So, you try to eat right.
Your mother probably taught you based on the beloved Four Food Groups model -- a guideline issued by the United States Department of Agriculture in the mid fifties -- with each meal emphasizing meat, whole fat dairy products, breads and a few vegetables or fruits. In the nineties, the government's suggestion morphed from a square of equal food categories into a triangle of dietary regulation: the official food pyramid. Fat was out. Carbs were in. So we eschewed our steaks, buttered potatoes and homemade pie for heaping plates of pasta with drizzled olive oil and Entenmann's fat-free cookies. But that didn't prove to be a recipe for health, and by end of the 20th century more Americans had obesity, heart disease and diabetes than back in the sixties when everyone was asking for seconds of Mom's meatloaf and gravy.
Dean Ornish says to give up all fats and you'll stave off or even reverse heart disease. That is, unless you end up with fatty acid deficiency and insulin resistance. Vegetarian experts say to eliminate all animal products and you'll give your body the perfect human diet. Until you find yourself deficient in protein, vitamin B12, iron, iodine and omega 3 fatty acids. Proponents of a Stone Age diet insist that we should avoid agricultural products and eat like our prehistoric hunter/gatherer ancestors ate -- lots of meat, fish, fowl, nuts, berries, fruits and veggies. Sounds good, except that when we hunt at the local grocery store we also gather genetically modified produce with pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls and recombinant bovine growth hormone.
Fish is good, right? Oops, there's the methylmercury contamination. Then how about soy? Natural health experts tell us it can wreck your thyroid and cause pancreatic dysfunction. Okay, then what about beans? Aren't beans an ideal food? Sure, except for that bisphenol-A lining the cans. Stir fried vegetables are healthy, aren't they? Nope, not if you consider the trans fats and cancer-causing acrylamide -- a by product of all fried food. Milk? Anti-dairy experts warn of dioxins, hormones and herbicides. Bottled juice? Nutritionists tell us to stay away from high fructose corn syrup.
Water. We can just drink water. But not if you listen to scientists who say that fluoride is more toxic than lead and only slightly less poisonous than arsenic. (Bottled water? Oncologists remind us that those plastic bottles might cause cancer. Oh, and the scientists chime in that a lot of bottled water is fluoridated.)
Sigh. I'm really getting tired of all this advice from all these health experts. In fact, all these health experts are making meal time a fairly large bummer, which can't be good for anyone's mental health.
So, I have some advice of my own: have the chili cheese fries from Hi-Life Burgers. They're filled with enough animal fat, cholesterol and glutamate to make Sanjay Gupta break out in hives, But I can play the statistics game too. Am I an expert? Well, yes, actually. I'm quite the expert on chili cheese fries. So here goes:
The potatoes have heart-healthy potassium and magnesium, not to mention vitamin C, phosphorous and zinc. Cheese offers bone protection with much-needed calcium. Plus, there's a little-known Danish study which found that men who ate 1 ounce of full fat cheese every day for three weeks had no increase in their LDL cholesterol. Now, for the chili. Well... that beef is loaded with iron and something called conjugated linoleic acid which numerous studies have shown reduces incidences of cancer and suppresses growth of existing cancer.
Most important, the chili cheese fries are delicious. They're the kind of ooey-gooey tasty that just makes you happy. And happiness causes a cascade of positive body responses from hormone balance to endorphin release. In fact, a substantial Mexican study has shown that happy people are more likely to have better immune systems and live longer than unhappy people, regardless of other medical factors.
Chili cheese fries as a health food? Maybe not. But I sure felt better after eating them.