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Research shows that food is medicine

Consider this an invitation to have breakfast together.

I’m going to have one of those little packets of oatmeal with flax that takes a cup of water and a minute in the microwave. Unless I get hijacked by a piece of that scrumptious cherry pie a friend brought over earlier this week — sweet-sour orchard cherries picked, pitted, frozen and turned into pie for the gods. Maybe I will scoop the cherries out of the pie crust and put them on the oatmeal. What are you having with your morning coffee?

As I age I’m constantly trying to figure out what’s best to eat, and balance that against what I want to eat. All week I’ve been yearning for a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, with extra bacon. I don’t want to be told that certain foods are bad for me. But I do expect food that’s good for me will taste delicious and satisfy. Do you ever have that feeling of eating something and then immediately regretting it? I think that sense of food-guilt comes from eating that is not done mindfully.

Even as I write this I’m thinking about the BLT, wondering if there’s any bacon in the house. And I am also wondering whether we have any gluten-free bread. A few years ago I did not even know what gluten-free meant. It took me a long time to recognize certain foods left me feeling satisfied and others left me feeling totally unsatisfied — or even unwell. When I do indulge in my envisioned sandwich, which might be at breakfast tomorrow morning, I intend to eat it slowly and chew it thoroughly and be mindful of every delicious bite.

As we age, eating gets a little trickier. The whole issue is impacted by the reality that we need both less food and more nutrient-dense food. I can’t speak for you, but I know I need foods that energize — and for me that’s protein, no sugary carbs. I need color and fiber and smaller portions.

I firmly believe that food is medicine, and we all have different ways of arriving at that realization. For example, you have an appointment with your health provider, and he/she says, “Your blood pressure’s a little high — medication needed.” And you answer with, “I think there are lifestyle and diet changes I can make instead.” And then you make them.

Here’s another scenario. You’re told you’ve become one of five Americans, over age 60, diagnosed with diabetes. Incredible statistic, isn’t it? And, at the same time, you’re reminded that your risk of heart attack or stroke is two to four times higher because you have diabetes. But finally (here’s the best part) you’re also told about a Harvard-based study where people considered pre-diabetic cut their risk of becoming diabetic by 58% just through diet and exercise. In fact, the success of the study was so significant they stopped the research a year early in order give all involved individuals more information about the positive effects of more healthful eating.

Think about that over your morning coffee.

Sharon Johnson is a retired educator and executive director of Rebuilding Together Rogue Valley. Reach her at sharon@rbtrv.org.