet) provides. In case you aren’t familiar with it, the S.A.D. consists of ultra-processed foods, and many sugars, fats and salt (lot of fast food).
In addition to the uneducated medical community, we have “big Pharma” companies pushing drugs for every ailment which benefits their financial goals. The food industry is of the same ilk, making food that causes addictions and keeps us unhealthy. They over-process food, produce it with massive farms using pesticides, GMO’s, Round-Up and inhumanely caging animals to be killed. And those animals eat things that aren’t necessarily healthy for them, so that when we eat them, we internalize what they’ve eaten too. By the time we eat many foods, the nutrients have been cooked out, or are lacking in them from soils that are not rotated in planting. The processing makes foods tastier and addictive by adding more salt and sugars. In a way, the agriculture/food industry and pharmaceuticals seem to be in cahoots keeping us unhealthy so that we need more drugs, surgeries and medical care.
In a few of my medical procedure recoveries, where I hadn’t eaten for many hours and therefore was very hungry, I was offered a snack afterwards. I’d ask what they had and be dismayed at the selection, usually chips or cookies, never fruit or nuts. I got wise to this and began bringing my own along. I suppose most people don’t think twice about these options, but I was confused, especially for certain medical conditions like cardiac where you should lower your sodium yet are offered something with much salt.
Much of this is because the public and the medical community are uninformed, and not trained in nutrition nor taught the dietary connection with disease. Even watching the staff eat their lunch at times made me wonder about their own decisions and lack of education. Making some simple substitutions would likely improve the lives of their patients and also reduce the need for many drugs and surgeries.
When I grew up in the 50-60’s, we didn’t have many processed foods, or fast-food options. Even GMO’s and some of the pesticides used were not part of the food production. My parents were even luckier living on farms where they got fresh foods sans herbicides. TV dinners were a new phenomenon. My mother cooked and baked for us and we usually had fruits and vegetables daily.
Because of that, there are very few veggies that I don’t like. Unfortunately, we did eat some things that I no longer eat like bologna and hot dogs. And when times were good, we would often eat out at a buffet on Friday nights and try new foods like Chinese cuisine. I like a variety of foods, but I am choosey on where and what I eat based on what I’ve learned and the quality I feel I am getting.
About twenty-five years ago, I began learning about the ingredients in our foods and body products. I began selling healthier products after selling Avon for many years, and discovering how unhealthy the ingredients were. (I now sell essential oils and Lemongrass Spa products.) Read labels on personal care products too! There are many to avoid. I was attending college after work too and took a nutrition class for my science credit, as well as many alternative health courses, like homeopathy, herbs, etc. I read books like The Fast-Food Nation and was appalled over what I learned and very rarely go through any drive-throughs since. I wish they had healthy drive-throughs, but apparently no one has taken it on yet (I would if I were younger). I also have watched many doctors on PBS talking about aging and disease and the link to our diets. And I began following The Food babe online who goes after restaurants like Panera to make the food options healthier. (Sign up for her newsletter at Foodbabe.com). She did her own research after being sick for years, and overcame her health challenges by changing her diet.
As I chatted with others in the rehab center with me recently, I learned about their many medical conditions and also saw and talked about what they enjoyed eating. Many of their dietary regimes caused me concern and it seemed that there could possibly be some correlation with some of their ailments. It seemed their diets included fast food, prepared canned and frozen dinners, dining out at places I will not eat at and few cooked their own whole foods at home.
If you continue to eat all of the sugar and salts in those processed foods, how can it not affect your mind and body? One man in rehab had many bouts with cancer after growing GMO” S with Round-Up and saw no correlation between the two. To me it was a huge red flag! I started asking for creative foods at rehab (like spinach salad with fruit and nuts) and having some brought in to me by friends, after my first four days were full of indigestion and little sleep. My body didn’t know how to process their foods. Much was salty, I doubt they used real cheese when cooking with it (see https://www.thedailymeal.com/eat/what-exactly-american-cheese/), and their thin bread was not whole wheat. I would be surprised if anything was organic. At home, I use most everything from condiments to cereals that are organic. I won’t even start on the waste I saw and lack of recycling.
Do people even know what a ‘whole food’ is? Can they identify vegetables and fruits if presented with them. Do you eat them daily? I once saw a television show where the host demonstrated to children how chicken nuggets were made (yuck!) Yet after watching it, they still were willing to eat them! Not I! And when shown a tomato, most couldn’t even identify what it was.
In my nutrition class, thankfully I learned how to read labels and still do to see their sodium content and ingredients. Did you know most salad dressings and sauces contain corn syrup? This has been linked to diabetes and is one item I try to avoid. The first ingredient listed is the most prevalent one and then each subsequently in order of content. Also, packaging is required to show the sodium, sugars, etc. and that is important to read. Many frozen dinners have a great deal of sodium, as do canned goods (a few have low or no sodium options now).
Naturally, my family and friends have a wide and varying take on their own diets and don’t always understand my quirkiness with food. I like a variety, just want it to good quality. Some are only concerned with weight loss and looking good (and often drink diet sodas which I will not consume because of the taste and the fake sugars). Others will eat anything, anywhere. Some are vegetarians, some are into Keto diets or low carb. (I try to eat many vegetarian meals per week, but enjoy a variety of foods to do it all the time though I don’t eat a lot of meat.) Many are fine with fast food drive throughs. I understand the convenience of fast food, but not the health benefits and I wish there were healthier drive throughs. If I want a burger, I make a grass-fed one at home. I still eat at places that are semi-fast like Chipotle. Only a few friends are concerned about eating organic. Of course, I enjoy eating out and realize most of it is not organic, but when I buy for home, it often is. Luckily, I enjoy cooking and baking and creating meals; I missed that in rehab a great deal. I also enjoy growing my own tomatoes in the summer; nothing tastes like them!
Each of us is free to make our own dietary choices. While doing so, please consider the possible correlation between diet and health. I would encourage you to become educated in this area by watching documentaries, exploring articles and books on the topic, encouraging/insisting the medical community learn more about nutrition, making better choices, having fun cooking your own food as often as you can, reading labels and being your own advocate for your health. Also, check out the list of the dirty dozen (foods that contain the most pesticides, and therefore should buy organic always): https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dirty-dozen-foods
Remember the saying, ‘you are what you eat!‘