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What You Eat Can Save Your Life

In my focused effort to write more, I've been posting stories and articles that I've written mostly online. I'm excited to announce that my first print article has been published in Well magazine. You can read the full article below or get your copy of Well here or on the stands at any of the locations with the purple marker on this map. I hope you enjoy it!

What You Eat Can Save Your Life

When did eating get so confusing? As kids, our parents told us “Eat your vegetables,” while we pushed our overcooked carrots around on our plates, or made roads of peas through our mashed potatoes. But eventually, we ate them, because we all know that vegetables are good for us. 

Why then are we so confused about what to eat now? We’re bombarded with misleading claims and confusing studies, often funded by the food industry, to keep us guessing. Flashy headlines with the latest trends get our attention but do nothing to help us decode what’s good for us and what’s not. For example, in the 1980s, fat was the enemy, and food companies made billions from marketing products that were “low-fat” or “fat-free,” but made us sicker.  

Our Standard American Diet (SAD) is killing us at alarming rates. Instead of learning about nutrition, doctors are encouraged to prescribe drugs to lower blood pressure and cholesterol without a word about diet. Don’t get me wrong, western medicine saves lives, including mine when I survived a heart attack at 31 years old, but the system treats symptoms rather than preventing disease.

While heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, 80% of cardiovascular disease is preventable with lifestyle changes. What you eat is an important lifestyle factor in whether or not you’ll develop heart disease. However, per the CDC, only roughly 11 percent of U.S. adults eat the recommended number of daily servings of fruits and vegetables.1 

According to a report from the American Heart Association “Only half of the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables is available in the U.S. food supply, whereas red meat and poultry are available at about twice the rate recommended for healthy eating.”2 

How did this happen? 

Subsidies for commodity crops impact our access to healthy food and form the foundation of our cheap, highly-processed-food diet. The commodities section of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also called the Farm Bill, provides funding to farmers in the United States. Only 0.23 percent of the total funding went to support growing crops like fruits, vegetables and nuts.

The good news is that eating better is easier than you might think, and it doesn’t require restrictive diets that leave you feeling hungry and unsatiated. Michael Pollan, in his book In Defense of Food, puts healthy eating advice in simple terms: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

One of the best things you can do for your health is cook more and eat out less. You’ll likely eat less since the dishes served in restaurants tend to be massive. Plus, what you cook at home is almost always going to be healthier than what you’re served at a restaurant, with one caveat – that you focus on whole foods rather than highly processed foods. 

The stars of your plate should be fruits and vegetables. They don’t need labels to boast that they’re loaded with the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your body needs to thrive. Get the most nutritious, local produce at farmers’ markets, through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), or at the grocery store by looking for the “I’m local” designation.

Most of the grains you consume should be whole, providing you with sustained energy and helping you avoid the sugar spike that you get from refined grains. This is as simple as replacing white rice with brown or wild rice. You could get adventurous and give millet, quinoa or wheat berries a try. If you opt for pasta, try a version made with whole wheat or chickpeas. 

Be choosy about the proteins that you include in your meals. Substitute meat or chicken with legumes (i.e., beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas), tofu or tempeh at least once a week. Start with meals you already enjoy eating, and opt for a different protein. For example, instead of chicken in your burrito, use black beans. 

Upgrade the fats that you eat. Did you know that packaged cakes and cookies, frozen pizza and fried foods commonly contain trans fats? While fats (one of three macronutrients) are an important part of a balanced diet, the type of fat you consume matters for maximizing your longevity. Foods like butter, red and processed meats, cheese and poultry all contain saturated fats, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Swapping out trans and saturated fats with unsaturated fats that are found in olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados provides what the body needs while lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and boosting HDL (good) cholesterol. 

Plant-based diets have consistently been proven to increase longevity by lowering your risk of heart disease, cancer and other health conditions. Take back control of your health by up-leveling your food, because it’s true that what you eat can save your life. 


1 “Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations — United States, 2019.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Jan. 2022, Accessed 9 Feb. 2024. 

“Farm Bill Reauthorization.” American Heart Association Accessed 9 Feb. 2024.

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