Nutritional Counselor Muriel Samuels on making small changes for better health

Like all choices in life, our dietary choices have lasting consequences. Each food selection we make either nourishes or deprives our bodies of requirements for optimal functioning, forging distinct pathways toward wellness or illness. I work as a Nutritional Counselor and Health-Supportive Chef and interact with individuals at varying levels of wellness who consistently bemoan their busy schedules and lack of time as the deterrent to eating well despite knowledge of the ramifications. With a lot of concern, I marvel at our priorities— at the marginal value placed on healthy diets and the support we withhold from ourselves despite the miracle of the body’s constant efforts at healing and restoring itself.

Good health is the unsung hero in all activities and its absence interrupts every plan; therefore our capacity in this part of the world to disregard, diminish or at times, mock its importance continues to astound. It is undisputed that “when it comes to premature death and disease, what we eat ranks as the single most important factor” according to a recent study in the Journal of American Medical Association, joining a battalion of other studies echoing the same. Ironically, another 2015 published Cambridge funded study in The Lancet Global Health celebrated West Africa, naming Sierra Leone, as having one of the healthiest quality diets in comparison to counterparts in US, UK, Japan, Canada and more because of our access to fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats AND limited access to processed foods.

Although there have been no rigorous studies done, informed medical practitioners hypothesize that the deluge of health issues—lifestyle diseases (diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases etc) and deaths of relatively young individuals (25-45) that persist in plaguing our society indicate we are not using this access to quality foods wisely. We have all been invited to witness the horror of ‘unexplained’ illnesses and ‘surprising’ deaths and of course, in such moments, our focus is on our grief. But instead of surrendering, we have to change our national conversation by admitting the power of our role and the strength of the cause&effect relationship between our diet and our health.

Each individual taking personal responsibility, beyond this regional abiding love and liberal use of OTC (over-the-counter) medications, is needed as it frees us from the tyranny of victimhood and gently steers our focus from treatment to prevention. For a better quality, longer life, our current eating patterns must be altered, especially given the conditions of our health care system, to enable enjoyment of the fruits of the activities that dominate a majority of our time.

So what gives? What do we do? What can we do? What tactics can we employ to address the diet health gap on a personal level. Distilled to its essence, we first acknowledge that while daily life can be hectic, nothing is quite as hectic, debilitating AND time- consuming as the demands of illness.

In putting healthy diet concepts into action, we can adopt a ‘Preventitude’ or Preventive Attitude Code. Perhaps the thought of transitioning to a healthier lifestyle seems intimidating and exhausting, but please realize that the following five small adjustments require minimal effort and will never compromise taste. In fact, in the hands of the right cook, flavors intensify and meals are even more delicious. If consistently practiced using the correct information and techniques, these codes can be effective in developing long-term habits that provide more energy to support us on our health and wellness journey.

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