What we eat is a complicated matter. On any given day it’s likely determined by some stew consisting of money, time, and effort. Because the ingredients are interconnected it’s impossible to see where one begins and the other ends.
Money may determine if we eat out or prepare something at home. It will affect whether we get our protein from filet mignon or sardines. It may steer our decision to plant a garden or subscribe to a weekly food box delivery service.
Time and effort are the other side of the money coin. Planting that garden or preparing meals all take time and sweat equity. If you are a wannabe-chef or love the feel of soil in your hands time spent handling food will be a joy not a dreaded chore.
Once you know what you can and will do the next big thing is choosing what to consume. Will it be organic produce or yellow-dyed factory food? Will it be poached eggs on toast or an Egg McMuffin to start the day? Would your grandmother recognize what you’re eating? Are your meals worthy of MasterChef Canada? Their own Instagram account?
Trying to interpret the research about what is best is a losing battle. Ultimately, many of us just want to know if the food we’re eating is making us sick or adding years to our lives. I used to believe the hype from Dr. Oz and others about the latest, greatest, new miracle food, but a visit to a naturopath helped me articulate what I already knew from having a daughter with life-threatening food allergies. Fact: no food is inherently good or bad. The only thing that matters is how it affects Hazel or Hilary or you. Salmon is touted as miracle food. Unless, of course, you’re allergic to fish and die when you eat it.
The big new health threat is inflammation. Characterized by swelling and pain, it causes or exacerbates ’itis’ conditions: arthritis, gastritis, colitis, dermatitis, nephritis, neuritis, and cystitis. Inflammation plays a role in heart disease, cancer, obesity, dementia, migraines, Alzheimer’s disease, and virtually all auto-immune diseases. Throw in asthma, diabetes, psoriasis, other skin disorders, and irritable bowel syndrome. The cost to the health care system and us is huge.
My new naturopath suggested we do a simple finger prick blood test to determine if I have any IgG (delayed reaction) sensitivity to a panel of 120 foods. Now my days will be consumed with figuring out how to live with elevated results for goat’s milk, egg whites, corn, brewer’s yeast, Brazil nuts, red kidney beans, and barley. I’m only beginning to understand the implications. The advice has been to concentrate on substitutions and how much better I’ll feel, not the deprivation. Detecting and eliminating some of these items is simple and straightforward. Others are hidden in most processed foods. Others, like eggs and yogurt, are ’healthy’ choices. Purging the pantry, reading labels, and finding new recipes from the ’caveman’ diet are my new hobby. Like I said, what we eat is complicated from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.