Would anybody consider irrigating a plant with anything but water and expect it to live? Would anyone pour a liquid other than gasoline into the gas tank of their car and expect it to run? The answer is obvious. We care for our plants and vehicles by “feeding” them with what supports their health and performance. Yet unfortunately, too many of us think nothing of putting into our bodies foods and beverages that do not belong there and are detrimental to our health and pocketbooks.

Someone once said: “Eat right, exercise, die anyway!” Indeed, all of us have to die someday, however, our lifestyle choices, especially what and how much we eat, determines, in great part, our quality of life.

Highly processed foods, far removed from their natural state, are dense with numerous manufactured substances and additives: artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners, preservatives, thickeners, MSG, gum, corn syrup, sugar, unhealthy fats, and more. In addition, processed foods and beverages provide only a fraction, if any, of the nutrients present in the original natural products. Such food wannabes inflict a double whammy on our health: First, they load us with unnatural, and in many cases, foreign substances that our bodies don’t recognize and are frequently unable to use or detoxify. Consequently, unhealthy chemicals accumulate in our cells and organs and overtime contribute to the development of chronic diseases. Second, intensive processing of these foods greatly diminishes, or completely depletes them of their natural nutrients vital to the function of the body’s trillions of cells and their ability to maintain good health and fight disease.

The solution is simple: Eat foods that are closest to their natural state: fresh vegetables — raw or briefly cooked — instead of produce in coffins (canned ones), or precooked frozen dinners. One look at a commercial salad dressing ingredients list should scare you into to making your own wholesome dressing in one minute right in the salad bowl before adding the veggies. (A basic dressing can include: wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper). Substitute nutritious whole grain products, such as brown rice, pasta, bread, pita, oats, barley, and corn tortillas, for ones made of processed and nutritionally depleted grains. Cook super nutritious dried beans in larger batches to last for two to three meals, instead of using cooked-till-unconscious canned ones. Even generic salt is intensively processed. Instead, use pure (naturally colored) pink Himalayan salt, available in health food stores and many supermarkets.

Drink mainly plain (filtered) water instead of health sabotaging, chemically-dense sodas of all kinds, or other commercial sweetened beverages, and “energy” drinks. Squeezing a little fresh fruit juice into your water can lend some variety. Hot or cold additive-free home-prepared herbal teas are another good option. Consuming a glass of pure juice is harmful to your health because of the high concentration of fructose (fruit sugar) in the absence of the fruit’s fiber — that slows down absorption — which was removed during juicing. Eating fruit whole is a better choice.

Pastries and frozen desserts are loaded with sugar, artificial food colors and flavors, unhealthy fats, white flour, and other health saboteurs. Good fats, consumed in moderation; extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, fish, and lean meat for example, help support a healthy you.

Bottom line: Carving a little time daily to prepare delicious, fresh, and nutritious meals at home, made with natural ingredients, (preferably organic), saves you incredible amounts of time spent in doctor offices, tests, and hospitals, followed by staggering medical bills. It also prevents a great deal of unnecessary suffering and diminished quality of life. Foods in their natural state provide nutrients in the right combinations for maximum benefits. Let nature’s pharmacy be your health-support team. Fad diets don’t work in the long run; eating healthy does!

We simply must accept the fact that not everything in life can be condensed into a pill or a click of a mouse. The food industry has convinced millions of us that replacing fresh whole foods with highly processed, mass-produced, fast food, junk food, and precooked TV dinners, is the way to go. We can see the consequences of such lifestyle choices all around us. Take charge of your health; empower yourself to exercise your right to choose health over disease. It’s never too late to start!

Judy E. Buss is a syndicated food/health columnist, blogger for the American Holistic Health Association, nutritional cooking instructor, and speaker.

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