It’s the Little Green Things

6 02 2008

 

By Jill Ettinger

My Grandfather used to torture me at the dinner table. As I’ve been a “health food” junkie for most of my life, my dinners often consisted of steamed or sautéed greens and fresh lettuce salads, while his was strictly meat and potatoes, with a novel amount of iceberg lettuce as his “salad,” topped with cocktail sauce as dressing. No joke. For the entire time I knew the man, every meal included this strange, small salad. In his cryptic way of approving my commitment to healthy dining, he would snarl and comment about the food on my plate by stating “I don’t eat anything green.” He would sound so self-assured, so convinced that if he convinced himself broccoli was poison, the world would be a better place. I couldn’t help but think that deep down inside, we both knew he wished he were wrong.

He was born into a much different America than me. He would tell stories of his time spent growing up on his Grandmother’s farm on the Jersey shore where he ate fresh corn and tomatoes all summer long. But by age ten, the Great Depression had set in and food became scarce. World War II came along shortly after and like many others, he enlisted in the Army after Pearl Harbor. During wartime, food was just another form of fuel for him and his fellow fighter pilots. There were few choices, and even fewer fresh fruits or vegetables. All that mattered was that it provided energy; the world was at war after all, and special diets were a luxury our nation couldn’t afford.

By the time my Grandparents started a family, the war was ending and America had been industrialized. Vegetables came from cans or freezers. Serving meat at every meal soothed memories of recent times, when there was none to be had. The fast-food restaurant concept was born; the rest we know all too well. Sugar turned into high fructose corn syrup, fast food turned into really really fast foods. Portions increased along with waistlines and wait lines at doctor’s offices. Insurance coverage is harder to get and even once you have it, many claims are denied.

We’re now at a time when the biggest by-product of World War II – those darling baby boomers are beginning their own golden years. Like their parents before them, they developed a taste for the convenient foods – the sodas and burgers reminiscent of an era long gone.

Though my Grandfather was generally healthy (considering his adult onset diabetes, pacemaker, arthritis and various other ailments), I can’t help but wonder how he would have fared had he eaten a green or two. Not spinach or peas from a can, but fresh, deep leafy greens – healthy and hearty. I came across this article today, once again touting the benefits of eating greens; I can’t help but wonder what’s in store for the aging boomers pulling up to Burger King drive-thru windows. The article reveals a link between increased incidents of dementia and low levels of folic acid in the blood. Folic acid is found in foods like broccoli and spinach. Which do actually taste good. But the stigma still remains. So what is being proposed by the researchers? Adding more folic acid to the stuff we shouldn’t be eating anyway, rather than encouraging consumption of green leafy vegetables. They can’t really be that bad can they? I know I’ve been acclimated, eating them for many years, but I really do think they taste delicious. Beyond that, if I don’t eat some really green foods every day, my body starts to remind me. Is it possible to be a kale addict?

Along with the array of vitamins in greens, they are the only truly alkalizing food. Most of us live in highly stressful environments and eat highly acidic foods. This combination leads to a lot of modern diseases. If we’re not balancing all the acidity and stressors – like with regular doses of greens – well, maybe it’s a good thing dementia sets in.

America is at a turning point. Just look at who’s running for President. Or look at the “greenwashing” happening to companies like Wal-Mart. There is indeed a revolution in the air, a lot of that due to those baby boomers who came before us. They set a lot of things right back in the sixties. They even started the move to organic, whole foods. Now, let’s make sure they eat them so they can enjoy watching the fruits of their labor.

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