We’ve heard it thousands of times, “Let food be thy medicine,” Hippocrates, and “You are what you eat.” But what do these really mean…at their core? To me, food is the first and foremost avenue we can take to promote our health and well-being, and when you eat well you feel well. We all know what a sugar crash is–you eat that donut and in a moment it is divine in and of itself, but a couple of hours later your head begins to hurt, your energy lags, and you feel like taking a nap. And yet, we go back to it. Why? Because so many people are addicted to food.
Addicted? Like someone who smokes or is an alcoholic? Yes, 100% addicted. You see, foods like sugar and cheese contain opiates, which trigger the same response in the brain that heroin and cocaine do. Salt, an ingredient all humans crave and love, releases dopamine, which is a “feel good” neurotransmitter. When we eat salty foods our brains release that dopamine and we feel awesome! But at a price because high sodium contributes to high blood pressure. Cheese, dairy in general, contains casomorphins, which are the fragments of the protein casein. These “morphine-like compounds” attach to the brain and have the same effect that heroin does on the brain. The reason these exist in dairy is because all baby mammals (human babies included) wouldn’t thrive if they didn’t nurse. Cow milk is for a calf after all and these casomorphins essentially reward the calf with feel good hormones to make it worth while to nurse (again, human breast milk has casomorphins as well to essentially encourage a baby to nurse). Casein is in all dairy products but is very concentrated in cheese making it practically irresistible to humans because, again, it is essentially an opiate.
For years we’ve heard “Got milk?” “The incredible edible egg,” and “Beef…it’s what’s for dinner” and all of this is really because of marketing by the meat, egg, and dairy industry. We’ve been told we need animals to get protein, that milk helps build strong bones, and eggs are good for us. Is this true? “In “What the Health,” Dr. Barnard cites the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which followed over 72,000 women over an 18-year period. The study concluded that milk drinkers had no added protection from fractures.” (Forks over Knives). The documentaries “What the Health” and “Food Choices” explain that many of the studies stating we need animal protein and dairy in our diet are actually funded by the industries themselves. It all comes down to money.
The good news is we can eat for wellness and health, even on a budget. Meat, dairy, and eggs are expensive, but if you buy local produce, rice, beans, and even tofu you can cut your grocery bill significantly and there are easy recipes to be found online (the minimalist baker, the simple veganista, Forks Over Knives). If you “eat the rainbow” you will find yourself feeling better (beets–red–have a lot of iron and are great for the blood, carrots–orange–contain beta-carotine and lutein that help the eyes, bananas–yellow–contain potassium that can help muscle health, broccoli–green–contains high amounts of protein and iron, blueberries–blue–contain antioxidants, cabbage–purple–contains antioxidants). Plant-based meals also help you feel full longer promoting good health so you aren’t feeling like you need to eat constantly, which can cause weight gain, mood swings, and health decline over time. Plant based meals also contain fiber (there is no dietary fiber in meat), which helps keep one regular and flush out toxins.
I’m not trying to push a vegan propaganda, I’m pushing for a health propaganda. I love chocolate to the moon and back (thank goodness most dark chocolate is vegan), but even with that I watch how much of it I eat because I want to feel good. If I eat too much chocolate I get headaches, and it isn’t worth it anymore (I’ll have a square of dark chocolate to satisfy the cravings and leave it at that). Our health is what will keep us strong and vital so we can be effective parents, partners, and people in general. So many people suffer from physical ailments and mental health problems that can be helped via diet. I’m not saying stop your medications by any means, I’m not a doctor or a dietician, however there is plenty of research to suggest that diet is key. I’m a type-1 diabetic (insulin dependent/childhood), but even so when I eat well, my blood sugars are managed so much better than when I don’t.
Self-care starts with us. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and we can do that by choosing healthy options (again, this can be done on a budget–check out “Vegan on the Cheap“), by exercising (even walking for 20 minutes/day is awesome), and things like massage and acupuncture to help with pain, tension, etc. Let’s promote wellness and health. Eat for well for your health.