Recently, a friend of mine told me about a conversation he had with a woman at the grocery store. They were talking about how this low-fat cheese at the deli counter had more sodium than the full fat version. That doesn’t surprise me. Fat is flavor. Take away the fat and you have to add something to give it more flavor. The woman mentioned that her husband had been diagnosed with heart disease. She said her husband’s cardiologist had told him “if it tastes good, spit it out.”
My reaction: that’s WRONG! What a terrible thing to say to a patient. He makes it sound like food that’s healthy can’t taste good. He’s saying the way to live longer is to make life miserable. That’s just not true. And it tells me this doctor must not know much about nutrition. It also tells me he doesn’t care much about the quality of patients’ lives. Rather than take the time to educate his patient or refer him to a nutritionist or dietician who can help him eat better, he just says “don’t eat anything that tastes good.”
In the doctor’s defense, I have to agree that many of the foods we like today are loaded with fat, sugar and salt. Burgers and fries, macaroni and cheese out of a box, sugary sweets, fried food, spongy white bread, carbohydrate filled comfort foods; all of these are things that have gone from being occasional treats to everyday foods. And they are taking a toll on our health.
There’s a reason why we like fat, protein, sugar and salt. Those of four of the five tastes we can detect on our tongue. The fifth taste is bitter, which I suspect is there to warn us what not to eat. But those other tastes are designed to lead us to foods that our bodies need but which are not commonly found in the wild. We may be civilized now, but at one point, we were just another animal on the plains of central Africa. The problem is we eat way too much of those things.
Have you seen the movie “Supersize Me?” A healthy man decides to see what would happen if he ate nothing but fast food from a leading global retailer for a month. Doctors who were a part of the production were amazed at how in just that short a time the man’s health deteriorated markedly. He didn’t just put on weight, he also began suffering heart problems, high blood pressure and liver damage.
Did you know that one fast food quarter-pound cheeseburger and medium french fries have all the fat, sugar, salt and carbohydrates you should have for an entire day? Convenience foods, whether fast food, prepared food from a restaurant or store, take out or frozen, all are loaded with things that taste good because food companies know that’s how they can get your money. There’s just not much sexy about a plain salad or a bowl of unsalted, unbuttered, unfried vegetables. Add a creamy, fat-filled dressing to that salad or cheese sauce to those veggies and people will gobble it up.
But that doesn’t mean that good tasting food can’t also be good for you. Making eating a drudgery is wrong. That’s why so many people can’t stay on their diets and eating plans. It’s also wrong to make food just fuel. Eating is an important cultural experience that makes life worth living. You can have healthy, good tasting food without all those bad qualities.
Ever hear of Mrs. Dash? It’s a blend of spices, herbs and seasonings without salt. The idea is to add flavor without adding salt. A simple poached egg can be just as good as fried. Cooking vegetables, even potatoes, in a microwave or oven can reduce the amount of fat enormously. Stir-frying uses very little fat while allowing the addition of lots of flavor from sesame oil, garlic, ginger and other spices. Cooking more at home from scratch instead of cans and boxes or eating out can reduce your salt intake by the truckload.
Remember, we do need a little salt, fat and carbohydrates for our bodies to function well. The problem is if we don’t fix it ourselves, we have little idea what’s really in our food. That’s why learning about food, cooking and nutrition are so important. That’s what The Bachelor’s Kitchen is all about. If we can make food and eating a pleasure as well as healthy, we can really cut down on all those diseases related to what we eat. That includes heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, allergies, asthma, sinus problems and more. But if we make eating an unappealing exercise, we won’t sustain those habits that lead to better health. The temptation of “bad foods” becomes too strong for all but the most disciplined persons. Make good tasting food healthier instead of spitting it out.