Eat Well and Live Well
How many times have you filled your car's tank with premium gasoline (perhaps only a memory now, with today's gas prices) or carefully fertilized your houseplants? We understand that the machine is only as good as the fuel it was given. You would never put fertilizer in our gas tank, or pour gasoline over your houseplants. You know what is best-and worst-for running each 'machine,' whether it is mechanical or natural. Yet when it comes to the human body, we treat food as merely something to fill our bellies and please the palate. When improper substances are added to the tank the machine breaks down. Anyone can understand the logic, yet it wasn't until 1988 that the Surgeon General C. Everett Koop released the Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health, which was the governments first formal recognition of the role of diet in disease.
A healthy diet provides energy to every cell in our bodies; supplies essential nutrients that the body is unable to make itself; and provides the raw materials for cell maintenance and growth. If you are missing one or more essential nutrients you are malnourished.1 It is possible for the overnourished individual to be malnourished,1 which is the profile of the common human, particularly in the Western civilizations.
For hundreds of years isolated groups of people, such as American Indians and the poorer classes, did not commonly have diseases such as heart disease and cancers. Those were considered the rich man's diseases, for only the wealthier classes could afford to have meats, pastries, and other rich foods appear regularly on their table. When technological progress allowed even the poorest of people access to rich and refined foods, the incidence of heart disease skyrocketed.
According to the American Cancer Society, one third of cancer deaths are related to poor nutrition.2 Many medical practitioners believe the numbers to be far higher. The annual cost of cancer in the United States alone amounts to $107 billion.3 Coronary artery disease results from reduced blood supply to the heart. It is known that diet is the major factor in preventing and treating heart disease, yet more than half of Americans have cholesterol levels above the recommended maximum of 200mg/dL. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer and cost the United States $286.5 billion in 1999.4
What foods contain the nutrients essential for our growth? Not surprisingly, the perfect diet was given to us not by a government agency in the 20th century, but by God to our first parents.
"And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat." Genesis 1:29
Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains provide all the fuel and nutrients our bodies require for health and vitality. At least three-quarters of Americans eat less than the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.5 The average Western diet consists of meat, dairy, and highly refined foods such as white bread, and most bakery products. Vegetables and whole grains appear as afterthoughts in small portions on the plate, if they appear at all.
But doesn't my bowl of Sugar Bombs that I eat each morning contain 100% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals? The label also says it contains wheat, isn't that good for me? Let's examine that for a moment. The little wheat kernel, packed full of nutrition, takes a trip from the farm to the mill where it is processed into soft white flour. In doing this, the parts that contain the majority of the vitamins and minerals and all the fiber-the germ and the bran-are removed. Often, these nutritious parts are sent back out to the farm where it is fed to livestock. Then, the manufacturers add a selection of cheap vitamins (that the body cannot easily absorb) so that they can now label their product as enriched. Does this sound like the height of nutrition to you?
Although many choose to take supplements, vitamins and minerals are best absorbed from food and are naturally balanced in food sources.6 These foods are best eaten as close as possible to how they came from nature. What could be better than a fresh juicy peach on a warm summer day or a bowl of steamed vegetable stir-fry to enliven a winter's afternoon? How many of our diseases could be prevented by eating for nutrition instead of merely satisfying the taste buds? There's a saying familiar to most dieters: a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips. Although not as catchy, it could be paraphrased into: a moment on the lips, a lifetime of paying for the damage.
Nutrients are required for life and health. Junk food and refined foods are poor sources of nutrition and can contribute to disease. Nature provides the ideal sources of fuel in the form of whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Think about what you are planning to have for your next meal.
Written by Sheryle Beaudry, RN,C, BSN - Copyright © 2000
1 Biology, Neil A. Campbell, PhD, The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Redwood City, California, 1990
2 All Cancers, Chronic Diseases and Their Risk Factors, CDC Report 1999
4 Total Cardiovascular Diseases, Chronic Diseases and Their Risk Factors, CDC Report, 1999
5 Poor Nutrition Among Adults, Chronic Disease and Their Risk Factors, CDC Report, 1999
6 Vitamins and Minerals, Andrea King, Reviewed by Patrick Remington, MD, MPH, American Medical Association, 1999