As our Changemaker of the Month, Dr. Mark Hyman shared an excerpt of his latest book, The Blood Sugar Solution: 10 Day Detox Diet, with Thrive Notebook readers. Read on to find out why Hyman thinks cooking is so essential.
With our busy lives, so many of us shy away from cooking. Between our never-ending to-do lists, demanding jobs, busy children’s schedules, and perhaps less-than-stellar skills in the kitchen, cooking seems to slide down the list of priorities. But when you consider all of the benefits of making a meal, you’ll be inspired to channel your inner chef. Cooking a meal for yourself, a family member, or a friend is an act of love. It’s a chance to strengthen bonds, teach important life-extending skills to our children, and enrich and nourish our bodies and our souls. The food industry wants us to believe that cooking is difficult, time consuming, inconvenient, and expensive, but meals need not be complicated or time consuming to be delicious and satisfying. The science is clear. You can eat well for less money by making simple, whole, fresh food. In fact, a simple dinner for a family of four consisting of roast chicken, vegetables, and salad can cost about half of what dinner out at McDonald’s would cost.
I once visited an obese sick family who had never cooked. They lived on food stamps and disability. With one simple cooking lesson and a guide from the Environmental Working Group called “Good Food on a Tight Budget,” they started cooking. In the first year, the mother lost over 100 pounds, the father lost 45 pounds, and their teenage son lost 40 pounds. Unfortunately, the son has since gained the weight back because the only jobs for teenagers in the food desert where they live are at a fast food chain. It’s like sending an alcoholic to work in a bar! These days over 50 percent of meals are consumed outside the home, but it’s my goal is to get you to reconnect with your kitchen and the bounty of benefits it offers.
The reasons are simple. With today’s toxic food environment— the slick combination of sugar, salt, and fat that’s pumped into a wide range of packaged food — our genes (and our jeans) are overwhelmed. Our taste buds have been assaulted and our tongues and brains adapt by craving even more of these toxins. However, our hormones and biochemical pathways haven’t adapted to this style of eating. The result is that nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight, and obesity rates in the United States are expected to top 42 percent by the end of the next decade (up from only 13 percent in 1960).
Today one in two Americans has either pre-diabetes or diabetes. In less than a decade the rate of pre-diabetes or diabetes in teenagers has risen from 9 percent to 23 percent. Perhaps even more shocking, 37 percent of kids at a normal weight have pre-diabetes and one or more cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar, because even though overly processed food doesn’t necessarily make you fat, it can make you sick. In addition to raising the risk for chronic, life-threatening diseases, the sad truth is that obese children will earn less, suffer more, and die younger.
But all of this can be reversed, and the cure lies in your kitchen. It also lies in your supermarket, not just with the fresh foods in the produce aisle, but also with some of the packaged foods that are tucked away in the middle. Healthy foods such as nuts and nut butters and non-dairy milks are hidden gems in the middle aisles of the store. There are even brands making healthy packaged meals using quality ingredients from real, whole food — for those nights when cooking truly is out of the question. Some companies, such as Luvo (www.luvoinc.com), have created high-quality, delicious, affordable, and healthy frozen meals.
By purchasing these foods, you’re going to transform yourself, but you’re also helping to transform the food industry one small choice at a time. The problems are global, but the solution is as local as your fork! The movement is already underway, being driven by those of us who are fed up with Big Food poisoning our taste buds and our bodies. You have the power to join the movement, and it doesn’t take a picket line or even a huge pocketbook. All it takes is voting with your wallet at the grocery store.
It’s time for a revolution. Cooking real food is a revolutionary act. Without kitchen skills, we have lost the means to care for ourselves. Our children will grow up without these survival tactics, and their children will face the same fate— not being able to identify common fruits and vegetables, and not realizing where food comes from. I urge you to reconsider whatever notions you have about cooking — that it costs too much, that it’s too hard, that it takes too long.
Want to read more of the book? Readers can download a free starter kit from Dr. Hyman's website.
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Photo credit: Dr. Mark Hyman