When I was about fifteen years old, my uncle, who lived next door to us, developed diabetes. Since he was a widower, having lost his wife to cancer a few years prior, my mother helped cook for him. Back then diet was about 99 percent of diabetes control, so everything had to be weighed and measured carefully. There also were special “diet” foods that were loaded with saccharin or cyclamates and tasted worse than cardboard. I know this to be true because I had to eat the same food as my uncle every night. My mom read somewhere in the diabetes literature that the special diet and lifestyle were so healthy that some diabetics were healthier than a “normal” person. Maybe, maybe not. All I knew as a teenager was that I wanted to sneak across the street to the new Jack In The Box that had just opened and hungrily wolf down a Jumbo Jack or two.
The “diabetic diet” back then may not have been very palatable, but neither was much of the stuff you found in the health food store. There was one health food store in the neighborhood and it was a cramped dingy little place that didn’t even carry any fresh fruits and vegetables or dairy products. It was mostly row after row of vitamins and supplements. Fast forward to today when you can walk into any Whole Foods Market and eat healthy and delicious, albeit a little expensively. Here are a few other common sense ways that you can improve your health without moving into the woods and living on wild hickory nuts:
The number one rule to keep in mind is education. The huge amount of health-related information that is out there today can be a little bit daunting, but there are many websites as well as published literature that can help you. Avoid gurus that say all you need to do is read one all-inclusive book to get perfectly healthy overnight. It’s better to become your own best health advocate by doing your own research from reliable sources. The first step is to educate yourself about what foods and drinks and medications that you are putting into your body.
You really are what you eat. Try to think of new ways to prepare and enjoy vegetables. The fresh ones are still better than anything that comes out of a bottle. Fresh vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals as well as phytonutrients that help slow aging, fight disease, and feed our cells. Try new ways to prepare old favorites such as stir frying, sautéing, or baking. Explore your local farmer’s market and check out new ones.
In with the good and out with the bad. Now that you’ve increased your intake of the good stuff, try to cut out most of the junk. Avoid processed foods whose ingredients read like a chemistry book. Cut down on the sugar, soda, fatty snacks, excess alcohol, and caffeine.
The next important thing to do is exercise. It doesn’t matter what kind, but find some type of activity that you enjoy and be consistent with it. Regular exercise prevents depression, promotes sleep and cardiac function, and helps prevent osteoporosis.
Drink plenty of water. The stuff that comes out of the faucet may or may not be OK, but with natural spring water, you also get the benefits of the minerals contained therein.
And finally, meditate. Studies have shown that people who practice some form of spirituality have healthier immune systems, lower blood pressure, and are able to fight off stress better.