Health Care Catch-22s and Other Modern Day Challenges

July 9, 2010 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

   Here’s a solution to the politically-exploited “health care crisis” for you: Stay well.  Now don’t yell at me.  I know there are people beset by environmental risks beyond their control or by genetically ordained conditions.  My husband is one of them.  But those in the know tell us its the epidemic of preventable diseases that threatens to overwhelm our once-thriving medical system. 

In his 1988 Surgeon General’s report, C. Everett Koop blames the American diet for two-thirds of illness-related deaths in the U.S. each year.  Combine poor eating habits with inactivity and you can add to that grim statistic long-term suffering with heart disease, strokes, some cancers, Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, chronic fatigue, stress disorders, and even Alzheimer’s.  That’s one blaring wake-up call. 

So here’s the Catch-22 part:  My husband – who discovered new hope for complications stemming from 50 years of trying to control inherited Type I diabetes by adopting Dr. Richard K. Bernstein’s approach – lost 35 pounds, reduced his overall cholesterol level by 30 per cent, brought his blood pressure into normal range, reduced the amount of insulin he takes, slashed his triglyceride count, and regained control over his blood sugars. 

Great news, huh?  You’d think he would have left the doctor’s office with a medal rather than a new prescription.  Sadly, since they keep lowering the targeted range for ideal test results, you’re less likely to get a pat on the back for progress than a skeptical scowl for declining to pump more drugs into your body – even when your earnest efforts are paying off quite nicely for you, thanks anyway. 

The logical deduction? We have to be our own researchers, educators, and advocates.  The information is out there, and it doesn’t have to be complicated – or Spartan.  Move around more; exercise pumps up the immune system and boosts insulin sensitivity.  Read labels religiously.  Better yet, prepare your own wholesome meals.  Eat a colorful variety of fresh foods.  Fill half your plate with unsauced vegetables and the rest with complex carbohydrates and lean meats. Discover how delicious seafood can be.  End each meal with fruit. 

And, of course, read my postings here whenever you have the chance.  I will always red-flag “once-in-a-while” desserts,  otherwise what you’ll get are good-tasting, nutritionally-dense offerings, like recipes for Smothered Pork Chops in White Wine, Brown Rice with Currants, Green Beans with Chopped Toasted Walnuts, and Grilled Nectarines with Crumbled Feta.  If this is sacrificing, then I’m a martyr ’til the end. For a comforting platter of good-for-you home cookin’, try this simple pork chop main dish: 

canola oil cooking spray                                               1 med Vidalia onion, sliced thin

salt and pepper                                                                 4-5 thin, bone-in center cut pork chops

¾ C Chablis (or other dry white wine)

Generously spray the bottom and sides of a large, heavy nonstick skillet (with a lid for later use), and set over medium-low heat. Spread onions in pan and stir occasionally as they brown and begin to caramelize – up to twenty minutes.  Trim chops of all visible fat and generously salt and pepper both sides.  Shift onions to outer edges of pan and arrange chops in pan; cook 4-5 minutes on each side or until nicely golden brown.  Distribute the onions evenly around pan and pour wine over all.  Cover and continue to cook over medium-low for one hour. 

And for the equally comforting, equally simple brown rice side: 

2 C brown rice cooked in chicken broth                 2 tsp olive oil

1 tsp butter                                                                         ¼ C minced shallot

¼ tsp cumin                                                                       ¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp coriander                                                                 3 TB currants 

Heat olive oil and butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium. As soon as butter melts, stir in shallot and continue to stir until glistening but not browned. Stir in cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and currants and stir to coat and distribute seasonings. Turn mixture onto warm rice with a spatula and fold in gently to distribute well. 

Steamed fresh green beans add color and freshness to the table: 

1# fresh green beans                                                        3/4 C coarsely chopped walnuts

sea salt and ground pepper                                            lemon juice to taste – ½ fresh lemon, approx. 

Steam trimmed green beans in a basket over boiling water in a covered saucepan for 3-4 minutes, or until crisp tender. Meanwhile, toast the walnuts over medium heat, shaking often, in a dry nonstick pan until lightly toasted – about as long as the beans take.  (Sprinkle a dash of garlic powder over walnuts,if desired.)  Then simply sprinkle lemon juice over beans, toss to coat, and add salt, pepper, and toasted nuts. 

And for a Mediterranean-style dessert or to serve right alongside the chops, ultra simple grilled nectarines

4 large nectarines                                                                       melted butter – approx. 1 TB

½ C crumbled feta or Roquefort cheese 

Halve and pit nectarines and brush cut sides with a small amount of butter. Heat a ridged grill pan over medium low and lay fruit, cut side down, on hot grill surface. Grill for at least 30 minutes, reducing to low if caramelization moves along too rapidly. To serve, place nectarine halves, cut side up, on a serving platter and sprinkle crumbled cheese evenly over surfaces. 

So no; this is not World War II, and we are not trapped in Captain Yossarian’s vicious cycle of ever-increasing quotas for flying dangerous missions. But these are our own precious bodies we are striving to preserve, and I like to think we can turn things around with common sense and a common effort.  Encouraging each other to eat well is a large stride in the right direction, n’est pas?

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About

Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

And what is the "something" we are aiming for here? Simply a life of robust good health in every important area - spiritual, physical, cognitive, and emotional.

To that end we offer inspirational real-life stories about PEOPLE OF FAITH AND COURAGE; menus and cooking directions meant to fuel your creative inclinations and your healthy body in the form of MUSINGS OF A MIDWESTERN FOODIE; and ADVICE FOR LIFE from the perspective of those who have lived it to maturity. (Click on the green category tabs at the top of this page to learn more about each section.)

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