To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” ~ La Rochefoucald
Right now, how do you feel? Are you tired? Exhausted? Did you just drive through a fast-food chain tonight for your kids because you are too tired to cook? Did you walk like a zombie through the grocery store, picking up the exact same staples and meals as last week that your mother and grandmother probably shopped for as well? Believe me, I know. I have also been that person. Exhausted from work, I nightly overindulged in alcohol while dialing the saved number for pizza delivery on my phone. Why are we all so tired and how can we increase our level of energy? Our culture believes that food is ritualistic. It has to mean something and tickle our taste buds with every bite. People say, “Food is about the taste.” I am asking you to just consider the idea that food is about the energy.
FOOD = ENERGY
Energy surrounds us. There is energy coming from everywhere in our world. Every living thing needs to consume energy to survive. The sun is the source of energy for life on Earth. Plants use light energy from the sun to make food. Humans eat the plants and convert the energy from the food into kinetic energy as our bodies digest the food. The entire mass of our body is made up of energy. Energy is our heart beating. Energy is our legs walking. Energy is the fire in our bellies.
Our bodies “burn” the calories in the food or break down the food to release the energy contained in that food into our bodies. According to the first law of thermodynamics, energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be transformed from one type of energy to another. Therefore, the energy in the food we eat is transformed or burned into the energy that we use to walk, to eat, to breathe, or to make our hearts beat. If the calories we consume are not burned to fuel our bodies, they are stored in our bodies. Exercise is measured in the amount of calories it burns. When you step on a treadmill, the readings show you not only how far you have walked or run, but also the amount of calories that you have burned. If you do not burn the same number of calories each day that you consume, then the unburned portion of that energy is stored in your body as fat.
The unit of measurement for energy is a calorie. We generally associate calories with food, but a calorie applies to anything that contains energy. For example, a gallon of gas contains about 31,000,000 calories. Specifically, a single calorie is the amount of energy, or heat, it takes to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. In the late 1800s, Wilbur Atwater, a nutrition scientist, measured the number of calories in a food by placing that food in a machine called a bomb calorimeter and burning it. When it was entirely burned, the machine measured the rise in the water temperature; each one degree of temperature rise equaled one calorie. So if a food, when burned in the machine, raised the water temperature by 250 degrees, the food contained 250 calories.
Food is energy that is measured by the number of calories it produces or the amount of heat required to break it down.
Originally, Atwater believed a working man should consume 4,500 calories. Showing how nutrition evolves, the recommended calories are now determined by an individual’s weight, height, gender, and activity level and can range from 1,600 to 3,000 calories per day. The average person eats approximately 2,000 calories per day and this number of calories forms the basis of our nutrition guidelines, daily recommendations, and so on.
The oldest medical text, Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen, refers to the concept of qi. Although qi incorporates conceptual layers that cannot be expressed in our English language, there are two translations of the logograph. The usual translation is qì 氣, “air; vital energy,” and the rare archaic xì 氣 means “to present food.” The logograph is composed of two parts. The upper part is the symbol for steam or air, and the lower part is the symbol for rice being cooked or popping. Could this not translate to energy present in plant-based food? The concept generally translates as life energy and is present in many cultures:
Energy from the sun is transformed into growth for the plant. Producers take the energy from the sun, which is the first source of all energy for life on Earth, and use it in a process called photosynthesis to produce leaves, stems, fruits, nuts, seeds, roots, and stalks. Organisms that use the sun for producing food are called producers, and therefore all plants are producers and store energy from the sun that we can use.
Even though human skin has the ability to absorb and synthesize the light from the sun into vitamin D, we cannot convert light to energy like a plant does. Rather than having the ability to produce our own energy, humans must eat something else for energy. Humans consume, or eat, producers (plants) or other consumers (such as a cow, a chicken, an insect, or a pig) for energy. Therefore, in terms of the food chain, humans are called consumers. Animals are also consumers in the food chain. They need to consume or eat something else in order to receive energy in calories.
All of the largest animals on Earth are consumers that eat producers for their nutrition. Horses, elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, and gorillas eat plants and only plants for their nutrition.
This fact becomes extremely important in how one defends one’s nutrition. Many people say that they could never survive on just plants. They say that their bodies will not receive enough protein or all of their muscle will disappear because they are not eating animals. But the largest animals in the world with the biggest muscle masses survive and thrive on plant-based diets. The largest animals are consumers eating solely producers.
Bacteria and fungi consume energy in organic matter, including waste as well as the toxins in our floral gut. Yeast is the bacteria that consumes the energy of grains and sugars. Decomposition, or the breakdown of the food that has been consumed, also releases energy. Therefore, the organisms that are decomposing the organic materials are called decomposers. Decomposers are still consuming energy for their ongoing survival, similar to producers and consumers.
Where humans want to jump on the food chain as the consumer varies. Some people, like vegans, want to consume only plants, in order to stay close to the pure source of all energy, which is the sun, while others, like vegetarians, choose to eat plants plus some dairy products. Still others choose to consume producers as well as other consumers, following animal-based diets, including Paleo and Atkins. Since one of the major activities in life is finding energy, the cycle of eating and where a human decides to jump on to this cycle to supply their energy needs to be consciously analyzed. Do you want to eat the closest, most direct, and cleanest source of energy from the sun, meaning a plant? Or do you want to eat a secondary source of energy, which means eating the animals that have eaten the plants?
We need to recognize that FOOD = ENERGY. Food is the energy in which we survive on.
FOOD = MEDICINE
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates is viewed as the father of medicine. He was the originator of the oath that all of our doctors take today when they become physicians. Hippocrates is also generally credited with the quotation, “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” Over time this phrase has been reworked into phrases that resemble “you are what you eat” or “food is your best medicine.” Today, over 2,500 years later, Dr. Michael Greger, the author of How Not to Die, proposes that the top fifteen diseases related to premature death can be prevented through diet, and that food is the best medicine for disease prevention.
As a society, we must come to understand that the first stop for curing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer is our refrigerator.
Every day, we choose to either slowly poison ourselves or to eat the most powerful form of medicine known to man. It is in our everyday decision-making regarding what we eat that we are also making decisions about our health and wellness. We are responsible for our own decisions and our own health. The problem is that we are making poor decisions every day, and then when we develop a condition due to those poor choices, we want a golden pill to fix it.
Our perception regarding the cure to our diseases needs to change so that we understand an apple is the golden pill, a banana is the golden pill, and spinach is the golden pill. We need to take responsibility and change our mindset so that when we are eating good things we recognize them to be preventatives of disease and cures for our body. In the 1903 publication of The Newark Advocate, in a piece called “The Edison Wizard,” Thomas Edison stated,
“The doctor of the FUTURE will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”
There is no time like the present to recognize that Food = Medicine.