Chuck, did you hear about the nutritionist who recently lost 27 pounds by eating nothing but Twinkies? What do you think about that? – Trevor W., Jacksonville, Fla.

It’s true. It was reported this past week how a health professor at Kansas State University lost 27 pounds in two months by living on his so-called Twinkie diet.

As appealing as that may be for some, however, I’m sure I don’t need to convince most that just because one loses weight on a diet of junk consumptives doesn’t mean that it’s good for one’s body. If that’s the case, I’m going to write a book on the pine cone diet!

Ever read the ingredients in a Twinkie? It’s probably best that you don’t.

In previous articles, I have started detailing the essentials of a better you. The basic but building principles come from a great nutritional source, Dr. Don Colbert’s “The Seven Pillars of Health.” I have addressed the first two pillars, water and sleep. Now it’s time for No. 3: eating living foods.

You may be getting full from food daily, but if you’re like most Americans, your body is deprived of the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Foods with the vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients you need are what Colbert and others call “live foods,” which are fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts. He says that we all generally have two shelves in our pantries, one for living foods and one for dead foods. You’ll know them by their “fruit,” or what they produce.

“Dead foods” make you more disease-prone; cause degenerative diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and arthritis; and make you gain weight. They also make you fatigued and prone to hypertension and high cholesterol.

“Living foods” protect your body from cancer, heart disease, all degenerative diseases and obesity, and they sharpen your mind, energize you and enliven you.

It is important that you eat a variety of foods from the five basic food groups. The American Heart Association’s website offers a grocery list of more than 800 foods from those five groups that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Similarly, the American Academy of Family Physicians’ website offers some excellent tips for a heart-healthy diet.

It often has been said you’ll know the living foods in your grocery because they are along the outside parameters inside the store. Most of the processed, salt- and sugar-filled products are on the inside shelves.

Once upon a time, long before the world of fast-food restaurants, live foods were not always fresh and sometimes scarce; yet they were the only foods most cultures consumed. For example, as far back as Jesus’ day, daily bread was good bread. At the two meals each day, bread was the main food back then. The light breakfasts – often flatbread, olives and cheese (from goats or sheep) – were carried to work and eaten at midmorning. Dinners were more substantial, consisting of vegetable (lentil) stew, bread (barley for the poor, wheat for the rich), fruit, eggs and/or cheese. Fish was a common staple, but red meat was reserved for special occasions. Locusts were a delicacy and reportedly taste like shrimp (bet you thought I was going to say chicken!). Of course, Jews then wouldn’t have known they tasted like shrimp, because shrimp and all other crustaceans were “unclean.”

Bottom line: If you want to live optimally, you need to consume fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products daily. Walnuts and almonds are the king and queen of the nuts. And try to eat fish twice a week, especially salmon. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which lower the risk of coronary artery disease. Reduce your consumption of foods and beverages that are high in calories, salt, sugars, trans fats and saturated fats. Stop to read the labels. If you can’t even pronounce the ingredients going into your body, then why are you putting them in there?

Put succinctly, we would be very wise to follow the ancient wisdom of Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

And I can absolutely assure you that when Hippocrates prescribed that, he didn’t have a Twinkie in mind.

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