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Monday, November 19, 2012

Good Eats: With so many ‘healthy’ options out there, why are we in such poor health?

By Rachel Crabtree
KyForward columnist

How do you define “healthy” food? The typical answer to this question is usually along the lines of “fat-free, low-carb, sugar-free, low-calorie” or “All I can eat are grilled chicken salads.” More recently, you’re likely to hear words such as “organic” or “antioxidants” thrown in for good measure, but I’m not sure any of us really know what they mean.

We’ve tried all of the gimmicks, diets and miracle drugs known to man, and yet our country’s overall health continues to decline. So why is this the case, when we supposedly have more access to “healthy” food than ever before?

I set out to answer this question about four years ago after one of my best friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. I discovered that while there are several possible culprits, the biggest may be what we eat. Here are some of my top discoveries:

1.) We need to eat more fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients that can’t be substituted for in any way (powders, pills, etc.). Phytonutrients are the chemicals found in plants which give them color and help our bodies regenerate and function optimally. Eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies on a weekly basis gives your body enough phytonutrients to completely rebuild unhealthy cells.

2.) Processed foods are making us sick. On so many levels. Many foods you buy in boxes, cans or jars on the grocery store shelf are chock full of chemicals, additives and preservatives, putting a huge strain on our system – not to mention that we get no real nutrition from them. And because there is no real nutritional value (just empty calories), they contribute greatly to weight gain, low energy and weak immunity. Many of the additives and preservatives have also been linked to certain cancers and other diseases.

3.) Genetically Modified Organisms wreak havoc on our bodies. GMOs are becoming more and more prevalent – comprising a large percentage of our food supply. Genetically modified means that a seed/plant has been scientifically altered to withstand pesticides, to kill bugs that try to eat it, to grow faster or stronger, etc. Unfortunately, the modifications made to nature tend to wreak havoc on our bodies. Our bodies see these as foreign objects and our immune system tries to attack them. This puts a huge strain on the immune system, making it hard to then fight off things such cold, flu and sinus infections.

4) Our meat supply is questionable. The terms “free-range, grass-fed, hormone/antibody-free” on beef, poultry and pork are tossed around a lot and used loosely.  The majority of our meat supply comes from mass-production “factory farms,” which overfeed the animals and inject them with hormones so they grow bigger and faster to produce more meat.  Unfortunately, this is very bad for the animals, which in turn produces meat that isn’t good for us.  Eighty-five percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are sold to meat producers to keep the meat “safe.” Which means… we’re eating meat full of antibiotics, actually making our own immune systems “immune” to their effects. This in turn creates our need for more – and more powerful – antibiotics for us.  Eating locally raised, pastured meat is the healthiest way to go.

5.)  Drinking plenty of water has many benefits.  Most of us are severely dehydrated and don’t even know it!  Drinking sodas, teas, coffee or juices do not help us as much as drinking water  – which makes up 70 percent of our body.  And we need a lot of water just to stay “normal.”  Drinking caffeine has a dehydrating effect on the body, and powdered flavor additives still force our livers to work hard, filtering the fluid so the water loses its effect.  When you’re dehydrated you often feel hungry or tired – both leading to eating when you’re not really hungry and causing you to gain weight.  And last but not least, water also helps to flush out our bodies and remove toxins.

These five basic observations are fairly easy to implement, too. Pick one, find ways that you can make it fit your lifestyle and give yourself a pat on the back.  And keep reading Good Eats in the coming weeks as we delve into more details on ways you can implement these changes, which local restaurants and grocers can help, and stories of how these simple changes have bettered the lives of other Central Kentuckians.

Rachel Crabtree was born in Ohio but moved with her family to rural Casey County in Kentucky at the age of 7. She was raised on a farm full of chickens, goats and organic gardens. Rachel is a 1997 graduate of the University of Kentucky and worked as a stockbroker for several years before moving to a career in her true area of passion: fitness and health. She currently owns Well Fed! in Lexington, which provides healthy, nutritionally balanced, portion-controlled, fresh, organic/local foods for individuals and families.



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