Over the years, the way I eat has gradually changed. Growing up, it was definitely ‘meat, potatoes, vegetables’, with milk and cereal for breakfast.
=> As a young adult, the milk and cereal disappeared, to be replaced by (non-dairy) homemade fruit smoothies – a change that relieved the lower-abdominal pain I had suffered regularly for as long as I could remember.
=> I dabbled (for about five years) with vegetarianism, and thoroughly enjoyed the assorted ethnic meals (Indian, Indonesian, Italian, Mexican…) that formed my take on vegetarian-eating.
=> Moved to Canada, married, had children – and somehow that all led me back to a meat, potatoes, vegetables lifestyle.
=> When my daughter (7) proclaimed that she was vegetarian (‘Do you know what that means, exactly?’, I asked her. She did.), vegetarian meals – the same ethnic ones I’d enjoyed years earlier – became a more frequent part of our diet, even once my daughter’s first run at vegetarianism had passed.
=> Several of my friends attended a Raw Food workshop, and went on the 90-day Raw Challenge – eating nothing but raw foods for 90 days. I was intrigued, but couldn’t imagine working a full-time job while juicing and dehydrating and doing all the raw-food-prep that they were doing. I DID, however, embrace the Green Smoothies portion of their challenge – adding a few handfuls of spinach to my daily fruit smoothie. And started sprouting my own lentils and mung beans, to use in yummy salads.
=> A few years later, I was still a Green Smoothie fanatic. We went on a ski vacation and stayed at a raw resort run by a friend – the food she served us was phenomenal! I signed up for the Raw Food workshop she was putting on a month later, and began to see where I could incorporate a lot more raw food in my life, without having to spend crazy amounts of time on raw-food-prep.
At any rate, the past few years I’ve consumed not-very-much meat, very little dairy, and lots of fruits, vegetables, and legumes. I seldom get sick, especially since starting green smoothies. But lots of people can (and DO) rave over whatever life-changing thing (diet, fitness routine, supplements, weight-loss program…) they happen to be embracing at the moment. I figured today I would throw out a few quantitative measurements that seem to indicate that my approach seems to be working pretty well, at least for me.
Cholesterol (sorry, no numbers here – I’ll have to ask my doctor at my next annual physical) – HDL is high, LDL and triglycerides are low. All very good.
Iron (again, no numbers) – I met with my doctor a while back to discuss the results of some blood tests, and he told me that most of my iron-related numbers were good, and one (while still fine) was a little on the low side.
Vitamin D – at the same time I got my Iron tested, I also had vitamin D blood tests done (at the tail-end of a long, cold winter); my levels were a little on the low side. Note that in Canada it’s generally the case that everyone’s levels are on the low side at the end of winter (unless you could head south for a long sunny vacation at some point). And supplementing is pretty much the only way to get more Vitamin D.
Blood pressure – while I was meeting with my doctor to discuss the results of my iron and vitamin D tests, he took my blood pressure. At 98/61, it’s very low. I attribute that partly to the healthy eating, and partly to the active lifestyle (bike-commuting for the past 17 months forms a really good base for my cardiovascular fitness).
Bone density – Costco was actually running a free bone-density clinic yesterday – cool! So I stopped in, had the test done, and the nurse was happy to tell me that my bone density was higher than the target density for a thirty-year-old. I may not have mentioned this, but I’m (well) over thirty years old. Since bone density tends to peak at the age of thirty, and gradually decrease thereafter, this was a very good reading. And, remembering that I haven’t drunk milk in over twenty years, a fair indication that the calcium required for strong bones does NOT have to be gotten from dairy. I also don’t take calcium supplements (at all regularly). Every so often I’ll think ‘I should really get more calcium’, and manage about 3 days of regular calcium supplements. Before I forget about it, and that’s the end of that. So, if you figure that cows get their calcium by eating dark leafy greens – all the spinach, parsley, kale … that I put in my green smoothies must be working out pretty well. That combined with weight-bearing exercise (running, strength-training…).
So, I recommend asking your doctor to run some tests at your next physical, so that you can have some numbers indicating your current status. If you make significant dietary or lifestyle changes, get him to run the tests again after a year, so you’ll be able to see how those changes are affecting your health.