Living Free From Food Guilt

By the time this goes to press I will be on a well-deserved vacation … from being good.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to eat “right.” I’ve got friends who are gluten-free who don’t have celiac disease, but feel less “bloated.” Others are on the paleo diet, which forbids even gluten-free bread or pasta. Others are on the Mediterranean diet: nuts, olives, and tons of steamed or grilled veggies drizzled with olive oil (cold pressed, extra virgin, from a reliable producer).

Nobody my age gives dinner parties anymore because somebody’s dairy free; somebody else can’t eat tomatoes or onions because of irritable bowel; some have developed an allergy to shellfish; others have given up red meat; a handful won’t eat spicy because of reflux; and a bunch are off the sauce or will only drink pinot noir. It’s just easier to just meet for lunch or dinner at a restaurant.

I dropped in on a health food store recently to ponder what I might add to ameliorate the vague malaise of living in a slightly worn-down body. It seems an entire industry has sprung up to help us aging baby boomers combat our aches and pains, failing eyesight, wrinkled skin, acid reflux, and brittle hair and nails. The demand for organic, non-narcotic life enhancers is dizzying. What in the world does Cat’s Claw do? A clerk assured me it was a great antioxidant. When in doubt, something is always an antioxidant.

For my arthritis, I’ve been advised to soak six yellow raisins in gin and take them each morning. Also, turmeric — I should be having more of that. One friend takes vitamin E for skin; another downs beta-carotene to prevent macular degeneration. Yet another takes milk thistle for liver cleansing. Who knew what milk thistle was for?

Calcium is out, as it might cause kidney stones. But vitamin D is in, as is sublingual B. It’s not cold and flu season, so zinc and echinacea can sit on the shelf. Green tea with coconut is all the rage. St. John’s Wort is handy for treating the blues, while melatonin is a must for sleep and travel. I have spied shark’s cartilage, primrose oil, rosehip tablets, and DHEA ­— I’ve been told what they enhance or prevent, but I’ve already forgotten.

For forgetfullness I should be on gingko biloba, one of the most popular supplements around. The baby boomers can’t get enough memory boosters.

After watching a special on TV about Eastern medicine, it seems my pantry is woefully sparse. Burdock seed has been used through the ages for treating gout, and although I don’t have it, maybe I should keep it on hand in case I start feeling gouty. As it stands I’m good on garlic, but I like it for the flavor. I grow mint and parsley for the same reason; not because it’s good for me.

After returning from visiting my Kentucky family, I realized I was not up on probiotics. In fact, I had no idea what they were. Maybe my morning smoothie of yogurt and berries was covering that good gut bacteria, but just to be on the safe side, I’m now throwing in some chia, flax, spinach, and lime juice. Cherries seem like they should be part of my daily diet as well. Ditto celery. Also, it seems kefir is better for me than yogurt. And I thought having Greek yogurt was all I needed to do.

It’s exhausting to try to figure out what’s missing in my diet. I could go to a nutritionist or a lifestyle analyst or an herbologist, like some people I know. But let’s face it, if you go to a muffler shop, they’re going to try to sell you a muffler. To be honest, I’ve had a bottle of CO-Q 10 for about six years that I’ve never finished. It sits on my window ledge with the dog’s pills in case I ever get a craving. I hate pills — a relic from having to down some really nasty ones as a child asthmatic. I don’t even like a multivitamin, because it just tastes so vitaminy.

My internist made me feel slightly better at my annual checkup. “Food is not medicine and medicine is not food. Eat a balanced diet and watch portion control.” Omega-3 or fish oil tablets? Not if I’m eating salmon ­— which is all anybody eats anymore.

So I’m off the guilt trip and on a real trip. While out of Dallas, I’ll be nibbling on cheese and gluten-filled crackers, or having a hamburger with tomato and onion, while sipping an adult beverage and taking a break from the food police. Eat your heart out.

Len Bourland

The views expressed by columnist Len Bourland are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of People Newspapers. Email Len at [email protected]

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