Natural food is naturally suspect

Given the amount of preservatives most baby boomers have eaten over the course of our lives, we are not going to require embalming. We’re going to be the King Tuts of the 22nd century.

Someone at some point started broadcasting how bad these additives are for us but before that happened I personally subsisted on sodium benzoate, sulfur dioxide, monosodium glutamate, and those benign-sounding chemicals, BHA and BHT. Because Google has become my BDFF (best digital friend forever) I looked up BHA and BHT: butylated hydroxyanisole and (ugh) butylated hydroxytoluene. Doesn’t that sound yummy? I’ll have an order of toluene. Would you like formaldehyde with that?

In these enlightened days, we eat natural foods. Well, that’s what we hope to eat. Those of us who haven’t gone the vegetarian route maintain that T-bone steaks are as natural as, well, cows. Denial is a wonderful thing. At breakfast, I try not to think about where bacon comes from. Bacon, which is ninety-five per cent fat and one hundred per cent salt, has been around since 1500 B.C. Considering the salt content, it’s possible the original slice is still on a shelf somewhere.

Food manufacturers aren’t dumb. They know we’re looking, sometimes with honest intent, for foods that won’t kill us. At least not immediately. So they print food labels with very large print extolling the virtue of their product and explaining why we should buy it. But as I have mentioned many times, the large print giveth and the small print taketh away. Case in point: margarine. Margarine was created by those noted epicures, the French, when Napoleon expressed a need for a cheap alternative to butter to feed to his army. Apparently being shot at by the Germans and/or British wasn’t bad enough so he had to give his men lousy food. It has evolved from the unspeakable (beef tallow churned with butter) to the palatable (apply modern product liberally to hot toast). I eat margarine because I read somewhere it doesn’t have any cholesterol. Everyone in my family has high cholesterol, including my grandmother who was climbing step ladders to trim her trees when she was 95. She was born before cholesterol was invented and died peacefully in her sleep with an LDL of about 300. There are worse ways to go.

My margarine package proclaims, and I quote: Gluten-free, no artificial preservatives, no trans fat, no partially hydrogenated oils, no cholesterol, and ingredients you can recognize and pronounce. I am not making this last part up. I’m not making the first part up, either, but gluten-free is a lot more believable than Margarine R Us thinking palmitate and lecithin are words I recognize. I can pronounce palm kernel and palm oil but I’m not quite sure what they are. Considering our weather lately, if they could throw in a palm tree I’d be all over it. Perhaps the acid test of whether a word is indeed a common word is usage. Let’s try to use the word palmitate. “When I get excited, I can feel my heart palmitate.” Close but no cigar. How about “We’re in a tropical forest. Where and when should we meet?” “Let’s meet at the palmitate.” Why, the word fairly rolls off the tongue. The other word is just slightly better. “Susie, who has put on some weight, is lecithin than she was.”

My sister, who prides herself on keeping up with every new discovery in the world of keeping healthy, is a great help to me in my personal struggle to live better. She was the one who told me not to take my daily calcium supplement with. … Well, I forget exactly what she said not to take it with but I sure appreciated the advice. At her latest visit, she shared this strong anti-oxidant drink guaranteed to reduce inflammation. All oxidants are under fire these days and any “anti” you can get to combat them is considered a bonus. I think oxidants and anti-oxidants were invented about the same time as cholesterol. Once we conquered small pox we had to have something to fret over. Cholesterol isn’t as obvious as small pox but it has more of a first-world presence. Here is the drink recipe: 1 cup hot green tea, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, one teaspoon honey, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. The concoction smells great and stains your cup a bright orange color. Even if it does nothing for your oxidants or inflammation, one whiff of it will clear up your sinuses. And drinking cayenne pepper first thing in the morning gets your day off to a zippy start.

My grandfather, who also lived to be 95 (we are a long-lived people), began each of the 28,000-plus days of his adulthood with a shot of Wild Turkey. He said it helped his cough. Either that or he just didn’t mind coughing so much after a stiff belt of whiskey. In any event, I can promise you one thing. He did not take that with a calcium supplement.

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By Marla Boone

Contributing Columnist

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today.