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Dietary Habits, Considered

It has been approximately five weeks since I cut added sugar out of my diet. I haven’t cut out *all* added sugar – I still consume about 10-15g/day – but, compared to the 21g I used to consume in an average breakfast or the 39g in a single can of soda, it looks pretty good. I am not adding sugar to anything myself but almost all processed food contains some amount of sugar. I’m choosing the low-sugar options and this is, I feel, good enough for now. I am not out to win any prizes, just be healthier.

Oh, I’m cutting out salt wherever practical, too.

And my quest to learn more about nutrition has led to further changes! My sister sent me – unsolicited – a 500-page book about nutrition. Its unattractive cover is titled “How Not To Die” (by Michael Gregor). This weighty, academic tome dumped itself in my lap without an invitation. I decided to quickly scan the book before passing it on, returning the thoughtfulness of my sister’s gesture with at least a modicum of due attention.

Well, I started skimming and, by page six, was hooked and reading every word. I’m in about 250 pages now and am taking it very much to heart.

The gist of the book is that the consumption of animals and animal products not only correlates to but has been shown to cause numerous diseases and health problems. Even foods that I thought were healthy – let’s talk eggs and salmon – have been shown to cause significant health problems. Gregor cites a myriad of studies. He will call out, maybe, three studies in every paragraph to support his conclusions. He does an excellent job explaining how the body works and which foods are damaging to our health as well as telling about which foods can improve our health (foods that correlate with lower incidences of Parkinson’s disease, foods that slow the growth of cancer, foods that remove arsenic from our bodies, etc.).

His conclusion? A diet based on whole-plant foods is the healthiest. That’s just what the science is saying. And before anyone chimes in with, “But it’s dangerous to be a vegetarian because your body can’t get all of the nutrients it needs,” don’t just parrot back something you heard; find some hard data to back it up. Because Gregor’s got data and it says eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Of course, we don’t need scientific data to tell us that fruits, veggies, and whole grains are healthy for us – we know it intuitively. I always knew it. I just (a) didn’t think it was possible to eat so healthfully; (b) thought that vegetarians were weirdos; (c) didn’t want to give up the foods I enjoyed; (d) didn’t have a substitute for the foods I was currently eating and didn’t know how to prepare healthier food.

Over the course of the past two weeks I have been cutting down on or cutting out meat, butter, cheese, and eggs. I am teaching myself to cook new foods and make new sauces. My energy level has not skyrocketed and I cannot yet levitate, but I feel so good, emotionally, about the food choices I am making. This is finally a diet that makes sense to me. And, not that there ever was much food that I avoided, this diet is so much more food-embracing. It’s not like, “Oooh, you can only have a *little* piece of cake,” it’s more like, “Eat all of the nuts, blueberries, and hummus that you want!” Food is my medicine and the more of it I eat, the healthier I am!

I look forward to reporting back in a few months on all of the positive benefits I have realized.



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