|Posted on January 17, 2019 at 8:05 AM|
Image by Sarah Dubler from Unsplash.
When I was in my late 20’s to early 30’s, I ate terribly. As a family of five, we had a tight budget. The thought of buying fresh produce made our money sprout wings and fly away. We didn’t buy much fresh, rather mostly canned because it was cheap. We also bought a lot of processed foods. I unknowingly made the mistake of teaching my children bad habits that affect all of us today. My vices were highly refined carbs, sugar, and dairy. I loved to get a Krispy Crème donut—or two—at the gas station on Sunday mornings. I savored cheese, especially Colby, Swiss, and Munster. Breads, oh my! My doctor told me at one point that I was borderline high on my cholesterol, so I began following the low cholesterol diet he recommended. I was 30 pounds overweight and having trouble preventing more from piling on. I huffed and puffed taking the stairs. Things were not good for me health-wise at such a young age.
My poor eating habits were probably part of the dietary restrictions I currently follow. Little did I know that I was fanning the flames of brewing celiac disease, a hereditary autoimmune disease, fed by eating way too many products containing wheat, barley, and rye. I also unknowingly caused my body to develop intolerances when I tried to find dairy and gluten-free alternatives. I only changed the base, but not the quantity or much in quality. Soy was my first mistake. My body began to revolt one day, threatening me to vomit after eating a soy-based protein bar at work. I changed to coconut and developed an intolerance. Quinoa, tahini, sunflower, black beans, plus a few more. Little bit by little bit, I later learned my body was developing intolerances to plant-based proteins. I had to develop a rotation with my foods to avoid this very issue. I also reduced the quantity of food I ate.
During this time, I began losing hair. My nails were thin with ridges and pits, never looking nice without breaking off. I also noticed I periodically had bluish fingers and toes. I had developed skin ulcers that appeared like cystic acne. Really bad eczema on my scalp and face made me want to hide. I was also affected mentally. I had trouble finding my names and nouns, drug my left foot occasionally, and felt generally miserable. The inflammation and damage in my gut caused malabsorption of nutrients that were the cause of some of the issues I mentioned earlier. A few family doctors and allergists began helping me unravel the mess to help me regain my health, although there were other factors involved, too. I was slowly killing myself with foods I loved.
I now savor a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, with some frozen when the prices are too high for fresh. I eat lean poultry, rarely eat red meat, no eggs (allergy), vary my plant proteins, eat whole-grain gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free breads and pastas (sparingly), and make my own sorbet. Cheese? No way! My sweet treats are dates, figs, raisins, and fruit. You won’t find many baked goods in our home. I might make my own cornbread, wholegrain bread, or cookies for a special occasion, but rarely. Although my diet may sound boring, I’ve learned some cooking tricks to make these healthy, nutrient-dense foods taste fantastic. My hubby, kids, and grandkids can usually find something they like. I also have an organic garden so I know where our food comes from. Our bodies are fueled so much better and it shows.
When I found myself in the hospital with a heart attack (severe coronary artery spasm), I wondered if my former bad lifestyle came back to haunt me. Thankfully I had redeemed my body through exercise and healthy eating! If I had not, the outcome would have likely been grim. It took a while to recover from that cardiac event, but the troponan levels caused me to have to recover much like a marathon runner would need to recover. A lot of muscle tissue was broken down with toxins in my body from the breakdown. The recovery had to run its course. My cardiologist said my heart is great and arteries clear! Eating healthy and being aerobically fit helped me survive a really nasty bout with Printzmetal Angina.
Here are some takeaways from my story:
1. If the doctor puts you on a diet for high cholesterol due to atherosclerosis or gall bladder disease, low sodium for heart conditions, a diabetic diet, or a special diet due to any health condition, chances are you shouldn’t have ever been eating what you have to give up now. When the condition is better, don’t go back to eating poorly.
2. Your body needs vitamins and minerals from your foods. This means a variety of fruits and vegetables of differing colors. The colors represent the nutrients they include (Eating Well). For example, certain families like cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, "contain fiber, vitamins C, E, and K, several carotenoids, folate, and minerals". (Medical News Today). They are great for your heart and are great at preventing certain types of cancer. If you dislike veggies, then talk with a dietician or nutritionist to find ways to sneak them in through ways you will enjoy. Taking vitamin pills is a last resort. You also need some of these foods to help you absorb vitamins and minerals like calcium needs magnesium to help transport it to your cells.
3. Certain foods only contain specific vitamins and minerals, but also in certain combinations that you need. Many people are avoiding grains due to some fad diets that exclude grains. Whole grain foods are specifically high in B vitamins. People who eat gluten-free often need alternate grains in certain combinations to not only make the gluten-free substitute palatable, but also have nutritional benefits (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-benefits-of-whole-grains#section2" target="_blank">Healthline). Some fad diets exclude whole food groups putting dieters at risk of nutritional deficiencies. It is important to check with your doctor before you make dietary changes to lose weight in order to avoid health problems resulting in nutritional deficiencies.
4. Eating foods that bring on bloating, gas, and inflammation often cause the stomach and small intestine have trouble absorbing enough nutrients from the foods you eat. Your body simply cannot process these foods well and your body is telling you , “Stop! You’re hurting me!” Some signs include brittle hair and nails, sluggishness, feeling unwell, stomach pain, intestinal pain, foggy brain, and diarrhea. If food sends you to the bathroom in a hurry, see your doctor or a dietician to figure out what foods are causing the problem and what foods you can eat instead (Harvard Health).
When we eat a balanced diet of fresh, minimally processed foods to fuel our bodies properly, we feel great and function very well. God gave us so many great foods and the ability to enjoy them in a variety of ways. In Genesis 2, God gave Adam and Eve a whole garden to tend with plenty of produce to eat. Even after they were banished from the garden, they would have good food, but would have to work harder for it (Genesis 3:17-19). Good stewardshi of our bodies means fueling them so they function better by eating the low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods God has given us . Learning how to enjoy them fresh and full of nutrition will fuel your body well.
For more information about eating healthy, go to myplate.gov.