About Food and Health

Let’s talk about food, shall we? Being a Cancer Sun Sign native, food has always been fairly important to me. But I am also someone who has pretty good health Karma. For this reason, my relationship with food has, for the most part, been very positive and healthful. I have cooked professionally several times and studied many diet-type health regimes. I have also studied herbs and supplements a little. I do love food and I am a fairly good cook. But overall I think that the main thing that could make me a food/health expert is that I am very healthy and I eat good. When I say I eat good I mean I get to eat a lot of food that is very clean and healthy. And by clean I mean it is simple, natural, and relatively untainted. I look around and see that so many people are having dietary problems. I see people spending thousands of dollars on supplements and medical treatments that in many cases could be alleviated by a balanced diet. I would just like the opportunity to share a few things I have learned over the years that might be helpful.

Recently I was in one of our local grocery store chains, Safeway, to be exact. As I walked down the isles I realized that there was less than 10% of what they sell that I would ever buy, or eat. There are isles and isles of food products, and most of them will make you sick. No one seems to really care. They would not be selling those things unless someone was buying them. It’s a reflection of the awareness we have in this country about food and what we eat. I feel fortunate that I can still go into such a store and find a few pure and unblemished food products, such as rolled oats (called Quaker Old Fashion Oats, but the same thing). But each year I see less and less of these simple food products and more of the ones with the long list of ingredients that I cannot recognize. I can say this – if you do most of your food shopping at one of these major food-store chains, you are probably very unhealthy. There are so many toxins, questionable ingredients and hormone enhanced dairy and meat products that you are essentially signing up for a serious disease by eating food from them.

For example, I learned a long time ago when I worked in the kitchen of Kripalu Ashram in Pennsylvania that oils can go rancid quite easily. If left un-refrigerated on the shelf, most oils go rancid within a month or so. I used to try to purchase cooking oils at supermarkets. But invariably I would get the oil home and open it and find it to be rancid. I have a very sensitive nose. Most people do not. They buy these soy, corn and other oils and eat them, never realizing how toxic a spoiled oil that has gone rancid is for your system. Fortunately olive oil does not generally have this fate. It keeps for a long time. But even it can go rancid eventually. It would be nice if you could open the oil right there and smell it to see if it is good or not. Olive oil costs more than twice as much as soy and other cooking oils. So a lot of people keep using those questionable ones.

Truthfully you can eat almost anything and not have any negative side effects if you do it in moderation. You can eat foods that are not good for you, your blood type, or other criteria. As long as you only have a little of it, you will not do much damage. A lot of people become food extremists. They are extreme vegetarians, extreme macrobiotics, extreme raw food people, vegans and other food elitists. They actually often end up hurting themselves because they are not being moderate. I remember personally meeting Victoras Kulvinskas, a major proponent of the raw food diet and the author of several books on it. He drove up in a 60s VW van with wheatgrass growing all over the roof. He was one of the unhealthiest people I ever met. He smelled real bad too. I wonder what happened to him? Benjamin Franklin, one of the smartest guys to have lived here, once said, “Many dishes, many diseases.” He taught moderation and lived it as well.

Just keep in mind that moderation in your diet can be a seriously good practice that can allow you to eat most anything, as long as you don’t eat too much of it.

I have heard of several people I know getting prostate cancer lately. None of them had ever heard that hormone-induced dairy and meat products can cause that. They can also cause breast cancer in women. Breast cancer and prostate cancer essentially showed up in our country shortly after farmers started using a lot of growth hormones to get more production from their chickens, beef and pigs. It makes perfect sense that growth hormones ingested by a human in their diet could cause cancer, which is essentially a rebellious over growing of cells in the body. Nowadays you can get hormone free meats, eggs, milk, and cheese even in the big supermarkets. If your life depended on eating the hormone free alternative, would you? Again, moderation is important here. Though I buy and cook only hormone free products, if I am out and want to eat some eggs or chicken that are not hormone free, it is not going to kill me. I do eat out occasionally and I do not worry about it because the main portion of my diet is clean and clear (of hormones, that is).

Because of so many people with heart problems, people freak out about salt. Salt has proven to have a constricting effect on your blood vessels. Thus, if your vessels are already somewhat blocked, or if your blood pressure is too high, salt consumption could be dangerous. People are so freaked out about salt that many restaurants will not even use it to cook. I really dislike getting a dish at a restaurant that needs to have salt added because absolutely none was used in cooking. But it happens. What is overlooked is that salt in the diet of a healthy person has many advantageous effects, including lengthening of one’s life span. The natural constriction of the body that is causes will help you live longer. I love salt and I have low blood pressure. I use it every day in most dishes I prepare. That brings us to our next topic, yin and yang.

It is good to have a basic understanding of yin and yang. Yin foods make the body softer and larger. Yang foods make the body denser and more compact. Yin is basically cold while yang is hot. You have probably already guessed that salt is yang and if you did, you are correct. Sugar and all sweet foods, including fruits, are yin. If you live in a very yang environment, you need a lot of yin foods to balance out all the heat. You can get sick from too much yin or yang. I remember one year I went to the city of Delhi in India. Though it was only May, the temperature was already over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I remember what a lifesaver it was to drink orange soda pop and other sugar-laden soft drinks. They helped keep me from overheating. I would drink them almost continuously all day since I was outside in the heat and it felt just right. I never got sick or had any ill side effects from what is normally considered a very unhealthy drink. But the environment I was in was so extremely yang, the extreme yin had no ill effects. If I were to drink that many sodas here in the US where I live, I would surely get sick from too much sugar and sweets, and that sickness would be a yin sickness, like a cold. The common cold and even the various flues are generally yin illnesses. If you eat too much yin food, you increase your chances of getting a cold. A runny nose is a yin symptom.

Other yin food include bleached flour products, oils, alcohol (which is super yin, along with all drugs), all candies and sweets. Yang products include meats, eggs, and salty products. Smoked meats would be super yang, stuff like beef jerky. You will find when you eat something very yin, you immediately want something very yang to balance it. For example, after eating ice cream you may get a craving for potato chips (salted of course). In the very middle of the yin/yang scale is brown rice, one of the most boring but nutritious foods on the planet. And it is very balancing to the body because it is neither yin nor yang. If you look at any kind of chip, like potato chips, corn chips and others, you will see an example of extremes of yin and yang in one product. They have oils and light grains and starches, like potatoes, corn, rice, etc. combined with salt. And when they add the flavorings like nacho cheese green onion and the like, these mixtures of flavorings are all extreme yin. They need even more salt to bring them into balance. But eating such extreme foods takes a toll on your body. Try to keep that in moderation. Another great example of this is catsup. Catsup or ketchup as it also spelled, has more sugar than ice cream per its volume. This is why kids are so addicted to it. But that sugar is masked by the large amounts of vinegar in there. But overall, catsup is very, very yin, maybe even more so than ice cream.

I think people take supplements mostly because they are lazy. They don’t want to change their diet or exercise. They want to be lazy and eat as much as they want and hope that a pill will do the work for them. Unfortunately it doesn’t work. No pill can counteract all your bad eating habits. If a person were reasonably healthy, their own natural urges would tell them what foods they need and when to make sure they get all the nutrition they need. They wouldn’t have to read a book to tell them what they need to take. They would just get an urge for the food that has the nutrition they need. It might even be a food that some people classify as bad. But for them, it may provide just what they need at this moment. I really don’t believe that a thousand years from now scientists will be any closer to understanding the mysteries of the body and its chemistry. What we think of now as being good for us may in fact be harmful. It sure seems to be, when it comes to supplements and prescription drugs. Why not ask your body to tell you what you need to eat and then eat it. I say stop taking supplements altogether. Just eat some great food. Eat what tastes good, not just to your mind, but to your body. I can always tell when what I am eating is good for me. I get a feeling, like a smile, from my whole body.

Speaking of exercise, if you are aren’t doing it, you are probably losing months, if not years of life. Lack of exercise makes the body very yin, and bloated. And not exercising makes even good foods become toxic to your system. If you are a grown adult and not getting much exercise, your natural hunger will be very low and you will not require much food. When is the last time you had a real hunger, a body hunger? Most of our hunger today in America is mental or emotional hunger. Body hunger comes naturally after you do something physically strenuous. It is easy to identify. And remember that the best condiment you can ever use on any food is hunger. I have gone through periods where I stop exercising and not exercising is an exercise in self-hatred. I only stop when I am depressed and in a real self-loathing state of mind. And starting to exercise again is always a way to love myself. And I also get the added benefit that all my food tastes better and is enjoyed more. I love that!

Diet cannot solve all our health problems. Some people have karmic health problems that will require other approaches. But a lot of our disease in this country is completely unnecessary. If we would just eat good tasting and untainted foods, in moderation, many of us would not ever need health insurance. Throw in a regular exercise plan and you are all set to live a long, enjoyable life.

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