I’m taking an awesome nutrition course right now, learning a lot about how foods affect our health and wellness.
Much of it is information we already know – eat a variety of fresh, whole foods, and limit highly processed foods. Include lean proteins and healthy fats. Include whole grains and lots of fiber. Knowledge we have in the back of our minds, but that we may ignore when the hot dogs and potato salad are paraded in front of us all summer long.
I’m here to tell you, I live in a glass house, so I will throw no stones. Cookout foods are my weakness. Bring on the burgers. Pass the slaw. My willpower is often trampled by the smell of a grilling steak.
Summer desserts, too, are kryptonite. I have literally stood in line for 45 minutes for an ice cream cone. And don’t get me started on strawberry shortcake piled high with fresh whipped cream.
But here’s the thing. When you start to really consider food as the fuel your body runs on, as the ammunition against the illnesses of aging, it changes your perspective. Examining nutrition at a cellular level makes steak and macaroni salad a little less appealing.
I’ve heard the phrase, “calories are calories,” more than once. Fuel is fuel. As long as you balance calories in with calories out, you’ll be fine, right?
Well, maybe for a while. But eventually, you’re going to run into trouble. Because the junky food we eat might fuel a Volkswagen but it won’t fuel a jet. And I don’t know about you, but I want to be a jet.
If you don’t have the proper balance of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) along with the proper balance of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), your cells are going to begin to change. To fail. To age. To mutate. Even to die. And that’s when you start to develop disease.
It’s well known that cooking over an open flame can lead to development of carcinogens in meat. Does this mean you’ll get cancer from eating a burnt hot dog? No. But it does introduce chemicals that can increase your risk of it.
The idea that food delivers important messages to our DNA is the focus of an emerging field known as nutrigenomics. The focus of this science is the idea that our bodies, at a cellular level, react to the foods we eat and the beverages we drink.
For example, some of the research they’ve done on bees has shown that all bees in a hive start with genetically identical DNA. But depending on what they eat, they develop into either a drone, a worker, or a queen. This has a huge effect on their lifespan, as a worker lives only a couple of weeks while a queen can live for years.
So, what I’m thinking is that I want to live like a queen this summer. Maybe say no to that second burger. And when I grill, I’m going serve lots of veggies and green salad with my ribs, and fresh fruit with my ice cream.
I’m still going to eat a steak every now and then, and I refuse to give up the strawberry shortcake. But an 80/20 split between healthy and not-so-much doesn’t seem like a huge sacrifice if it keeps my cells happy.
What do you think?
Until we meet…