BY DR. LINDA BRADLEY
This year, take on an oath and pledge. Annually, we all make resolutions usually related to our financial, spiritual, educational or physical health. I want you to think about your most important possession: your health. It’s the most important asset that you possess, and it trumps everything else in life. Healthy individuals make stronger communities. It’s just as simple as that.
Are you digging your grave with your fork?
Each of us can improve our lifestyle choices on a daily basis. How? By making conscious choices about what you select to put in your body. What’s in your refrigerator or handbag? Real food or junk food? Are you consuming too much alcohol? Each week, write down one new healthy resolution that you would like to accomplish. Sure it sounds like homework; but, putting your thoughts on paper and checking off your accomplishments are more often associated with success than just daydreaming about your goals.
Each of us can be the cure. You can cure or modify your risk for premature death and disability by: exercising, losing weight, controlling hypertension, stop smoking, wearing a seat belt and managing stress. It is as simple as that. Seventy percent of health care dollars are spent on diseases related to obesity, smoking and diabetes—almost all of which are controlled by individual choices.
When it comes to eating and losing weight, Michael Pollan sums it up best with seven simple and liberating words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Since reading his best-selling book, In Defense of Food, I have changed my eating habits one meal at a time.
How does this doctor want you to become an empowered patient?
Eat home cooked food more often. Make enough so that you can have it for lunch. Not only will you save tons of money, but you will cook with less salt, fat and sugar than in a similar meal eaten at a fast food or chain restaurant.
Don’t eat standing up. Stop eating in your car; rather eat at a table and not in front of a TV. Chew your food more slowly. Why? When you are distracted, you eat 50% more than when you are aware of what you are eating.
Don’t drink your calories. Did you know that each twelve ounce can of Coca Cola has 10-12 teaspoons of sugar? Eating an orange rather than drinking orange juice is actually healthier for you. Because fruit has loads of fiber, less calories and great phytonutrients compared to juice. Fiber makes you fill fuller longer, decreases the hunger urge and will add fewer inches to your waistline.
Eat four servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables daily. I mean fruit in its own skin. Fruit with curves. Apples, oranges, bananas, pineapples, berries or any fruit in season. If you can’t get fresh fruit, buy it frozen. Read the package label, and only purchase frozen fruits and vegetables without added sugar or salt. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at the height of the season and have high vitamin content. During the winter months, I always keep a piece of fruit in my car. After a long day at work and long commute home, eating a pear or apple on the way home keeps me from feeling ravenous when I walk into my house.
Dig out of the grave, forkful by forkful. Make a conscious choice of what to put in your body. These choices embody the essence of taking care of self: self-care reform. Do for yourself what government, doctors, religious community or friends can not do for you. Make the extra effort to learn more ways to become healthy, including learning to cook. Self-care reform means you choose to make an old family recipe more nutritious by trying a new spice or condiment that enhances flavor, thereby using less oil and fat. My collard greens recipe will fool the oldest great-grandmother alive. It’s healthy and fat and meat free:
Dr. Bradley’s Mean, Lean, Collard Greens
¼ cup vegetable stock to sauté the onions, mushrooms and garlic
2 large yellow onions coarsely chopped = about 3 cups
2 cups sliced white button mushrooms (about 1 small package = 6 oz)
12 garlic cloves sliced thin
1 tablespoon chipotle in adobe (comes in a small can, just use one chipotle and 1 tsp of the sauce). Do not use the whole can of the fiery peppers. This is spicy. Save the rest for up to 2 months in a Ziploc bag and put in a freezer.
¼ cup cider vinegar
4 tablespoons of smoked paprika, divided
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1½ cups vegetable stock (can use from a can); may need more to keep collard greens moist as they cook
4 tablespoons black strap molasses
5 pounds (about 4-5 bunches) collard greens, cleaned, off the stem and rough chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat the vegetable stock on medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms, sauté for about 6-7 minutes or until the onions are wilted. Then add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the chipotle, 3 tablespoons of smoked paprika, vinegar, soy sauce, vegetable stock and molasses. Stir about 2-3 minutes.
Then stir in the greens, a third at a time, pressing the greens down as they start to wilt, and stir now and then. Cover them as they cook. Cook on medium heat. Add more vegetable stock to keep moist. Cook the greens, covered, for about 45 minutes. Add one tablespoon of smoked paprika, salt and pepper and cook another 5-10 minutes.
Enjoy—it’s even better the next day!
Self-care reform means that you choose what to put on your fork. Forkful by forkful you will see a difference in your health. Advocacy begins with you. Personally speak to the owners of your local grocer and request that more fresh, local, seasonal fruits and vegetables be stocked in the produce aisle. Boycott stores that don’t listen to your requests.
Finally, self-care reform means that you will share your new wisdom with your friends and family. Self-care reform is transformative. Taste it…you’ll like it.
Dr. Linda Bradley is a renowned surgeon who serves as the vice chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Cleveland Clinic. She is also the founder of a program aimed at women of color called “Celebrate Sisterhood.”