I have a dreadful family health history with my father and his mother dying relatively young from strokes; and my mother having had high blood pressure and diabetes for many years. From my youngest days I have had a voice inside of me telling me to take responsibility for my own health through dietary means.
- As a young teenager, I cut out chocolates, confectionery and junk fatty foods having observed that people who consumed a lot of these foods were overweight.
- When I was fifteen, my father had a heart attack and our family diet changed drastically. Gone forever were saturated fats of butter, cream and fatty meats. Sadly this was too little too late for my dad who passed away from a stroke 5 years later.
- After being diagnosed with post-natal high blood pressure at the early age of 28, and scared of my family history of strokes, I went on a series of strict diets including the Pritikin diet, amongst others with an emphasis on salt restriction. I managed to bring my blood pressure under control.
- My second son was a failure to thrive suffering bouts of diarrhoea and respiratory ailments. After a two year struggle I did some research and took him to specialist immunologists at Sydney’s largest hospital. After an exclusion diet and food challenges, he was diagnosed with food sensitivities reacting to preservatives, colours, MSG; plus salicylates and amines found in natural foods. With his modified diet, I was able to keep him happy and healthy throughout his childhood
- On the same diet, I discovered ailments I had suffered, such as asthma, were triggered by certain foods and food chemicals. More importantly, I ascertained my high blood pressure was triggered by foods high in biogenic amines, found in aged and fermented foods such as cheese and wine. Excluding them from my diet, I have been able to control my blood pressure and at the age of 59 am still drug-free. Interestingly, many foods high in salt are also high in amines (cheese, preserved meats) and my earlier dietary exclusion of salt also reduced amines.
- After finding “the answer” for my son and myself through diet I went on and did a post-graduate course in nutrition so I could help others.
- Over time I modified my diet to one that continued to be low in fat and salt, and also low glycaemic and high in soluble fibre. A low glycaemic diet helps control appetite and prevents the spiking of blood sugar levels. Foods high in soluble fibre reportedly help lower blood cholesterol.
Despite this theoretical ‘perfect’ diet; when under stress, when feeling glum, when I do not feel like cooking, or when busy, the diet can slip away. The diet entails a fair amount of home prepared meals. Not only are restaurant and cafe foods laced with preservatives and spicy foods I cannot eat; they rarely offer low glycaemic foods such as barley, lentils, and beans. Even oat-porridge is a rarity on ‘breakfast menus’. Foods I can eat when out tend to be high-glycaemic which do not sustain me and I tend to overeat.
To get back on track I need to focus on my health benefits as being as important as the busy things I am doing. I have to re-rate it at a high level of importance, just as I did when my son’s health was at stake, just as I did when I wanted to make sure my children’s mother (me) did not die prematurely from stroke.
This last week I have got back on track. I have restocked my pantry with the right foods. I have taken the time to prepare foods to take to work. Most importantly, I am focussing on my eating pattern and its long-term health benefits, as being as important as the crucial big-picture decisions confronting me in my life at the moment.
Menu for the day
Breakfast: Oat-porridge with soy-milk and chopped apple
Lunch: Brown rice, with bean and vegetable salad.
Dinner: Barley, lentil and vegetable soup. Chicken optional.
Gradually the old (good) habits are returning. Onwards and upwards to a healthy long life.
Beans Image Courtesy [Witthaya Phonsawat] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Oats Image Courtesy [Grant Cochrane] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net