I'll never forget my friend Joe. We had met at a garage sale, and every few weeks I would see Joe's white truck pull up in my driveway. He never got out of his truck, but he would bring his grandchildren over to play or just come along to chat for a while. Every time he came I invited him inside for a bite to eat, but he never took me up on it. In fact, he never even got out of his truck. We would just stand there in the driveway, visiting through his open window “Are you sure?” I would ask him. “I just made a big salad. Come join me for lunch.” But he never took me up on my offer. In fact in all the years I knew him, Joe never came inside my house. Not once.
For a long time I thought he didn't come inside because he couldn't walk well. But one day he said, “No thank you. I don't eat anything green.”
“You don't eat anything green?” I could hardly believe what I was hearing.
“No,” he explained. “You see, I grew up in a large family. There were eight of us brothers and sisters. I had a true Southern Mama and she sure was a good cook. She'd make greens for us, but only half of us liked them. The other half of us didn't like greens, so she would make us something different. Every night she cooked two meals. One meal for the kids who liked greens and another meal for the kids who didn't like greens. And since I never had to eat them, I never really got used to them and to this day I still don't like greens.”
Now y'all, I make my children eat a salad before every single meal, so this story was hurting my farmlady-feelings.
What's so sad about this story is that Joe was sick. He was only in his 60's but he had a myriad of health complaints. Many – by his own admission – were due at least in part to his diet.
Several months went by. I had a baby and was on bedrest for a while and Joe stopped coming over. Finally we went to his house to check on him. His wife told us that one day Joe had been in the kitchen making his daily portion of instant noodles for lunch. When she went into the kitchen a little while later, she found him on the floor, dead from a heart attack. In his hand, he still held a package of instant noodles.
In the weeks that followed I thought a lot about Joe's death. True, he was a grandfather already, but he was still young for dying. I started wondering about the impact of his eating habits on his health in general. I wondered if nutrition had been a priority for him, how much longer might he have lived and how much better might his quality of life been?
I thought about Joe going into his kitchen to make instant noodles, not knowing that he wouldn't live long enough to eat them. I wondered, was it really his appointed time to die? Or did his lifestyle choices and eating habits impact his lifespan, shortening it?
Sometimes people come visit me at our farm and they ask if I really think changing the way they eat can impact their lifespan. “We all have a time we are going to die,” they argue. “There's nothing we can do to change that.”
It's true that God knows the exact day and hour of our death:
Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; Job 14:5
But it's also true that various factors (including our own actions) can impact our time of death.
When someone is murdered we don't say “Oh well, I guess it was God's ordained time for that person to die.”
When someone commits suicide we don't shrug our shoulders and say, “Hmm. There's God's timing at work again.”
If God protected us from the consequences of our own actions and the consequences of natural laws, then I could send my toddlers out to play in traffic and know they wouldn't be killed because it isn't their time to die. But I don't do that because the world doesn't work that way.
I found this quote:
We know that the risk [of cancer] is increased if we smoke, regularly drink alcohol, eat beef and dairy products, take certain drugs and hormones, and are exposed to exhaust fumes and other pollutants – to name a few. The risk, on the other hand, is lower if we have a high intake of certain vegetables, fibers and antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamins C and E, and live in an unpolluted environment. Evidence shows that, when the pluses significantly outweigh the minuses, health can be improved.” Patrick Holford, in Optimum Nutrition, page 9
It is true that we each have an appointed time to die, but it is not true that there is nothing we can do about it. While it is ultimately in God's hands, there is a relationship between our lifestyle and our health. Our daily choices do affect the quality and longevity of our lives. Each day, whether we know it or not, we all make decisions that impact our life and health.
How do I know this for sure? Well, in 1972 Dr. Nedra Belloc and Dr. Lester Breslow conducted some important research which became known simply as the “Alameda County Study.” They studied the lifestyles of 7,000 people who lived in Alameda County, California and discovered that there were 7 lifestyle habits that were directly related to how long the people lived. These health habits were:
- 7-8 hours sleep per night
- No eating between meals
- Eat breakfast regularly
- Maintain healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Moderate or no use of alcohol
- No smoking
Click Here or on the image above for your free 7 Healthy Habits Printable!
The more of these health habits that people practiced the longer they lived. After 9 years, the people in the study who had practiced all these healthy habits had only about a 5-6% death rate. People who practiced three or fewer of these habits had a 12.3% (females) or 20% (males) death rate throughout the nine year study.
The Alameda County Study made it clear that our lifestyle habits are directly related to our lifespan and quality of life.
Think about your car for a minute. Most of us do not say, “God has a plan for when my car should die and there's nothing I can do about it.” Instead, we give our automobiles proper maintenance and quality gasoline and oil to extend the life of the car as much as possible. If we are willing to take care of replaceable cars, shouldn't we take even better care of our irreplaceable bodies?If we take care of our replaceable cars, shouldn't we take even better care of our irreplaceable bodies? Click To Tweet
I read a Mennonite article once that said, “the food we eat either tears our body down or builds it up.” Think about that for a minute. Every cell in your body is composed entirely of molecules derived from what you eat. Every bite of food we eat either strengthens our body in some way, or weakens it.
Every cell in your children's bodies are composed entirely of molecules derived from what you feed them.Every cell in your children's bodies are composed of molecules derived from what you feed them. Click To Tweet
Feeding our children is a major responsibility, and yet it's an area that very few of us have any training in. It is the eating habits that they establish now that will set them up for a long and healthy life. Long after we are dead and gone, the habits we instill in them today will still be with them, determining the quality of their lives.
That's why I am going to take the next several days on this blog to give you a guided tour of the world of nutrition and it how our bodies are designed to absorb and use nutrients.
I want you to be empowered to feed your children an optimal diet, giving them the best possible nutrients so that they can be as healthy as possible. Because they deserve that.
And I want you to be empowered to feed yourself an optimal diet. I want you to understand the diet you are choosing so that you can be as healthy as possible. Because you deserve that, too.
If you haven't already, be sure to pick up your own FREE copy of my Granola Ebook by filling out the form below:
Inside the Granola Ebook you will find 12 incredibly delicious, themed monthly recipes. They are oil-free and can be made gluten free using gluten free oats. Here is a peek at some of the delicious granola recipes you will find inside the Granola ebook!