Healthy eating over pill-popping

When I was a fifth grader and thought I was “all that,” a new dietary supplement began to make its way onto the shelves of large chain grocery stores. Many people I knew began to take it regularly, and I’m sure I have taken a tablet or two when I felt ill. It was known as Airborne. This product boasted the ability to “boost your immune system,” and since sickness is never enjoyable, an innumerable amount of people began to snag it off the store shelves.

At first I didn’t think much of it. Then, as I grew older, I noticed one of my friends always had a pack of Airborne tablets in his backpack. When someone asked him why he kept it with him, he said, “I don’t’ want to get sick, obviously.”

Obviously. Yet he was still afflicted with minor sicknesses such as head colds and chest congestion, like the rest of us public school kids.

Around that same time I began to take note of what food my meals contained. I was challenged in my ninth-grade health class to keep a food journal, and though that endeavor died immediately after I turned the journal in for a grade, I remained constantly aware of what foods I ate. Since then I have read many journal articles and blog posts by nutritionists, dieticians and health counselors, and have compiled a simple diet that fits my lifestyle and activity level.

Coincidentally, since I began making conscious choices of what I eat, I have contracted illnesses much less often than I did when I was a child. These two periods of my life have one large dietary difference: as a child I took various medicines and dietary supplements regularly; now, except for a single multivitamin every morning, I do not.

The cat is out of the bag now: I don’t really think that my decreased frequency of getting ill is a coincidence. The food we choose to eat matters for every other part of our lives. Our fuel can be efficient or not; it can help us feel energetic and alert for long periods of time or it can cause us all sorts of problems.

Yet we have one common enemy: our tongue.

I should be more specific. The human tongue itself isn’t an enemy–God gave us tongues for many good reasons, and anthropologists have found many ways the tongue has helped defend humanity’s existence throughout history. I am not waging war with an organ; I am not calling for anyone to cut off their tongues.

I am making a case for us to stop worshiping our tongues.

As I have said before, Americans have a destructive addiction to delicious foods. Yes, a delectable meal is something for us to enjoy. But we should not limit what we eat by how much we enjoy it. No, we should not eat anything poisonous nor inedible. But we should eat foods that have necessary or beneficial nutrients even if we don’t like how they taste.

Let me spend a moment catering to people who like to think about tangible results. With a diet based on how food affects our bodies instead of how good it tastes, we will surely find ourselves getting sick less. I have. I don’t attribute my wellness solely to my diet–my attention to my fitness, sleep and stress levels have also helped. But I do think that a bad diet will cause bad feelings, even with healthy amounts of each of the other variables.

Another tangible benefit comes in finances. Eating healthy can be expensive. However, medicine is also not cheap. As such, buying healthy food and largely eliminating the amount of medicine purchased means money saved. I like the sound of that.

Some lifestyle changes are required to eat healthy, I will confess that. Most of us nowadays have tightly-scheduled days in which we rush from one item on our daily agenda to the next. As such, many people have left little time to eat. Fast-food restaurants have capitalized on this and are the cure to many peoples’ quandaries about meal times. But the cure for our schedules is a toxin for our health. In light of this, we must reorder our priorities to make time to eat.

Changing the way we eat is a daunting challenge. However, the health and financial benefits of eating well and not needing as much medicine will surely help us feel better about ourselves. After all, we aren’t meant to consume chemicals–we are meant to eat food.

What thoughts do you have on healthy eating? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

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