Friday, October 1, 2010

Vegetables and fruit matter

There’s an American government website, called “Fruits and Veggies Matter,” sponsored by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention; the Department of Health and Human Services; the National Cancer Institute; and the US government, generally.

All that head muscle from big-brained government experts on health suggests that mighty amounts of knowledge, from research from reputable sources around the country and around the world, about what we all should be eating to be healthy have been amassed.

Our government has some weighty responsibilities in this sphere, getting data out to us to let us know about what nutrients we need, and from what sources we can get what we need. We aren’t forced to eat healthily, but nowadays a person with the means to choose what he eats can.

Of course homeless folk are in a pickle, here, often not having the monetary resources to have much, or any, say in what they must consume.

At the home page of Fruits and Veggies Matter the first thing we’re told is this:

Almost Everyone Needs to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

A growing body of research shows that fruits and vegetables are critical to promoting good health. To get the amount that's recommended, most people need to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables they currently eat every day.
It then links to a mini-questionnaire that asks one’s gender, age, and level of physical activity to compute the amount of fruits and vegetables the person should consume daily.

As a homeless man, aged 56, who walks briskly and is loaded down more than a little with belongings, I rate a daily need of two cups of fruit and three-and-a-half cups of vegetables. That’s a lot! And, particularly so, when you note, as the website does, that the non-bitter varieties of lettuce, the most common vegetable in Homeless World Sacramento, is nutritionally wimpy such that a cup of it translates as only a half-cup for consumptive-calculation purposes. [Iceberg and the other mild-tasting lettuces that are served 'out here' are mostly just water.]

In addition to needing many servings of fruits and vegetables each day, people need a variety of such foods over a span of days to get the full spectrum of nutrients we each need. Just eating lots and lots of apples and a whole head of lettuce, habitually, day in day out, does not cut the mustard. Variety is not just the spice of life, it’s the key to proper nutrition consumption.

Benefits from Eating Properly

A central benefit of eating properly is that it allows you to feel good and it allows your brain and body to function at their best. Given proper nutrition intake, you are appropriately energized to accomplish things and act as you should. And, importantly, good nutrition helps your body combat disease.

Diabetes has become an epidemic in our country, with the type 2 version accounting for 90% of all diabetes cases. Type 2 is usually the result of years of improper nutrition, being obese and having a sedentary lifestyle. Improper or inadequate nutrition, and high intake of sugars, can cause changes in cell DNA, resulting in poorly-formed body cells that no longer have appropriate protein receptors for insulin. Proper nutrition clearly plays an important role in preventing type 2 diabetes.

The rate of those who have had cancer in the year 1900 was just 3% of the population, whereas now it’s 25%. It is believed that proper nutrition is the key to reducing the current high-incidence of cancer. It is probably the case that none of the risk factors for cancer are more significant that what we choose to eat. There are other risk factors — including genetics, lifestyle and environmental toxins — but what we eat to get proper nutrition is the one important factor we can readily control (IF we have enough say in what we eat!). Update 10/3/10: Some of the information that I relayed now seems weak, at best. According to the EPIC study, completed earlier this year, using data from ~400,000 European adults, no significant correlation between consumption of fruits and vegetables and the reduction of cancer risk was found.

What homeless Sacramentans eat

Homeless Sacramentans, in overwhelming number, do not consume a proper diet. Circumstances for individuals differ, of course, but typically the homeless here eat a lot of stale baked goods that homeless-services organizations receive free from grocery chains, Starbucks and other bakery sources.
Foods that have a long shelf-life, like pasta and rice, are consumed in large quantities, daily.  [Boy, I'll bet Loaves & Fishes could and will fill it's new $1.7 million warehouse, when it's completed, with rice and pasta.]
There are fruits and vegetables served 'out here,' of course, but it is very very hard to get many helpings from this nutrition source.
BUT, we are lucky. IF the homeless-services organizations want to make things better for us, they, likely, can.  WE LIVE IN THE CENTRAL VALLEY, a mighty food-growing bonanza of a place!  BUT only homeless-services organizations that give a damn are likely to do something, and THAT, dear reader, limits the possibilities.  Sadly, many Sacramento homeless-help executives just aren't plugged in to the homeless experience.  You can tell who those execs are from them prattling on and on, using the same-old time-worn bathos to describe homeless people to snooker donors.
The public should know that the benefits from feeding poor people better are likely to be enormous.  A healthier homeless population can do more for itself, and individuals in the homeless community are thus more likely to emerge from the homeless circumstance to become, again, productive citizens.



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