Today I have a special treat from a guest blogger! I think it is great how this is a place where we can share others ideas as well as our own. Enjoy!
How Good Food Makes Us Healthy and Happy
By Leslie Vandever
What is good food?
Quick answers: It’s food that nourishes. Food that doesn’t make you fat. It’s food that tastes good and feels good in your mouth and in your belly. It’s food that generates smiles.
Hippocrates, that famous old physician/philosopher once said, way back in 430 BC, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Even all those centuries ago, people knew that eating good food had a beneficial effect on their health.
But not just physical health. Good food effects mental health, too. Protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals are essential parts of a good diet. The lack of any of them can have profound physical consequences, including the way the brain functions. But what, exactly, is good food?
Michael Pollan, the author of In Defense of Food, wrote that we should, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Sounds like “good food” to Mr. Pollan, from all his research and experience, is mostly vegetarian, eaten sparingly. The result of that particular diet would result in, for most of us, a slender body and a sharp mind.
Good food makes us happy by helping us feel nourished, full of energy, and light on our feet. It has to taste good, too, or we won’t want to eat it. But we’ve got to be careful. A drive-through hamburger and french fries taste good, but they’re also clogged with ingredients that cause plaque in our arteries and makes our blood sugar spike. That burger and fries also contain two-thirds of a full day’s calories for most people.
That doesn’t mean we should never eat fast food. We just need to make it the exception rather than the rule.
To be healthy and happy, we should eat a tasty diet of vegetables and fruit, whole grain breads, pasta and cereals, low-fat dairy foods, and lean meat, fish and eggs. MyPlate.gov, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrition webpage, suggests that when we fill our dinner plate, half of it should be full of vegetables and fruit. A quarter should be filled with grains (half of them whole grains), and the last quarter of the plate should be proteins in the form of lean meat, fish, nuts, beans or legumes. Low-fat dairy foods—1 percent milk, low-fat cheeses and yogurt—can be a portion of the meal. Good fats, like canola oil and olive oil, are OK in small amounts.
Another way to eat healthy is to eat, as much as possible, fresh foods rather than processed and packaged foods. Grocery shopping becomes really easy when you eat fresh: you shop mostly the perimeters of the store, making only a brief forays toward the middle for low-fat dairy foods, nuts and beans.
Cooking fresh is simplified, too. Most vegetables taste best raw or very lightly steamed, but for a treat, roasting them with a light brushing of olive oil is a delicious way to go. Meats and fish should be baked or grilled rather than fried, and whole grain breads and pastas are filling and satisfying. Desert can be as simple as low-fat yogurt topped with blueberries or as complex as an apple pie with a whole grain crust and a blob of homemade whipped cream.
By sticking to fresh foods, simply seasoned and prepared with a minimum of fat, meals can be naturally low in calories but rich in all the good things that make us healthy. Choosing a wide variety of foods makes a “good” diet worth eating.
Some foods can make us feel better than others. Sugary foods and foods that are made with a lot of fat and refined flour, like cakes and cookies, and high-carbohydrate and salty foods like potato chips might taste good, but in large quantities or as a routine snack, they’re a health—and happiness—no-no.
“One cannot think well, love well or sleep well if one has not dined well,” wrote Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own. How right she was.
For more information about eating a healthy diet, click here.
Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer. Under the pen-name “Wren,” she also writes a blog about living well with rheumatoid arthritis called RheumaBlog (www.rheumablog.wordpress.com). In her spare time, Vandever enjoys cooking, reading and working on the Great American Novel.
· ChooseMyPlate.gov (n.d) U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved on February 22, 2014 from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
· Nutrition for Everyone. (2012, Sept. 27) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on February 23, 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/foodgroups.html
· 10 Tips Nutrition Education Series. (2011, June) U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved on February 22, 2014 from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet1ChooseMyPlate.pdf