Eat to Smile

I’m a consumer of food. I’m not a dietician, or a naturopathic doctor, or a nutritionist. I’m not even a cook unless changing the temperature of dead stuff qualifies me as one. But I have hoarded a jumble of information about food that echoes a unified message. What we eat can make us happy or sad, smart or stupid, dead or alive.

Years ago I conducted what I’ll call an animal study with two farm animals owned by my friend, Denise. I gave her popcorn balls laced with corn syrup, artificial flavors, etc., to give her insatiable horse, Fat Billy, and her toothless goat, Goat Peter.

“Holy sh*t!” she said. “They snorted and slobbered and foamed at the mouth when they scarfed them down!” I call this the simple carb rapture.

When my three adult children were toddlers and metamorphosed into frothing, fang-bearing ankle biters, I scrutinized their diets. Different foods, especially the heavily processed kind, made them feel, behave, or think in a way our Creator surely didn’t intend. God created the wild animals first and then the humans. They weren’t one and the same.

So, I converted our kitchen chem lab into a Garden of Eden minus the forbidden tree. Simple carbs with ingredients suitable for spackling drywall were replaced by pure edibles: fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, nuts. With a cleaner diet, my children’s food sensitivities surfaced and were eliminated. They emerged from their phony food stupor happier and healthier.

I still prepare meals with basic ingredients. Heart healthy avocado and olive are my go-to oils for cooking. Anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like basil, black pepper, oregano, ginger, and sage are my go-to seasonings for flavor. Above all, I use garlic. I bow to this immune boosting herb-like vegetable that annihilates pathogens.

My Italian mama, God rest her soul, used gobs of garlic in everything. Her skin reeked of garlic and her breath could drop a mule. As a child, I rarely became sick. She probably stuffed it in my Twinkies.

“If you eatuh vegetables (peas with chopped garlic), I give you cookie,” Mom would say in her thick accent sustained by a lifelong hearing impairment. Then she’d add, “If you no eatuh vegetables, I killuh you!”

Some foods can make you smart. The spice turmeric has a reputation of preventing plague logjams in the brain allowing cells to transmit messages better. Fatty fish, dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa), nuts, avocados, and green leafy veggies are recognized for boosting brain function. And berries, eggs, and pumpkin seeds are touted to improve memory. Your brain volume increases and, pfft, you’re a physicist.

Some foods can actually make you stupid. Processed meats like hotdogs and sausages, which typically have lots of salt, saturated fat, and preservatives, can plug vessels like lard in a drain. A steady diet of popular artery-clogging foods like insulin-spiking white bread and doughnuts loaded with trans-fat can prevent oxygen-rich blood from having a clear passage to our brains. Your brain shrinks and, pfft, you’re a house plant.

I try to make good choices most of the time. My dog-eared resources serve as my shopping list for foods likely to keep bats out of my belfry. Before my mother, Stefanina, died in 2020 at the age of 92, I took her grocery shopping every Saturday. She had a habit of examining items I placed in my shopping cart.

“Why you gotta chips–to getta fat-uh?” She asked when I slipped organic chips into the cart. They were only seasoned with salt and oil, but chips are still junk food.

“It’s for company, Mom.” I lied. Surely I fanned the flames of hellfire.

It gets worse. Whenever Mom got behind a morbidly obese woman with junk food in her cart, she’d announce, “Look at her big-uh fat-uh ass-uh!”

I’d frantically grab the front of Mom’s cart and, like a bat out of slow-motion hell, redirect her elderly legs down another aisle.

Undaunted, she’d continue in her booming Neapolitan voice, “She eat-uh too much ham-uh-burg and French-uh fry. She no gotta big-uh fat-uh ass-uh from eating vegetables!”

Evidently, junk foods with artificial ingredients meddle with the body’s life chemistry and propagate fat cells. If your body doesn’t recognize what’s eaten as food, it will find a way to complain. So, I select products with familiar ingredients and low amounts of sugar, fat, and salt.

Diseases thrive on pro-inflammatory foods like red fatty meats, refined grains, or fried anything, especially when eaten frequently. If I prepare these, I season them with rosemary, an herb known for curbing blood vessel damage. Meats headed for our grill are rubbed with ginger. This spice is often used for improving digestion and helping blood flow more freely, reducing the threat of blood clots. If I bake desserts, I add Ceylon cinnamon to help stabilize blood sugar after indulging.

When my daughter, Christa, perused through old family photos, she remarked, “Why in so many pictures am I eating leaves and you’re not stopping me?”

“Well, they didn’t seem to bother you,” I said. “Besides, leaves are high in fiber and, apparently, some are edible. You’re welcome!”

Biochemists give us fake leaves (phony food) that consumers eagerly pluck from the forbidden tree. Many are chemical creations touted for their fiber content. These misfits from labs fuel sadness, confusion, and disease.

God gives us certain animals to eat and food from every seed-bearing plant and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit. These gifts from nature nourish happiness, clear thought, and life. And when we take care of our bodies, we glorify God.

Isaiah 1:19, NAB

If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land;

(Isaiah 1:19, NAB)

Turkey Leg Special

Pictured here is my daughter as a toddler enjoying a turkey leg and a homemade amaranth biscuit. Christa, now an adult, and her two older brothers responded well to their diet change from overly processed foods to cleaner foods. Their behavior improved and so did their appetites. They still ate chicken nuggets, but I’d prepare them with a coating made from crushed low sodium Triscuits.

Comparing Ingredients

Since I first began to check package ingredients more than thirty years ago, many products have improved. In fact, I found several sausage varieties with just basic ingredients. Read the labels to know what you’re eating! When my kids were growing up, I sometimes served the homemade turkey sausage patties (recipe on the left) on a wholegrain muffin with egg and cheese. I called it a McMommy’s.

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Published by Nancy Homlitas

I'm a grandmother, mother, and wife well-seasoned with decades of humdrum yuck smothered with pure joy. The narratives and photographs I plan to share are meant to brighten moods and spawn smiles. There's nothing more hilarious than a true experience, especially in hindsight! And there's nothing more uplifting than a pleasing picture, particularly if it enhances a story. As a feel good bonus, blog posts will have a relevant bible verse included.

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