You are what you eat, so learn to eat well

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By Cheryl Steenerson

We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t have one without the other.” It works with everything, you know. All things work in combination. It’s called the Web of Life. Every living thing on this earth is connected through combinations.
Sometimes they’re easy to see and sometimes they’re not. Air is made up of the combination of nitrogen and oxygen and other tiny elements, none of which are visible to the naked eye. Since we need to breathe, I think we can all agree that each element is a pretty important ingredient, even if we can’t see them.
Not being able to see some combinations at work, make us less likely to rank them high on the importance scale.
“Out of site and out of mind” is like some weird melody we keep playing in our lives and we really shouldn’t. The consequences can be deadly. If you think following the food pyramid when we eat is just a suggestion, think again. Truly!
We need the combinations for our bodies to function properly. It’s the only road to a long and healthy life.
If you want to be sick a lot and die young, go ahead and eat what you want with full abandon!
Those of you who want to continue living on this planet, in relatively good shape, may want to pay attention. Eating a healthy diet isn’t easy. We need the combinations but, as a nation, we do a pretty poor job of it. I believe we can do a much better job and I’m hoping this will make it easier for us all.
The food pyramid calls for grains (6 oz.), vegetables (2.5 cups), fruits (2 cups), milk/dairy (3 cups), and beans/meat (5.5 oz.) everyday. I have the toughest time with grains and the easiest with fruits and vegetables. Go figure!
Everyone is different. Actually reading the labels of the foods we eat helps tremendously, but let’s take each category at a time and see what we can eat.
Let’s start with grains. You can get your daily 6 ounces from eating whole wheat bread, muffins, waffles and pancakes, toasted oat cereals, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and barley. If you’ve had a bad experience with trying whole grain pasta, I strongly recommend you try different brands.
Getting 2.5 cups of vegetables is easy, but remember the more you cook them, the fewer nutrients they have. I don’t think I need to explain the two cups needed for the fruit category, do I?  
Just try and mix your colors and limit artificially high sugar in fruit drinks.
The three cups of milk/dairy products is pretty much a no brainer, as well. You’ve got milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, ice cream, etc., but try to go for the lowest fat choices.
The 5.5 ounces of meat and/or beans is probably the one most people find the easiest. Beef, pork, chicken, exotic meats, seafood and beans all fall into the category.  Like vegetables, how you cook it makes a difference. Don’t bread and fry it, except on special occasions and remember it’s only 5.5 ounces. One pound is 16 ounces, so that one-quarter pounder from McDonalds gives you 4 ounces.
Now, I could get really scientific here and go on and tell you about how you can mix your daily combinations within the food pyramid to fight diseases, like onions and grapes to fight allergies, cancers and weight gain, but I don’t want to make your eyes roll.  
I guess all I’m really asking you to do is pay attention. Place some importance on what you eat.  If something is important to us, we make it happen.
So let’s all go for the real “combo platter” and make the pyramid the priority.
I kind of like having you all around. Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is the gardening columnist for The Anderson News. She can be reached via email at paysteen@shelbybb.net.