As I was placing a loaf of Irish Soda Bread in the oven this past weekend, I realized that the delicate balance of health is very similar to a good recipe in that it should have a firm foundation with a few basic ingredients and the flexibility to allow a bit of trial-and-error substitution for variety.  There have been times in my life when I was struggling to find the right mix for myself, and finally I have found the recipe that works for me.  Perhaps some of these suggestions will spark an interest in finding the right things for you.  Of course, the facets of health that must be balanced include nutrition, stress management, exercise, and communication with your personal health care team.  This column will focus on nutrition and its part in the game.

The most annoying four-letter word for many people is diet.  The truth is that diet is lifestyle.  I remember as a child eating wonderful foods that all Southerners love and thinking it was normal to eat like that every day.  Fried everything along with vegetables seasoned with cured meat and biscuits or cornbread on the side was perfectly acceptable fare, or so I thought.  It was good for the people who worked hard in the fields all day, but that sort of work is out of the picture for most of us.  Eating like a field hand won’t work if you do it every day, but once in a while it is all right.  On other days, however, some rules must apply.  First, eat sensibly.  Moderate portion sizes are essential to any healthy diet.  Once around the table with the platters is enough.  Avoid getting seconds.

 Anything that is white should be avoided as a general rule.  White flour, white sugar, and white rice all are heavily processed and processed foods put heavy strains on the digestive system.  When a diet is high in whole grains, digestive health is better.   There are many choices widely available for bread, pasta, and rice.  Be careful to look for whole wheat bread or stone ground whole wheat bread and not just plain wheat bread.  There is a major difference in the degree to which each of these is processed.

 Next, supplement.  Since our soil is depleted in many cases of the nutrients that our bodies need to remain healthy, supplementation has become vital.  There are many different types of multi-vitamin and mineral supplements, herbs, and tonics on the market now.  It can become confusing trying to decide which ones you need, so the best route in my estimation is to make sure you first have a whole-food source (as opposed to a synthetic source) multi-vitamin every day.  The whole-food source vitamins and minerals can actually be used by your body and absorbed properly.  Synthetic versions are often merely expensive contents of septic tanks.  If they pass right through your digestive system without being absorbed, they are no good to you.  Anything else you need can be added as time goes on and you gain more knowledge about the different choices available.  Most of the vitamins on the shelves of the local stores are synthetic, so read labels carefully.  There are websites and other sources of good supplementation advice out there, so take your time and be well-informed.

Finally, there is no way around drinking plenty of good clean water.  I emphasize clean water because our tap water is chlorinated heavily to kill bacteria and other things that might be floating in it.  I don’t know about you, but drinking chlorinated water is not very appetizing to me.  Ingesting chlorine is not pro-health.  Distilled or reverse-osmosis filtered water is best, but carbon filtration is needed minimally in order to eliminate chlorine.  Many illnesses can be avoided by simply drinking enough water.  A good rule of thumb to determine how much water is enough for you is half your body weight in ounces.  For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should consume at least 75 ounces of water per day.  It will make a difference in your life.

Hopefully this will be some good starter advice for you in getting on the road to good health.  If I can be of service or assistance, please let me know.   The Irish Soda Bread recipe is delicious, and it can be consumed as part of a healthy diet.  Treat your body well.