Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One Mouthful at a Time . . . Eat Your Way to Good Health

You change the oil in your car regularly—or should. Do you check the coolant? Would you say you pay more attention to the gasoline (and the price of the gas) you put in your car than to the food you put in your mouth? What about the interest on your credit cards? Paid off each month or carried over time? Does the balance slowly but surely creep up? The point is where do our day-in / day-out attentions and priorities lie? We are on the one hand a society of excess, and one of our more impressive excesses is how much and what we eat. On the other hand, we are a “time-challenged” society, and what we eat often has to do with how cheaply and how fast we can feed ourselves and our children.

But is that what you learned in high school P.E. class—that day you studied nutrition?

Here’s a big part of the overall problem. You can Google anything. In fact, Google “nutrition” and you get 93,300,000 hits. Too much information. We have all the knowledge in the world about everything in life, but has all that knowledge made an impact on our individual health? Who’s to blame?

Remember when Mom (or Dad) sat down and talked about the ‘birds and bees?’ Probably. Remember when Mom (or Dad) sat down and talked about proteins, and carbs, and saturated fats? Probably not. Where exactly did you learn about nutrition—on the school playground, huddled around “Nutrition Today Magazine” with your best friends, at the movies, online, or maybe, at the school vending machines?

The point is, most of us never learned about nutrition. But all is not lost. It’s never too late. Especially when you consider that an astonishing 80 percent of your quality of life is related, at least in part, to what you eat. In part, nutrition is in learning how to balance caloric intake with the number of calories burned. If you consume more calories than you burn, the excess caloric energy is going to be stored as fat, and you’re going to gain weight. But, there’s also the part of nutrition that’s about “nutrients,” the chemicals our bodies get from food. They’re used to build muscle, improve cell-to-cell transmission, manufacture hormones—and more. And, it’s those essential nutrients: amino acids, vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, and yes, sugars, that we need—but need in the right combination and amount.

One of our big problems is that about one-third of all American meals consumed are prepared foods. And the big problem with prepared foods is that for the most part, their contents are not nutritionally balanced. We can’t even pronounce many of the contents and ingredients, much less define what they contribute to our nutritional needs. Combine our lack of nutritional knowledge and our obsession with processed foods, and you can start to see why we have a problem. But, and here’s the big but, we also have a solution. We are the solution—each and every one of us.

Do you read labels? Are you ready to step up? Are you ready to make nutrition part of that 80 percent of your quality of life you can control? Is there a good reason why not?

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