Organic Food and Dining

Hilton Head Island, SC

WHEN "GOOD FOR YOU" ISN'T

When dieters turn up their noses at a lowly hamburger from the local drive-through, they may be making a serious mistake. A regular (read as: smaller than the palm of your own hand) patty of grilled ground beef, served with a juicy slab of tomato and a leaf of lettuce on a freshly-split bun, may be a healthier alternative than selecting a trough-sized salad laden with dried fruits, nuts and that one lonely crouton that you hid under the chunk of hard cheese, smothered in an oil-rich dressing. Washing down all that rabbit food with a big glass of sweet tea (no, it isn't that evil refined white sugar, it's aspartame, saccharine, cyclamate or a little "natural" fruit sweetener called fructose) is never going to whittle that waistline!

Volume, as any dieter will tell you, is the big issue, and lots of good stuff brings lots of calories along with it. If you graze only until you feel contented and you are willing to allow yourself a tiny treat, you will rarely leave the table feeling too "full" of unsatisfying food. Sometimes a minuscule indulgence is not merely acceptable, it is really necessary so that you don't get that miserable feeling of pious self sacrifice. That's the feeling that only goes away when you smother it with a midnight raid on the ice cream you've been hoarding in the back of the freezer

Calories are a measure of food's effectiveness as fuel for your body. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, you don't need to ingest a lot of fuel to get through your day. On the other hand, a growing child or an active athlete can burn through a lot of calories in 24 hours. Small children actually require fat in their diets for essential brain development, but once that period is past, we need to trim our taste for it, because fat won't make us any smarter. When we talk about calories, we're not really computing in calories with a "little c" we are really discussing Kilocalories, which is a thousand of those little monsters at a time!

Did you know that alcohol is a precursor to steroids, cholesterol and hard yellow fat? It's not just the grain or the flavorings that contribute calories to that cocktail or brew, it's the alcohol itself! Sugars are actually complex alcohols that's why they burn! It's far too easy to exceed one's daily caloric requirement, even without eating any solid food, just by "bending your elbow" a few times. And, of course, alcohol has no real nutritive value. Isn't that a shame!

Nutrients are those basic and complex chemicals that our bodies process into usable components that sustain life. Pretty much everything we eat actually is "organic" whether it is naturally-occurring or a synthetic hash of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, potassium, calcium, iron and a number of other essential trace minerals! Vitamins are compounds containing these elements that enable our bodies to perform their complicated processes efficiently. Vitamin shortages can cause dire effects but overdoses can be extremely toxic. Vitamin supplements are never a substitute for healthy eating, and they cannot counteract a poor diet.

Most of the things we eat contain at least a few of the nutrients we need for existence, but a variety of foods, in moderation, is vital for a well-rounded diet. Proteins from meat, eggs and dairy products, sugars and complex starches from fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates from grains and plenty of water for hydration are all essential for good health.

Foods begin the digestive process in the mouth, where saliva released during chewing dissolves sugars, "carbs" and some fats directly into the bloodstream, before passing the macerated remainder to the stomach. Here, strong acids and powerful muscles break down additional compounds that will be reconfigured into new and different materials needed for life. The gallbladder, kidneys and liver process these and distribute them to organs throughout the body. The kidneys also filter and collect excess fluids in the body, and route the liquid to the bladder, from which it will empty. Sometimes this filtration system experiences a buildup of sediment, and the result is a painful attack of gallstones or kidney stones!

Far from being just an indelicate social topic, the bowel absorbs extra soluble nutrients that bypassed the stomach. The bowel feeds an enormous network of blood vessels that carry these dissolved compounds where they will be utilized by other organs. At least a small portion of any solid food will be indigestible, and it will be eliminated as "roughage" from the bowel. This lumpy residue can be bulky, so plenty of fluid (water) is required to float the stuff along the bowel toward its exit. A blockage in the long bowel passage can lead to bowel impaction that requires surgical intervention, or at the very least, a wretched case of constipation.

A well-rounded diet doesn't have to result in a roly-poly physique. A sensible attitude toward food, along with a plan for appropriate exercise and plenty of restorative sleep can give you a body you'll be proud of over a long lifetime!

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