Monday, April 30, 2012

The Best Medicine in the World

Your doctor maybe never mentioned it; he might not really know much about it. Pharmaceutical companies certainly don't want you to know about it; they are too busy promoting the overuse of drugs. The US government supports the big agribusinesses by promoting the same old eating habits.

100_3284.JPG by Kathy Sterndahl
This is it! The best medicine in the world is eating a diet based on fresh produce.

Most Americans are eating a health-destroying diet that is high in fat, salt, sugar and animal-based foods, even though this diet is the main cause of obesity, heart disease, strokes, high cholesterol, and cancer.

According to the American Dietetic Association: "A well planned vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Vegetarians also appear to have lower LDL cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than non-vegetarians. Furthermore, vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates."

Remember the Good Old Days?

The thing is, we are the hippie generation. Remember back in the 1960s and 70s when vegetarianism became a fad along with pacifism, drug use, sexual permissiveness and the protest culture? Remember Mother Earth News? Going back to the land? Growing your own veggies in your own garden?

Sure, we grew up and it made sense to grow out of some of those things. But why did we let go of the gardens and jump into meat-eating so easily? And meat may not even be the worst of it. Processed foods - the stuff sold in cans and boxes and as frozen meals, most of which wasn't even available back then - are full of salts and sugar and chemicals that make us sick.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you are still eating that junk because you think eating vegetarian will deprive you of the food you love. Or that you will always be hungry eating rabbit food. Or maybe you think you can't get enough protein eating vegetarian.

So I'm going to help you come up with a plan to move closer to vegetarianism a little bit at a time. Maybe you won't go all the way, but keep in mind that every single step you make in the right direction is a step toward better health.

A Tiny Step in the Right Direction

Step #1 is just to reduce the amount of animal-based foods you eat and start adding a few more fruits and vegetables to your diet.

Even the government recommends that we all eat 2-3 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables every day. Few Americans eat anywhere near this much fresh produce. So, this week, try to move closer to meeting this goal. Eat the produce first and then see how room you have left for meats.

Keep in mind that the more animal products a person consumes, the greater the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Think about the meals that you already eat that may be vegetarian or can be easily adapted to vegetarianism. Pasta primavera. Chiles rellenos with beans and rice. Stir-fried veggies with tofu and rice. Portabello mushroom 'burger.' I'll bet you can come up with a lot more. Write them down. Make a list and post it on the fridge. Give your body the gift of one meat-free dinner this week. If that is easy, make it two.

Let's Do It Together

Approximately once every week or ten days, I'm going to help you do this by passing on another idea or two to make the change easier for you. I hope you will join me in this quest. Every step toward a vegetarian diet will be one step toward a healthier retirement.

I was already so close to being a vegetarian that the final step wasn't difficult, but it has taken a long time for me to get where I am. Over the next few months, I intend to move closer to eating a vegan diet - no animal products of any kind. No dairy, no eggs, not even honey.

But that's me and what I want. I'm not going to push you to go farther than you can comfortably change. Don't even think about that right now. Just take this tiny little step for now.

This Week's Assignment

1. Add some fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet each day.

2. Make a list of meat-free meals that you already enjoy.

3. Plan and eat at least one meat-free dinner this week.

4. Why not share what you come up with by commenting to this post? It can help others who might be having trouble coming up with ideas.

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