Eat right

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

Despite the recent E.Coli outbreak from tainted spinach, eating healthy, whole foods is still good business for retailers, consumers and employers. The recent arrival of Whole Foods Market on Milwaukee’s east side will feed local residents’ growing interests in organic and natural foods.

Soon to join this specialty food trend will be Trader Joe’s, scheduled to open by the end of the year in the new Bayshore Town Center.

Natural and organic foods are not new to Milwaukee area residents. Outpost Natural Foods, with three locations in the metro area, has been providing pure foods – free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and trans-fats – for several years.

Growing numbers of local farmers are capitalizing on the fresh food trend as well, by going direct to consumers. From Port Washington’s Saturday morning “Farmers Market” to Madison’s “Market on the Square,” fresh food seekers are enjoying just-picked produce from local farmer’s fields.

Why the growing interest in whole foods?  Perhaps Americans are finally getting the message that eating healthy, natural foods is an important step in living a longer, healthier life. People who regularly consume fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts will have better health than those who do not. The data proves it.

Steven Aldana, Ph.D, author of “The Culprit & The Cure”, explains why lifestyle is the culprit behind America’s poor health, and how transforming that lifestyle can be the cure.  Aldana presents data that shows we can get an extra 10 to 20 years of life by practicing three basic lifestyle habits: 1) not smoking; 2) accumulating 30 minutes of more of moderately intense physical activity on most days of the week; and 3) eating a healthy diet.

In his groundbreaking book, Aldana explains that Americans now live an average of 76 years. At some point in the later years of life, most people will experience a significant medical event that will contribute to end-of-life poor health. This could be a broken hip, stroke, bypass surgery or cancer.

Ideally, we could compress this end of life poor health into a shorter amount of time. We may still experience a significant medical event toward the end of life, but with a healthy lifestyle, research shows the events are delayed seven to 13 years, and the time between the event and death is shortened.

The benefit is a higher quality life for a longer period of time as well as a dramatic reduction in health care costs.

Unfortunately, what we see now with many Americans is the development of chronic disease, referred to as morbidity, in their 40s and 50s, resulting in dependence on prescription drugs, medical and surgical procedures, hospital and clinic visits and disability during the last 25 years of life.

Research confirms that with a healthy lifestyle, lifespan and quality of life can increase.  The good news is that even if you haven’t eaten well or exercised regularly in the past, and chronic disease has begun, you can stop the progression and even heal damaged tissues and organs by changing lifestyle habits.

All of this is good news for companies investing time and dollars in healthier lifestyles for their employees. Although the trend toward eating whole, fresh foods is growing, data from employer sponsored health risk appraisals reveals that Americans desperately need information about healthy food choices. For companies on the road to corporate wellness, nutrition education is a good place to start. But how do we convince people that getting the recommended five to six daily servings of fruits and vegetables can be a pleasant experience?

Georgia O’Keefe got it. Few people know that O’Keefe, best remembered for her artwork, had an insatiable passion for gardening and cultivated a taste for homegrown and natural foods. When she lived at her famous home, Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, O’Keefe had to travel 70 miles over dirt roads to Santa Fe in search of fresh vegetables.

To meet her daily needs for fresh, whole foods, she bought another property, a ranch in the New Mexico Chama River Valley, where she had an organic garden. O’Keefe was so strategic about her food source that the planting of the garden was organized by her business manager.

Foods that couldn’t be grown in the garden, like organic grains and meats, were bought from local ranchers. She even owned a small mill for stone-grinding her own flour. O’Keefe’s healthy lifestyle was not limited to eating whole foods. It is documented that during her years at Ghost Ranch, she would rise early and take a long walk, accompanied by her dogs. After a healthy breakfast, she would venture into the desert for a day of painting. Upon returning home, she would take an evening walk before dinner.

O’Keefe ate whole foods, took long walks in the desert, lived a full life of purpose through her artwork and died at the age of 98.

Unknowingly, nutrition experts have picked up on the concept of food and art by using color as a method to teach good nutrition. Not only is it aesthetically appealing, it is well known that the more color in a food, the higher the nutrients.

The red foods such as tomatoes, peppers, and grapefruit, contain Lycopene, known to reduce cancer.

Orange and deep yellow colors found in carrots, squash, peaches and sweet potatoes are chocked with beta carotene, which protects against degeneration of the eyes.

Richest of all are the antioxidants in dark green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, kale and Swiss chard.

By using the language of color and the associated health benefits, nutritionists and health coaches are seeing an increase in the number and variety of fruit and vegetable servings in their clients’ diets. The spinach crisis will blow over. The source of contamination will be identified, the FDA will mandate a set of new rules regulating farming of produce, and we will be on our way to putting spinach back into our diet and years on to our lives.

Connie Roethel, R.N. and MSH, is president of Core Health Group in Mequon.
She can be reached at (262) 241-9947.

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