On many of our minds is the current debate over whether or not to nationalize health care. From my own perspective I’ve often said that what we need is a national health plan, not a national health care plan. Note the subtle difference. If we encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle (a “health plan”) their need for future health care will be likely reduced. My purpose in writing this column is to share my knowledge with you in the hope it encourages you to make healthier choices. Nothing gets me going more than all the misleading advertising and promotion under the guise of something being “healthy” when in fact it is not. Past articles have discussed a few of my favorites – artificial sweeteners and soy.

That being said and whatever your political view on this issue is, I think we can all agree that a reasonable objective is to stay away as best we can from doctors and hospitals. Certainly they serve a needed function, but we usually enter “disease management” because we have become sick. A healthy lifestyle encourages health and discourages disease. I’ve seen a variety of statistics quoting a range of sources including the Surgeon General of the United States, with the common thread that 75-80% of chronic disease (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke) is lifestyle related – primarily poor diet and lack of exercise.

So, what can you do? I’m going to make it real simple and straight forward.

1. The number one thing that almost everyone can do is to cut back on the amount of sugar you consume. Sugar comes in many forms and is often hidden in our packaged and processed foods. The bottom line is that the human body was not designed to process the amount of sugar we put into it. And when I say sugar I’m not just talking about candy and cake. I’m talking about white flour that is used in bread and cereals and many other “foods”. To our body it is sugar. It creates havoc in our blood stream and is a major cause in the development of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. This is something that all health professionals agree on. Unfortunately, no one is really willing to do anything to change the habits and sweet tooth of the population. This is something you have to decide to do for yourself.

2. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Yes, you’ve heard that a million times. Why are these foods so important? They contain valuable vitamins and minerals that our body needs to function properly. They contain antioxidants which neutralize the free radicals that cause damage to our cells and tissues. They contain fiber which aids all aspects of our digestion process. How many of you suffer from acid reflux, gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea? These are all signs of poor and neglected digestion. Without good digestion your body does not get all the nutrients it needs from the food. Here’s the simple equation: less nutrients equals greater likelihood of disease.

3. Eat healthy fats – omega 3 fatty acids from cold water wild fish, olive oil in salad dressings, coconut oil in cooking, butter (yes butter – organic is best). Do not eat margarine or anything else in a tub that is not butter. Despite what the low fat crowd is telling you these are not healthy foods. The processing of these “foods” utilizes high heat which oxidizes the fats. When you consume them they create free radicals. Among the worst foods you can eat are most of the salad dressings you see in the stores. They are loaded with sugar and unhealthy oils.

4. Drink water – our body is 65-70% water. Many people are walking around dehydrated and do not even realize it. Simply drinking more water has been known to reduce a variety of symptoms. But a caution – water is not fruit juice or coffee – water is water.

5. Exercise – move your body. Our body was designed to move. That is what makes the lymphatic system work. That is how the cellular waste ultimately gets out of your body. Start with walking or bouncing (or being bounced) on a rebounder – a mini trampoline. Start slow and work your way up.

See, it really is not all that difficult. A few simple changes and you are on your way to a healthier life style. But it is up to you. Do you want to feel better and enjoy life? Plus you get an added bonus. By being healthy you won’t have expensive doctor and hospital bills and you’ll be able to use your money to do the activities you enjoy!

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Thiensville. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at bernie@brwellness.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.