Are you an aging boomer or almost boomer, with kids, jobs and busy schedules? We are. It's tempting to say at this stage of life that weight gain, poor health, and waning energy are inevitable. After all, disease is normal, and who has time to eat right and exercise? Actually, disease is not inevitable, and we do need to make time to eat right and exercise. Health care costs are straining American wallets. What if we did not need so much medical attention? What if we were not almost 70 percent overweight and 70 percent on pharmaceuticals? What if we did not need doctors, drugs, hospitals, and surgeries?
It is time to get serious about eating healthier, living longer, and improving the quality of our life. The food on our plate is either our enemy, making us sick, fat, and weak, or it is our partner in good health, making us better, stronger, and happier. The snacks in our grocery store cart, the entrees we select off the restaurant menu, the bites we put on our fork today -- the foods we choose to eat will either nourish us or, over time, lead to health problems and chronic disease. Food is medicine or food is poison. Science is showing that certain foods can delay the effects of aging and extend our life span. Conversely, other foods can age us faster.
Health care costs are predicted to rise, again. Employees and individuals are increasingly bearing more out-of pocket costs in the form of premiums, deductibles, and coinsurances -- especially for surgery, hospitalizations, and advanced diagnostic tests. Additionally, the cost of expensive prescription medications to treat chronic conditions is skyrocketing The costs of health care is shifting to sick people, forcing some to skimp on necessary treatments or delay the use of critical medications. For those who choose treatment, 43 million Americans now have unpaid medical debt.
Your best hope is to get yourself healthier. Neither governments, insurance companies, nor the medical industry are making health care less necessary. Diet contributes to four of the top six leading causes of death. These chronic diseases -- diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity, and dementia -- are projected to continue rising for at least two more decades. The standard American diet, consisting primarily of processed and fast foods, is fueling this epidemic. These food sources contain thousands of chemicals. We are surrounded by more chemicals than ever before. Recent research shows that up to 200 chemicals have been identified in the blood of babies before they are even born.
What will make health care less necessary? Eating a daily diet of real whole foods. Real whole foods are exactly that -- actual food. Real whole foods are found on the perimeter of the grocery store: vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, and cheeses. The middle aisles contain the boxes and bags of processed foodstuffs. Avoid processed food! Real whole foods could be organic, local, or pesticide free; but not necessarily. The foundation of real whole foods is vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices. Healthy fats include grass-fed butter, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds. Quality proteins are antibiotic and hormone-free beef, chicken, lamb, pork, fish and eggs.
What to do with real whole foods? Cook dinner and pack lunches, actions that seem antiquated in today's world, but need to become routine again. Actually, they need to become priorities. Don't sabotage yourself from the start with self-defeating, negative talk that you don't know how to cook, don't like to cook, or don't have the time. Either make time to eat well now or make time for being sick later. If you were not trained as a chef, and who was, there are You Tube videos, cooking classes, and countless books (The 4 Hour Chef by Tim Ferris is a good one) that will have you feeling comfortable and cooking in no time. Learning to cook is like learning any other skill, it takes effort and practice. Packing lunch is not so much a skill, as a time management issue. Do you rush out of the house early in the morning? Pack the night before, or set your alarm 15 minutes earlier. Plan your dinners with lunch leftovers in mind. Is your issue that you don't like to cook? Get over that! It is eating whatever we want that has led us to this epidemic of dire health.
As busy working parents of four children, we have had to learn how to navigate a landscape of work, school, and a ridiculous amount of kid's activities, without giving into the easy and tempting call of fast food. We are not alone. Actually, the family dinner, real whole food, and a renewed focus on food as medicine is infiltrating more homes every day with good reason. Healthy foods literally have medicinal qualities. Want more nitric oxide which relaxes blood vessels? Eat garlic and onions. Looking for cancer-fighting quercetin? Eat apples. Need a host of phytonutrients and antioxidants that make your skin glow? Eat an assortment of seasonal or fresh fruits and vegetables. Seeking a food that boosts brain function? Eat coconut oil. Want a cancer-fighting fatty acid? Eat grass fed butter, dairy, and meats -- they contain CLA. Walnuts and salmon provide omega-3s. Eggs provide lutein and zeaxanthin for our eyes. Bone broth provides collagen.
Of course, real whole foods won't stop aging, but they can help slow the rate at which we age. Real whole foods will also delay the onset of diseases which become more prevalent as we get older. Maybe the most important reason for eating real whole foods -- our children. Our kids will be the first generation of kids born in the United States ever predicted to have shorter life expectancy than their parents. We can change that! Let's set the example by making the time to shop, cook, pack, and prioritize real whole foods every day, regardless of our daily circumstances. Remember, food is medicine, or food is poison. The responsibility for our own health, our energy levels, our happiness and our passions; they're really in our own hands. We all hold that power.