By Shmuel Shields, PhD, CDN
Are you interested in feeling better, having more energy, and guarding your health? Do you know the Torah–based key to optimum functioning? Many years ago, I was privileged to speak at the annual Torah U’Mesorah Convention on the topic of Nutrition and Academic Performance. Before delivering my speech, I had the z’chus (merit) to meet Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, who endorsed my topic by sharing the observation that “Talmidim (students) are not learning as well because they are not eating well.” His words, spoken today, echo those of the Rambam (Maimonides), the medieval philosopher and physician who posited that overeating and bad foods are the causes of most diseases.
Healthy eating enhances concentration, energy, alertness, and overall physical well being. Good nutrition can also ward off colds, flu, and infections as well as reduce the risks of many health conditions and more serious diseases. Hashem blessed us with miraculous bodies, and guarding our health is a mitzvah. Unfortunately, our automobiles often get better care than our bodies. We would not fill our cars with the wrong fuel or neglect to change the oil, but when it comes to our bodies, swallowing ingredients we cannot pronounce, overeating, and poor food and beverage choices have become the norm.
Lines of people waiting to contribute Mi Sheberach (appeals for the sick) prayers in shul are getting longer. Diabetes among young and old has become an epidemic in America. Heart disease remains the number one killer, followed by cancer-related deaths. The 400,000 annually reported deaths linked to smoking will soon be surpassed by poor eating and obesity as the leading causes of premature death in America. The Torahteaches us to make a fence around a roof to prevent tragic falls. Why not make some protective fences to protect health?
While you should speak to your physician before making dietary or lifestyle changes, seize the opportunity to commit to something you can begin doing now! Here are some ideas:
• Eat less and more slowly.
• Cut out refined sugars and starches.
• Cut out hydrogenated oils and reduce saturated fats (red meat, butter, cream, and full-fat dairy items).
• Avoid deep-fried foods.
• Increase fiber (fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and whole grains).
• Eat more fish.
• Drink more water.
• Exercise more.
• Get enough sleep.
• Reduce stress.