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The Dangers of Eating Right

By Dorothy Rosby

Wouldn't it be a tragic to come to the end of your life prematurely only to find out it was broccoli that did you in? Or oranges. Or dry, whole-wheat toast.

Life is a scary undertaking anyway—poor choice of words, I know—and, just when you think you know what is and isn’t good for you, the rules change.

Do you remember when an egg was nothing but a heart attack in a shell? Today, we can eat eggs, if not with reckless abandon, at least without guilt. Have chickens started eating better?

Turns out it isn’t the cholesterol in food that causes problems, it’s the saturated fat. So we all gave up fat. (More precisely, we THOUGHT ABOUT giving up fat). And, we started by trading in our butter for margarine. Then along came research that said margarine is actually worse for the heart than butter, which is lucky since butter tastes better on crab legs and caramel rolls.

There was a time when coffee was thought to cause everything from high cholesterol to cancer to infertility, though I’m convinced it never worked for women NOT wanting to be pregnant. THEN I read that while it wasn't beneficial, neither was it harmful. THEN I read it actually has antioxidant compounds with as much power as vitamins C and E. I've never been a coffee drinker myself, though I do like coffee flavored ice cream, which I'm not sure counts.


Same goes for tea. My whole life I thought that because tea contained caffeine it was deadly. All of a sudden tea is being touted as a health drink with antioxidant activity more potent than many fruits and vegetables. I’m waiting for similar research on diet cola.


I was very pleased, but not the least bit surprised to hear that people who frequently eat chocolate live longer than those who don't indulge. Though anyone who eats my chocolate won't live long! I'm kidding! But, researchers did find that cocoa and chocolate have more polyphenols, which are good for the heart, than many fruits and vegetables. Healthy heart, big butt. I think it's worth it.


Similarly, I've read that people who eat at least one cup of beans a day live longer – as do those who eat several servings of fish a day. And a couple of servings of soy products. And garlic, olive oil, and flaxseed oil everyday. And several servings of low fat dairy products, a handful of nuts, and plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables everyday. And one aspirin and a multi-vitamin. Oh, yes, and at least one candy bar made with dark chocolate. If you don't explode, you'll live forever.


UNLESS, of course, the fish has been swimming in polluted waters and the fruits and vegetables have been doused in pesticides and fertilizers, in which case you’ll probably die shortly after lunch.  


There are three lessons to learn from all of this:


First of all, you can choose your ailments like choose your salad dressings. For example, wine is good for your heart—but has cancer-causing properties. Take your pick.
Sunshine causes skin cancer, but provides vitamin D, which helps prevent rickets and osteoporosis. Which would you rather have?


Secondly, I say, choose your study. For example I'm choosing a controversial study I taped to my salt shaker several years ago after I clipped it from a newspaper. Contradicting years of previous research on the subject, not to mention anything I’ve read since,  the study concluded that the drawbacks of eating a low-salt diet might actually outweigh the benefits. The researchers said the LESS salt people eat, the higher their risk of untimely death. As one who enjoys salt, I’d say they die of bad taste.


And finally, I learned that it doesn't pay to be a disciplined person. I'm just glad I was never strong enough to give up anything completely—not salt, not fat, not caffeine. The only thing I ever stopped eating was liver—which I actually gave up back when I still thought it was good for me. Which it isn't. Is it?

About the Author

Dorothy Rosbyis a contributing writer for , syndicated humor columnist and entertaining speaker whose column has appeared in newspapers in ten Midwestern and Western states since 1996. (The area is home to more cows than people, so the reader should not be overly impressed.) Dorothy grew up in Buffalo, South Dakota, a town of fewer than 400 people in a state that was once left out of the Rand McNally atlas. A former radio announcer, she was once asked by an employer to change her name on air because, "No one will take you seriously with a name like Dorothy." All of this has led to self-esteem issues that can only be dealt with by a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor.

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