Food Is Medicine

Food For thought

When We Say, “Food Is Medicine…”

June is a big month at my house. We have two birthdays, Father’s Day, and the Summer Solstice (both my favorite and least favorite planetary holiday). This year, I am focused on my husband’s birthday and Father’s Day. They take up that whole weekend, first one and then the other. As an aside, I love the Summer Solstice because it is a High Sun Holiday with the most daylight we get all year! It is also a sad day for me because it marks the season’s turning and movement toward Winter. No matter how many years I’ve lived through it, I still find the march toward the Winter Solstice (also my favorite and least favorite planetary holiday of the year for similar but
opposite reasons) mildly depressing.

Ok, but that’s not the point of this post. This month we are celebrating my husband living to see another day. As you may recall, Jeff had a heart attack in April, just over two months ago. He home FROM the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU)with a hearty cocktail of five medications they expected him to take for the rest of his life. That was not my plan, however. Thankfully, he has a plant-based cardiologist who sees the value of diet over medicines. I can’t emphasize how important this is.

While Jeff was in CICU, the dietary staff carefully watched his food choices for milligrams of salt and fats. They must have calculated everything as we called it in because they would say, “You can’t have X and Y together. That’s too much sodium.”  Now the interesting thing is that the hospital menu defined the cardiac diet in writing: “This diet limits salt, saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. Choosing low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and other foods lower in fat can health improve heart health.” Then it launched right into all their delicious heart-healthy offerings. I guess we shouldn’t trouble ourselves about the cholesterol, saturated fats, chemicals or carcinogens in these food-like meals.

Yes, I am saying that totally tongue-in-cheek. Immediately post-heart attack, Jeff could choose from skim, 2%, chocolate, or lactose-free milk. There was even regular or sugar-free hot chocolate! He could have coffee or tea with regular or non-dairy creamer. Other condiments included butter, margarine, regular jelly, diet jelly, cream cheese, and syrup.

Breakfast, you say? Absolutely! Enjoy one egg, any style, with cheese and ham or sausage, accompanied by optional bacon or pork sausage on the side. In addition, there are plenty of light yogurt flavors and a bevy of processed cereals like Frosted Corn Flakes or Honey Nut Cheerios. Are you interested in something from the grill? We got you covered! Try a hamburger or cheeseburger, a grilled chicken sandwich, golden-crusted tilapia, grilled cheese (with or without ham), or a chicken Caesar wrap.

You want to build-your-own deli sandwich? You bet! Choose from white, wheat, whole grain, or rye bread with turkey, ham, tuna salad, chicken salad, or peanut butter and jelly. Hang on! Make it unforgettable with American, Swiss, or cheddar cheese, and top it with lettuce, tomato slice, onion, or pickle chips. Oh, are you talking heavy-duty entrées? OK! Try the meatloaf and gravy, chicken parmesan, oven roasted turkey breast, penne pasta with alfredo sauce, macaroni and cheese, and cheese, sausage, or veggie pizza.

Hey! Don’t forget dessert! Order up ice cream, gelatin, pudding, sherbet, angel food cake, or Italian ice. To be fair, a few whole plant food items were on the menu. For example, there was a black bean burger, a fruit salad, a green salad, broccoli, corn, carrots, green beans, brown rice, and oatmeal. Being obstinate and creative sorts, we were able to order individual items separately and put a WFPB meal together. For example, we ordered brown rice and veggies and made a meal for Jeff. It wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t deadly either.

I can’t imagine anyone who is alone or really sick having to work through these obstacles to eat a decent life-giving meal. Thankfully, Jeff was neither alone nor critically ill. I am even more grateful that he has done well since discharge. In fact, in the two months since his event, he has been faithful to the WFPB way of eating, so much so that his most recent lipid panel, a test for fats in his blood, showed all levels, including cholesterol, dropped by 66%! As a result, he has
already been able to stop taking three of the five medications, one to decrease blood pressure, another to lower cholesterol, and the third to reduce his heart rate. I know medications can help. I also know fast and significant changes like these only come from dedicated and educated changes in eating patterns. Unlike what the hospital menu described, that means no animal products or processed foods. No low-fat dairy or lean meats and no fake food-like substances, either. None, regardless of sodium or saturated fat content, especially after a cardiac event.

It also means food is medicine, and, in many cases, it is more effective than what we find in the pharmacy. Ultimately, we expect all this will lead to Jeff regaining his medical clearance to fly his vintage aircraft again. In the meantime, it leads to me wishing him another Happy Birthday and Awesome Father’s Day. He lived to tell the tale! He’s still learning and going strong! That’s the best birthday and Father’s Day gift combo EVER! Here’s wishing the same to all the June people, dads, heart attack survivors, and pilots out there! May you have a Healthy Everyday and Happy Everything!

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