Live to Eat or Eat to Live

The new year brings many articles about health, food and diet. Of course, the hope is that the information will be a lifestyle commitment and not a phase to just eke by weight or seasonal goals. A recent article in AY Magazine: “Food for life” by Angie Davis started me ruminating on how much my own diet and eating has changed for the better.


I was hooked by the philosophy: “It’s not about ‘healthy foods’; we need to know about nutrients. It’s not about counting calories; it’s about thinking holistically,” Meghan Dixon, licensed, registered dietician. Dixon said. “We are all about looking at how foods complement each other. It’s actually a pretty simple way of looking at food. Most of us don’t look at food as fuel. Our goal is to lay out a foundation, to help people understand nutrition and the way our bodies metabolize foods.”

I read these articles with a very different perspective than I did 8 years ago. When I was single and younger, food and diet was not strict, and fortunately it didn’t have to be. Now, I am married to a type 1 diabetic and in my mid-forties, food and diet are vital to everyday health. For instance, when I shopped for spaghetti sauce as a single, I shopped with just taste and sometimes price in mind. I NEVER considered the amount of sugar. Now, looking at sugar in all labeled items is a necessity, and I found from the article it is something for all of us to look at consistently, “Dr. Meenakshi Budhraja, gastroenterologist, pointed out that it’s important to read labels — closely. For instance, a cereal may list a whole grain as its first ingredient — the first ingredient should be the main ingredient — however, if you look at the content of the additional ingredients, sugar is often the primary ingredient.”

Such a little change but a very practical thing like looking at sugar are now a part of my shopping. I know it takes time to read, but it has made such a difference. The article also gave a “What to Eat” list, and I found my husband and I do pretty well.

So—what to eat?

Whole Grains: Grains that haven’t been processed that it is. The husk hasn’t been taken away: sorghum, faro, barley, quinoa, and brown, purple or black rice.

Alternate protein sources: Well, bottom line, beans. We are bean eaters, and I am discovering a whole new realm of cooking to make beans again not so boring. I have used the Moosewood Restaurant low-fat Favorites to guide me in our bean filled journey.


Umami, the Fifth Taste: I had to look this up: “a category of taste in food (besides sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), corresponding to the flavor of glutamates, especially monosodium glutamate.” The article covers it best: “Umami is the richness, the taste that animal products — cheese and dairy, meat, eggs, etc. — bring to food. To create that without animal products takes creativity and a bit of skill, Dixon said. She and Budhraja suggest using dehydrated, caramelized and roasted vegetables.“ Roasted tomatoes and smoked mushrooms are the easiest ways to achieve this,” Budhraja said.
“Sea vegetables, such as kelp and nori, are also a source of umami.”

Try these spices, which also have medicinal uses:

  • Turmeric, ginger, basil and cinnamon have properties that may make them anti-inflammatory; cinnamon may also help regulate blood sugar. If you have joint pain, you may wish to avoid milk and cheese.
  • Mint helps many with digestive issues and can be quite soothing when you have a cold.
  • Cumin is an antioxidant, as is oregano, which is also high in Vitamin K.
  • Tarragon is known as a natural appetite stimulant and could help with toothaches.
  • Rosemary may assist with cognitive function and digestion.
  • Dill could be quite helpful in treating excessive gas.

Dixon and Budhraja also recommend fermented foods. They are rich in probiotics, which aid digestion. Sauerkraut, yogurt and kombucha — a fermented tea — are common examples. Others include chutney, kefir, soy and fish sauce, relishes and ginger beer.”

Usually these changing your diet articles seem very impractical or faddish to everyday life, but I found this one quite practical and reassuring in that my husband and I are doing some of these things and have the tools to improve on what we are already doing. The article also emphasizes that it is a process to make changes which I think sometime we miss.

I didn’t see the article as a list of NO-NO’s but how to create new dishes and make eating to live a far more tasty journey!



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