When I was growing up my mother, a nurse, pretty much followed the then-accepted USDA guidelines for meals: a good size helping of protein, 2 vegetables, and a starch like rice or potato or pasta. We did not eat additional bread with dinner, but mom was a baker and we almost always had dessert. One side benefit: I learned to cook from scratch.
Some time in my 20s I dated a guy who was going to medical school. He convinced me that I was not eating a well-balanced healthy diet and urged me to take vitamins. He thought one-a-days were not the way to go. Instead, I soon was taking multiple tablets, covering my vitamin and mineral needs.
My mother was appalled and equated my vitamin usage to my sisters’ smoking habit. Really Mom? I ignored her but over time, the daily regimen got tiresome and expensive and so, I stopped.
When kids entered the picture I once again went back to preparing meals more on my childhood model. I cooked from scratch almost all the time but enjoyed certain prepared items. For example, I purchased bobolis instead of making my own pizza dough in those days.
Time passed. Kids grew up. I started visiting farms and learning how much our food system had changed.
One issue I read about was about the declining nutrient value of the fruits and vegetables we are eating today compared to those I ate as a kid. This article from the April 27 2011 issue of Scientific America confirmed it.
- Dear EarthTalk: What’s the nutritional difference between the carrot I ate in 1970 and one I eat today? I’ve heard that that there’s very little nutrition left. Is that true?—Esther G., Newark, N.J.
- It would be overkill to say that the carrot you eat today has very little nutrition in it—especially compared to some of the other less healthy foods you likely also eat—but it is true that fruits and vegetables grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today. The main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion: Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows. Sadly, each successive generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant carrot is truly less good for you than the one before.
These farming methods used chemicals to try to enrich the soil. And then in the mid 1990s things changed even more with the beginning of genetically engineered seeds and genetically modified foods. All of a sudden the gastro-intestinal issues my daughter had had since her teen years might have a simple solution. And similarly, so might some of my own health issues.
So, even though we had no known food allergies, we ran a 6 month experiment. Where ever we knew the farmers’ growing practices, we purchased that food. Where we needed another ingredient or food, we switched to organic.
Our effort was to try to improve the nutritional value and cut out even more chemicals, either inside the food as an additive or inadvertently absorbed by the food because of the conventional growing practice.
Six months became a year and now several years have passed. Oh, I’m still eating sugar and whenever Graham and I make a good effort with a South Beach diet, cutting out and then re-introducing carbs at lower levels, I do much better. But overall, I have this to report:
Unless I eat indiscriminately at any old place away from home, I feel much better. No more tummy troubles. Hardly any twinges from my arthritic joints, and what exists is at a level easily handled by an herbal compound. I sleep better and wake up feeling high energy.
So, we will be on the road again soon for a trip. While I have researched a few restaurants for several dinners out, I suspect we will run into some eating compromises.
Travel……eating well at home……travel…….eating well at home…..I LOVE to travel, so I will enjoy and cope and eat well again when we get home.
What about you? Ready to try a new experiment and see if changing your diet can help you feel healthier?
July 20, 2014 at 5:36 pm
Perfect is nonexistent. Working towards healthy is the most we can do. We all have a choice. Some of us can make it. Some chose not to.
July 20, 2014 at 5:35 pm
I can’t remember just when logic suggested to me that food produced on a limited amount of chemicals wasn’t going to provide the same amount of nutrients. I do remember saying it and most folks thought I was nuts. I was thrilled when I finally read some research to back up my suspicions. I also had a theory a long time ago (in the 80s) that diet sodas made people fat. I observed in the supermarket that so many obese people were all buying diet sodas by the caseload. Since then I’ve seen research that backs up my theory. It seems that any sort of sweetener sets off a chain of metabolic reactions that can lead to obesity.
I can’t claim any moral high ground because it seems some switch went off in my brain that made any added sugar or sweetener taste awful. Where I blow it is definitely not getting enough exercise to be truly healthy. In other words, I haven’t reached ‘perfect’ yet. 😀
July 20, 2014 at 5:38 pm
PS Those ‘eating compromises’ when traveling seem to be hitting me harder all the time. It does make things a bit more difficult. Then again, it helps to take along some healthy snacks.
July 20, 2014 at 5:58 pm
I was thinking today that I will be performing what many people consider an act of stupidity: I will NOT be eating at In-N-Out Burger while we are in California. While it might taste great, the after-effects will not be worth it.