For Dr. Herb Joiner-Bey, a Seattle naturopathic physician who will speak in Frederick, Md., on Saturday, good health starts with eating your vegetables.
His message is a simple one, and that is that whole organic plant foods, nuts and seeds with small amounts of animal protein are the foods the human body is meant to consume.
The American diet has strayed from this, and that, along with lack of exercise, is the root cause of obesity in America, Joiner-Bey said.
Joiner-Bey grew up in Baltimore, with a grandmother who cooked fresh foods from scratch. In true African-American tradition, she did overcook vegetables, but her cooking was more healthy than in many American homes today.
Diet and health
The African-American cooking tradition of overcooking lots of greens and frying foods comes from the past. "The diet arose out of what slaves had," he said. "They had to make do with what they had. They had to build a cuisine out of the leftovers."
Today, however, many Americans don't eat a lot of fresh food, and poorer people have a tough time getting to grocery stores that carry fresh fruits and vegetables. In some areas of Detroit, Joiner-Bey said, it's a two-hour bus ride to a good supermarket with an array of fresh foods.
Heavily-processed and sugar and fat-laden foods are the root cause of many modern health problems, he said. At the church, he will discuss heart disease, diabetes and obesity. African-Americans tend to have higher rates of these. Lack of access to fresh foods and a diet of cheap, processed foods are some of the reasons.
Added sugars correspond to higher rates of cancer and heart disease, he said. "Cancer cells are fed by insulin, which is caused by sugar consumption," he said. Refined flours also convert to sugar in the body. "We've taken out all the fiber and all you're left with is starch," he said.
There's an evolutionary explanation to our craving for sweets, he said. "We are genetically attracted to fructose as children," he said. Sweet plant foods are the least toxic, and children are less likely to become sick by eating sweet berries than sour berries. Therefore, early humans sought out sweet berries and other plant foods.
Our tolerance for sweet foods has deceived us into thinking some are healthy, he said. Fruit juice is one example. Our bodies weren't meant to consume concentrated fruit that has been converted into fruit juice. "Whole fruits are what our bodies were meant to consume," he said.
At The Common Market, he will discuss natural ways of dealing with women's hormonal problems throughout their lives. Menopausal women who seek relief from hot flashes, sleep difficulties and other side effects of menopause should consider using bioidentical hormones, or hormones that mimic natural hormones, which are extracted from yams and soy, he said. "They should not use hormones from a horse," he said.
Premarin, used in hormone replacement therapy, stands for pregnant mare urine and is made from the urine of pregnant mares.
Joiner-Bey will discuss the female hormonal system and the nutritional needs of girls and women from puberty onward. Bone health, menstrual problems, bloating and mood swings will be addressed. He will discuss supplements, extracts and oils that can help alleviate these problems.
The path to health
Joiner-Bey has a degree in physics from Johns Hopkins University. He moved to Seattle in 1980 and earned a doctor of naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University.
He limits his diet to whole, organic foods, with some animal protein. "I'm a strong advocate of the hunter-gatherer diet," he said. "We were built to be hunter gatherers." Eating meat from grain-fed livestock throws the body out of balance, he said.
Grain-fed meat also does not contain omega-3 fatty acids, which the body needs to combat inflammation.
Joiner-Bey is the medical-scientific consultant for Barlean's Organic Oils, and he will have samples at The Common Market. Those attending will also receive copies of his book, "The Healing Power of Flax."
He says other cultures have much to teach Americans when it comes to diet. Indigenous populations in Africa die from malaria and dengue fever, but their rates of heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes are less.
"Poor people in England live longer than rich people in the U.S.," he said.
French and Italian people take time to eat, and enjoy the process of eating. They do not eat as quickly, and therefore, eat less. It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to signal the brain that it is full, and eating slowly allows the food to be enjoyed and digested properly.
He was fortunate to grow up with a grandmother who prepared meals from scratch. "Right after World War II, there were advertising campaigns to use processed foods," he said. It was at that time that Campbell's Soup, Duncan Hines, Jell-O and other processed foods began to take hold in the typical American home.
"We lost our skills to use simple, fresh ingredients," he said. "American people feel they don't have the time to chop vegetables." Supermarkets do have chopped vegetables for sale.
"If you're busy, use a crock pot, or fix meals on the weekends," he said. "You can do all kinds of things to get around the issue of no time."
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