Celebrating nutrition

A positive, practical introduction to healthful nutrition.

Stoy Proctor is an associate director in the Health Ministries Department General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland.

It's time to celebrate nutrition. To exult in the privilege of having good, healthy, wonderful-tasting food to eat and having the knowledge of what that is! For too long health fanatics have taken away our favorite foods. Consider the pop fads of our day. The high protein gurus have taken our carbohydrates, the hygienists and raw-food eaters have deprived us of our favorite cooked dishes, even beans. The anti-dairy purists have attributed several major diseases to the use of dairy foods and eggs. Pritikin and the no-oilers have moved all fats into the no-fat zone. The health food faddists have not allowed even a little bit of the big white five: white sugar, white flour, white salt, white milk, and white meat.

The only items left in the food chain are fruits and vegetables, and now environmentalists and organic idealists suspect them because of pesticides and genetic engineering. As we try to comprehend the message of the doomsday nutritional soothsayers, we realize these fanatics, collectively speaking, are against all foods! Something is wrong with this approach. If we want to be healthy we must eat good food. Our meals should be enjoyable—even exciting. We should look for ward to each one with gusto and celebrate each bite.

Enjoying good food

History records ancient cultures celebrating their fall harvest. Even today many religious devotees offer foods to their gods. Why can't Christians relish their foods and give glory to God, who provides this great cornucopia of gourmet pleasures?

Modern Generation X manages to celebrate Thanksgiving and other holidays, but why not make each meal a celebratory occasion? Even the six to eight glasses of pure water deserve a toast!

It's time for a search-and-destroy mission, not of our favorite foods, but of the negative words we hear discussed such as: forbid, abstain, avoid, resist, and refuse. It's time for a figurative book burning or a boycott of our favorite book chains or cooking shows.

Let's begin to notice all the negative titles of books and recipes such as: sugar free, sodium free, dairy free, cholesterol free, and fat free. When nutritionists calculate the dietary intake of nutrients it's not the sugar on the strawberries or the oil in the bread that matters most, it is whether a person is consuming adequate catalytic-converting vitamins and essential minerals. And whether they are enjoying the best biochemically rich fruits and vegetables, taking in at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium to build and maintain strong bones.

Good nutritionists are far more interested in essential fatty acids and a good source of proteins or total calories than the many different forms of sodium and sugar derivatives found in our foods.

A new emphasis: variety, color, and adequacy

The new millennial emphasis among national and international nutrition organizations is on variety, color, and adequacy. They are devoting much more space in their recommendations to whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and fish, than they are to salt, cholesterol, sugar, and trans-fatty acids. The "health enthusiasts," on the other hand, spend so much time on the food to avoid that they have little time to focus on the wholesome foods of choice.

Note the following guidelines from some national and international organizations:

The American Institute of Cancer Research (July 1998): Choose predominately plant based diets rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and minimally processed starchy foods.

The American Heart Association (2000): (1) Choose most of the foods from plant sources; (2) choose a variety of grain daily, especially whole grain; (3) choose a variety of fruits and vegetables.

The National Academy of Science and the United States Department of Health and Human Services—2000 U.S. Dietary Guidelines: (1) Use plant foods to create the foundation of your meals; (2) choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains— brown rice, bulgur, cracked wheat, graham flour, oatmeal, popcorn whole barley, whole corn, whole oats, whole rye, and millet; (3) choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily.

One of the most important nutritional principles emphasized in these recommendations is variety. Not a variety of fast-foods from the chains, but a variety of whole foods available in the market.

Today, in many countries, we are blessed with a great variety of ethnic choices of dishes. Indian cuisine offers us the best use of the biochemical rich herbs and spices. The Chinese know best how to prepare tender-crisp vegetables preserving most of their nutrition. The Italians give us the complex carbs and rich tomato dishes. And what variety and tantalizing tastes we relish from the legumes prepared by Hispanics and Middle-Easterners!

Who can surpass the crunchy taste of the multi-grain earth breads of Europe? And let's not overlook the large varieties of tropical fruit avail able with our own native berries and stone fruits. Scientific studies confirm the effectiveness of this new diet.

One of the largest scientific studies ever conducted involving a single cohort group, reveals the benefits of the plant-based diet in eating a wide variety of whole foods, including whole grains, plenty of legumes, and generous amount of fruits and vegetables, rather than using beef or poultry.1

Since most of us have to watch our weight and calories, we must focus on the genuine health foods: the whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy. These five major food groups provide us with the super nutrients our body deserves and needs.

Let's include in our meal plan each day the proper number of servings in each of the major groups. No one food group provides all the nutrients needed.

Begin with those dark breads and cereals made from whole grains. Next focus on the dark greens, and brilliant yellows, the deep orange fruits and vegetables as well as the ruby reds.

Remember the darker the color of the variety, the higher the phytonutrient values. Fill each plate with the tantalizing colors of the rainbow.

Then there's still one more important food group left: the pure white food, the low-fat dairy, eggs, or if you prefer, the fully-fortified soy beverages. This "Rainbow Diet" is the ultimate of great diets.

Five criteria for good food

To get the most out of this celebration, follow these five criteria for good food:

Food must look good. It must appeal to our eyes and our minds before we have the desire to eat and enjoy it.

Food must smell good; we are "turned off" by rancid, sour smells. In addition, they may be harmful.

Food must feel good in the hands and in the mouth. This increases real gustatory pleasure.

Food must taste good. God gave us those wonderful taste buds to enjoy food.

Food must be good (nutritious) for our bodies and for optimum function.

If your food or your recipes do not meet these five criteria, throw them out. There was a time in my professional life when I spent more time on the negatives. Once I gave a demonstration for my Master's class in nutrition, showing the perfect waffle. The perfect waffle (see sidebar) did not have any flour, salt, milk, baking powder, honey, sugar, eggs, oil, or fats. By the time I finished explaining the list of non-ingredients, I didn't have time left to promote the nutritious ingredients or the delightful taste! The fact is, this healthy meal will provide all the energy and nutrition you need for at least half a day.

1 Vegetarian Nutrition Health Letter, November/December 1998.

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Stoy Proctor is an associate director in the Health Ministries Department General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland.

March 2002

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