Playoffs!There is a fascination with sports all around the world.  It is an arena where the opportunity to rise above the crowd beckons youth to dream about becoming a sports star.  We put  images of sport stars on cereal box covers.  We allow them to tell us what type of underwear to buy, where to eat lunch, what kind of shoes and shorts to have etc.

Then there is the social aspect of sports.  Who to hang out with, tail gate parties, barbecue mania, gathering in bars and pubs to mingle and debate who the winning team will be, and having the gang over to your home to watch the sports playoff  on your new big screen.

All of this gathering naturally brings out the “food gurus” and big snack advertisements for suggestion on  what  to eat while watching the game.  Some of those beverages, and snacks come at a big price for your health.  Consider two of the worst foods–french fries and sodas.

Most foods have some good in them and some things that aren’t so good.  But with soda and fries, quite frankly there’s nothing good for you in either of them.

Fries are “seasoned” with flavorings, wheat, salt, sugar, to make them palatable and addictive.  Low-grade frozen potatoes of unknown origin are deep fried  in omega-6 vegetable oil which is highly inflammatory.  This oil is reused  for about a week which increases the level of trans fat and carcinogenic compounds in the oil which gets into the fries during cooking.

Sodas don’t have any ingredients in them that are healthy for the body unless you count the water.  Artificial sweeteners like aspartame (which is a neurotoxin),  high-fructose corn syrup, and added sugars, chemicals, artificial colorings, and preservatives are the main ingredients in sodas.  Some sodas are coming with “extras” like caffeine to put them into an exotic class of beverage.

Then there is fake foods.  Many fast food hamburgers contain so many chemicals and so few food ingredients that a burger fails to show signs of decomposition or spoilage after more than a decade.

What’s in a popular pork sandwich?  It made the headlines on Chicago CBS news for the 70 ingredients that make up the sandwich.  One of the ingredients is pork as a restructured meat product from the innards and cast-offs from pigs, and an ingredient found in shoes.  Azodicarbonamide is used to bleach flour in bread.  It has additional uses and can be found in yoga mats, gym shoes, or in anything that’s rubbery.  If you read all 70 ingredients in this pork sandwich, it reads like a chemistry lab.

So what fare is really food?  Food that is essential for optimal health.  But it gets tricky because a lot of what we think of as food is really laboratory “food-like” products.  Real food is grown, and sold “whole”, spoils fast, requires preparation, will have variable quality, has vibrant colors and rich textures, is authentically flavorful without artificial flavors, and has a strong connection to land and culture.

If you want to optimize your health and excel in life than you need to return to the basics of healthy food choices.  Choose foods that have not been processed or altered from their original state.  Now that is going to put an entirely new twist on the Playoff gatherings.  Please pass the raw vegetable tray, or have some apple and orange slices.  How about a handful of raw, fresh almonds? This could create an entirely new fad of advertising endorsements by sport star athletes.  Untill then, enjoy the playoffs but think twice before bending your elbow to reach for the hors d’oevres.

Dr. Janeel Henderson