Your Guide to Healthy Eating


By Neil Offen

Eat more of this, eat less of that. Or maybe it’s eat more of that and eat less of this.

Dietary advice can be confusing. Fortunately, I am here to clarify some general health guidelines concerning common food and drink categories so you will be able to navigate dangerous times like lunch:

Wine. One glass of red wine a day is, in fact, good for you, except when you drink it for breakfast with your pancakes. Two glasses of wine, not so good. Three glasses of wine, you’re not really going to care one way or the other and will definitely not be able to enunciate “this vintage prevents myocardial infarction.” It’s important, then, to make sure that your one glass is a really big one. Consider using a pitcher.

Of course, all this advice only applies to red wine. As for white wine, studies suggest that you can add red dye #34 to it to make it look like red wine if you don’t mind increasing your usual intake of carcinogenic chemicals.

Salt. Too much salt can raise your blood pressure, endangering your heart and kidneys. It also can make you very thirsty and possibly more likely to annoy your friends by referring to salt as sodium.

For decades, health experts have been urging us to call salt “sodium” and, consequently, to cut back on our daily sodium intake, not realizing that many of us thought they were talking about ancient Roman soda pop, such as Cocam Colaium. Recently, though, the National Institutes of Burping found that the right amount of sodium could be either good or bad for your health, or perhaps somewhere in between. Or, as they finally determined, in a meta-analysis of other analyses, who really knows?

Sugar. It’s important to distinguish between sugars. Natural sugars are found in lots of different foods, although, unfortunately, pistachio ice cream is not one of them. Their job is to keep things sweet and supply glucose to the brain and provide energy to cells around the body, as long as the cells have made a reservation through Ticketmaster.  

On the other hand, unnatural sugar, or what is called “refined sugar,” has been processed so often that it looks like beef jerky without the beef. Excessive consumption of refined sugar has been associated with poorer memory and with something else that I can’t remember. Too much refined sugar also can increase your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

It does, however, make pistachio ice cream taste awfully good. It’s your call.

Fiber. Fiber can help lower cholesterol, improve heart health and keep us regular, although it does tend to stick in your teeth. That is particularly important as our metabolism changes and we lose most of our teeth.

Fiber can be found in whole grains and legumes (from the Greek Leguminosae, which, in English, means “cardboard”). Legumes include beans, soybeans, pinto beans, kidney beans, lima beans and, probably, more beans. 

Chocolate. Depends on whom you ask. Cardiologists say that eating one Hershey’s almond nut bar a day will help prevent heart disease, mainly because it has flavanols and antioxidants (although Hershey’s has chosen, for reasons that are unclear, not to have named the bar “Hershey’s Flavanol Antioxidant Bar”). Dermatologists say it will give you zits.

You may need to get a third opinion, always available at Ben and Jerry’s.

Carrboro resident Neil Offen has written humor pieces for a number of different publications, in a number of different countries. His column appears twice monthly in The Local Reporter.

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