If you knew there was a secret pill that could protect you from disease, give you energy throughout the day, protect you from getting colds and the flu, help your brain be sharper and more focused, and give you a more peaceful and happy mental outlook – would you take it? What if it wasn’t a pill at all but a simple change in what you ate? Would you do it? The most valuable New Year’s resolution you could make this year – Eat More Veggies.
We should all be eating more fruits and vegetables as if our lives depended on it…because they do. – Dr. Michael Greger, How Not To Die
In November 2017 a study came out conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that only 9% of Americans are eating the ‘recommended’ amount of 2-3 cups of vegetables a day, for some reason even though chronic disease is at epic proportions in the United States this wasn’t front page news. Since we know the only way our body can get certain nutrients to build the immune system is through fruits and vegetables, this should be alarming. What happens when we do not eat our veggies? Exactly what we see happening now – Americans are at greater risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and digestive problems. The proof is in the pudding, or lack of eating vegetables rather;).
Over 10 years ago, my grandmother, sister, and I stopped at a Blueberry Farm near the Tennessee/Alabama border to pick blueberries. Something I love to do every summer. We picked 5 baskets full of blueberries. We paid for our baskets and as we were pulling out of the driveway of the farm, the owner came running out asking us to stop. We stopped and she handed me a pamphlet about the health benefits of blueberries. She told us with such passion and excitement how she was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago and in those two years she ate about 1 pint of blueberries everyday, and how she was now cancer free for over a year. It was my first glimpse into this thought that food is medicine.
Let food be they medicine, and medicine by thy food. – Hippocrates
Like most Americans, I grew up believing that food is just something we are suppose to eat 3 times a day, and other than weight, food has no real effect on our health. If we are sick it is because of some outlying force that is attacking our body – right? Wrong.
One day I went to eat lunch with my daughter at school. As she opened up her lunch and unveiled tomatoes fresh from our garden, basil, grapes, carrots, hummus, and a coconut chia bar, another little girl exclaimed, “You eat some weird food.” To which another little girl said, “Yeah and she’s never sick either.” It was an epiphany moment, as much as I believed in the goodness and benefits of eating fresh whole foods I had not really reflected on the direct impact it was having on my family. Sure I understand that eating healthy is beneficial to a more healthy life, but still in my mind colds, flus, soar throat, running nose – all of those things are caused by outside sources, right? The answer is not always, and the truth is with a strong, healthy immune system it will fight with all its might to keep any sickness at bay. This doesn’t mean it can knock out everything, but it certainly can provide an advantage in the ring. Here an 8 year old girl, not a doctor, not a certified nutritionist, just a young girl with enough discernment to see the connection between diet and sickness stated something that so many doctors never address. My daughter does not get sick very often nor does our household thankfully. The last time my daughter was sick was 3 years ago when we suffered the sudden loss of my stepfather. It was at that time she was prescribed an antibiotic, when the nurse asked, “What antibiotics does she normally take?” We replied, “She’s never had an antibiotic.” I’m pretty sure at that point the nurse didn’t believe us, she replied, “So she’s 8 years old and has never had an antibiotic?” “That’s correct.”
Ironically the side effects of eating healthy can be not having to take drugs. – Dr. Michael Greger, How Not To Die
What will you eat today? That is perhaps the most important decision you will make today. It will determine how you feel, how much energy you have, how many disease causing free radicals will be roaming in your body, and how many antioxidants will be in your body to fight disease.
Look around next time you are out in public – do you see what I see? Do you think it is normal that so many of us are obese and in poor health? Do you think it is normal that nearly half of Americans suffer from heart disease, while the heart disease rate in Europe is less than 1/4 that of the United States? Do you think it is normal that a generation ago children with Type 2 Diabetes did not exist and now it is a national epidemic? Do you think it is normal that we consume so little ‘real food’ with nutrients that could help our bodies fight disease? Do you think it is normal that we eat so many cupcakes, cookies, brightly colored icing drenched cakes, donuts, and ice cream?
Dessert used to be a treat now there are cupcake stores where some people visit everyday to eat a cupcake. Dessert is consumed at every single meal by a vast majority of Americans and it is the one food served anytime there is ANYTHING to celebrate – Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Friday. For most Americans ‘dessert’ is actually the first meal of the day. Cereal, donuts, pop tarts are the daily breakfast choice for many Americans – foods that contain no real nutritional value. What these food do to your brain is make you crave more and more. Not only are we as a country obese, we are also hungry. When we consume high calorie, low nutrient food, it captivates our brain’s reward circuit much like cocaine or gambling – we are addicted and never satisfied.
“Oh it will make you hate food,” stated a friend in reference to the recent documentary “Forks Over Knives.” I thought, “What do you classify as food?!” We have refined, processed, and chemically altered our food to the point I’m not sure it should be called ‘food.’ In fact Professor Paul Lewis coined the term ‘frankenfood’. There is no way our bodies can get the nutrients that they need from these refined, processed, and chemically altered foods. The nutrients we find in nature and in locally or organically grown food cannot be found in the food most Americans consume on a daily basis.
Being a gardener, my passion for real food has grown (no pun intended;). I have witnessed first hand the extraordinary miracle of putting a seed in the ground and watching it grow into the tastiest, prettiest food you can imagine. I have learned that there are over 400 species of vegetables, over 400!!! And they all exist naturally and fuel our bodies with goodness and help us fight disease. I have tasted the difference in freshly grown produce and big grocery store bought produce and there is absolutely NO comparison – freshly grown produce is the best tasting food you can put in your mouth full of flavor and full of nutrients.
I had never liked radishes but as a gardener people kept insisting I grow them. After some persuasion and learning that their harvest time is 21 days, I grew them and what I discovered is this – they are so peppery and delicious. Now I eat them raw I love them so much. The problem wasn’t radishes, the problem was mass produced radishes that because of being chemically modified and sprayed with pesticides were left with no flavor and lacking of nutrients. Since I love to learn about every food I grow, I also learned this:
- Radishes are very good for the liver and stomach acting as a powerful detoxifier. That means that it purifies the blood and eliminating toxins and waste.
- Radishes are very filling leaving you feeling satisfied without the calorie count.
- Radishes contain Anthocyanins which have been the subject of numerous medical studies, and have been positively linked to reducing the occurrence of cardiovascular disease, and they have shown anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Radishes aid in digestion and water retention.
- Radishes are a natural diuretic.
This is just an example of ONE, just ONE, type of produce. Imagine the benefits of eating lots of locally or organically grown vegetables and fruits every day. Our ancestors ate 8 or more times the amount of vegetables and fruits that modern man consumes daily. If we want to change this system that feeds us mass produced frankenfood that is making us sick, we have to start by answering “real food” to that question of “What will I eat today?” Buy what fruits and vegetables are in season from your grocery store, visit your local farmers’ markets, grow your own food – these are sustainable decisions that will directly effect your health and your family’s health. One of the most important things you do today will be putting real food on the table. It will be the best medicine you can take. It isn’t full proof, but it sure gives us a fighting chance.