How food choices affect our lives

The Greens at Cannondale’s first program in this year’s Community Health Series linked two words that are rarely seen together — “inflammation” and “nutrition” — and in doing so presented a most provocative and enlightening session that the popular series brings to the community. Presented by Loryn Galardi, clinical nutritionist of Comprehensive Nutrition, it contained information that can’t be dismissed or forgotten.

Inflammation is a complex process of cells and chemicals in our bodies, standing ready to fight infections and threats and can be a lifesaver when it’s a controlled reaction. For example, when you cut your finger or catch a cold, chemicals are released that begin the healing process. Chronic inflammation is another story. It injures the gastrointestinal system, what cardiologist Dr. Joel  Kahn calls “leaky gut syndrome.” A consistent diet of processed foods, sugars, unhealthy fats, alcohol, and caffeine cause chronic inflammation, a source of headaches, obesity, digestive distress, even heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

So what does a person do who wants to decrease gastrointestinal damage? Galardi speaks as one who became very sick on a diet of thoughtless, “anything goes” eating. She says the remedy is to choose “real foods” as opposed to the overprocessed meals and ingredients filling supermarket shelves.

Overprocessed foods are the culprits: sauced-up souffles, overgravied meats, sugary pastries, white bread, delicatessen meats processed with nitrites. We’ve been told all this many times, but it’s quick and easy to open a package or can and ignore the 15 or 16 ingredients we’re consuming. Medical research tells us that dangerous increases of diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic fatigue may be connected to what we’re eating. Food choices are contributing to good health or creating serious problems.  Excessive sugar, lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, addiction to coffee, overuse of salt, alcohol, caffeine — whatever you’re putting into your mouth each day is what your body becomes.

There were some surprises. Real butter is better than any butter substitute. No-fat yogurt is superior to low-fat yogurt. Canola oil isn’t a healthy fat. Charbroiled foods should be avoided. Hydrogenated trans fats have mostly disappeared but partially hydrogenated fats are still around, and this process of bubbling hydrogen through oil to solidify it is has no redeeming qualities except longer shelf life. Galardi believes we’re victims of agribusiness marketing and foods we’ve been programmed to think of as “comfort foods” — potato chips, doughnuts, mashed potatoes, creamed corn — are really enemies of lasting health.

Granted, it will take time and experimentation to change people’s lifelong food choices.  Small changes could substitute fresh fruit for pie a la mode or a baked potato instead of fries. It’s true there have been many contradictions but certain facts remain: the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables, the need to moderate salt intake, the importance of foods that are closest to their natural state.

Galardi said, “My personal experience with junky food led me to my career and now that I know how food influences the course of our lives, I want to bring that awareness to everyone.”