Most of us want to eat healthfully, but nearly every day there is a new report about our food which challenges our understanding of what is healthy. These reports create angst and uncertainty. As physicians and scientists, both a poison specialist and a lifestyle medicine expert, we have accepted that knowledge always evolves. These constant changes can be frustrating. When we share the latest with our families or friends, sometimes they throw up their hands in complete desperation.
In this article, we will address a few current and evolving food-health issues right from the doctors’ office…
Evolution of Man’s Need For Food. Sustenance, Enjoyment & Addiction
Humans need calories, protein, fats and minerals. Without the right balance, we get sick. For most people around the world today, food is about sustenance. For others, like the wealthy in Western society, food has become more about enjoyment than sustenance. We seek pleasure in the way food is presented and how it tastes. Unfortunately, pursuit of pleasure has created a relative addiction. Those addictions have led to choosing foods in excess that, we now know, can cause poor health. Furthermore, we have been guided astray inadvertently and/or purposefully in the food choices that we make.
The Food We Eat Can Cause Chronic Disease, But It Can Also Make Us Well Again…
According to the NIH, 69% of adults are overweight or obese, with 78 million adult Americans considered obese. Sadly, the prevalence of childhood obesity over the past 30 years, has more than doubled among children ages 2-5, tripled from 6-11, and more than tripled from 12-19.
“We have to stop this madness! Our food choices are making all of us and our children sick. What are the major culprits? Milk, meat, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and bread are 5 major contributors. Start by reducing* meat to a few times per month. Cut out all dairy, if possible. Stop buying soda and consider breads with ancient grains, rather than highly processed wheat. Start looking at sugar content on all items”, says Dr. Jeremy Stueven, Founder of Doctor of Living, a lifestyle medicine based clinical practice. He continues, “We need a new medical approach to reverse the rise in chronic illness, focusing on diet, exercise, avoidance of toxins, mindfulness and spiritual health.
What can you eat? Dr. Jeremy Stueven contends medical research supports that we should eat more plants and lots of them. We should be eating 1.5-2 cups of fruit daily and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily. Cauliflower and jack fruit are great meat substitutes. Wild caught fish up to 3 times weekly can be healthy. Drink lots of water! Healthy choices can heal our illnesses!
Two Major Food Myths Busted!
Myth #1: Our Best Source Of Protein Is Meat
Plant eating animals (herbivores), including the largest dinosaur that ever roamed the Earth, develop healthy muscle tissue living on a vegetarian diet. Vegetarians and vegans get 70% more protein than their daily needs. Raw meat contains 27% protein compared to soybeans at 34% protein. Spirulina, a bacterium cultivated into a powder, contains 65% protein, making it the world’s highest known source! We don’t need to eat meat to get protein. Myth #1 busted!
Myth #2 Our Best Source Of Calcium For Bones Comes From Dairy
No other mammal naturally drinks another mammal’s milk. Herbivores get all the calcium they need from a plant-based diet, yet “animals are not recognized as getting osteoporosis“. We simply don’t need to drink or eat dairy products for good bone health. Myth #2 busted!
Acute Illnesses from Our Food
According to the FDA, approximately 2% of adults and 5% of children suffer from food allergies. Each year, roughly 30,000 people require emergency treatment and 150 people die because of allergic reactions to food. When preparing foods for guests, be cognizant of this high-risk group. Ask your guests about allergies. If your food contains any of the following: nuts, eggs, dairy, soybeans, fish, shellfish or wheat be purposeful in sharing that information.
Eight people will die today in the USA from food borne illness and 250 will be so sick they will need to be admitted to the hospital. While ‘it must have been something he/she ate” is commonly the shrug off, it is no laughing matter to many.
Reduce* The Risk of Acute Food Borne Illness
Wash your hands. Clean hands prevent disease. Wash your hands before touching food you intend to prepare or serve. Wash your hands between working with foods you intend to cook and those you intend to serve without cooking. Wash your hands before eating, whether at home or at a restaurant.
Wash fruits and vegetables. If you could microscopically explore these surfaces you would see nooks and crannies that create hiding areas for bacteria and viruses. The garden, the orchard and even the harvest workers can host disease. Using water or a vegetable “spray will reduce* contamination.
Prevent cross-contamination while preparing. Assume the food on your prep counter is contaminated with harmful bacteria or viruses. Meats need to be kept separate from foods not intended for cook. Carefully wash the prep area between foods. When grilling, the plate and utensils used between the kitchen and the grill are contaminated. Use a fresh serving plate.
Cook to the proper temperature. The USDA has established guidelines for cooking poultry, red meats and fish. Food thermometers are cheap. Undercooking predisposes to foodborne disease. Overcooking may destroy the flavor. A food thermometer becomes an objective guide to cooking just right.
When choosing a restaurant for dining out, check out food safety ratings provided through your regional health department or reference Dining Grades, that has standardized grades across municipal and state lines providing consumers information needed to “Dine out with Confidence”.
Hippocrates’ words from around 400 BC still resonate today “Let Thy Food be Thy Medicine”. We recognize that we live in a world of lots of opinions about what we should and shouldn’t eat. Always ask yourselves where the information is coming from and what they have to gain. We know that food can make us sick, but can also renew our bodies. Make healthy choices by eating lots of fruits and vegetables, limiting meat, dairy and grains. When you prepare food, be mindful of people’s allergies and food preferences, without passing judgment. Wash your hands and your food to avoid toxins. Be careful with handling uncooked meat and with temperatures of cooked meat.
Overall, try not to worry too much. Enjoy your food, be healthy, be safe and have fun. What we eat has the potential to heal our bodies, minds and souls. It’s never too late to start eating healthy, clean food and restoring our bodies to their natural form.
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