Thy medicine

Even in December, this produce shop in rue Cler, Paris, had abundant healthy choices. December 2005

Even in December (2005), this shop in rue Cler, Paris, had abundant healthy choices.

“Let food be thy medicine…”Hippocrates

You really don’t want to get me started on this topic, so I’ll try to keep it relatively brief.  I think one of the best ways to keep our minds and bodies fit and healthy is to take care what we feed them.  This applies to thoughts and images, of course, which is why I started this blog.  But it also applies to food — and mental and physical health are inextricably linked.

I’m lucky that my mother taught me years ago not to believe everything I hear from the FDA about what is safe or healthy.  Some of what she was saying 30 years ago was scorned and laughed at (such as “margarine is worse for you than butter” and “refined carbohydrates are empty calories” and “artificial sweeteners are harmful”).  Now, of course, she has the last laugh, as do many of the nutritionists who were once dismissed as kooks.

Pharmaceuticals have their place, of course, but as Dr. Santos Rodriguez told me recently, “a great many diseases are basically the result of malnutrition.” As a remarkably fit physician in his 90’s, he has a lot of credibility in my book.  No matter what may ail your spirit or your body, a good diet can be the start of your journey toward wellness and peace of mind.

As winter approaches, I hope you will enjoy the benefit of fruits and vegetables, now available year round thanks to the advances in shipping that allow us to enjoy produce from other regions when we are unable to access food that is grown locally.  Years of experience have taught me that eating lots of fruit and vegetables in fall and winter translates to fewer colds and viruses.  If you’ve never tested this idea, give it a try this year.  Indulge in your favorites, even if they cost a bit more in the off-season.  It will be an investment in your health and enjoyment that will pay dividends!


  1. You know I wholeheartedly agree with you! Now if I could consistently take my own advice . . .

    • Same here! I do fairly well with avoiding what I need to avoid, but let us just say I wish I loved more vegetables, especially the non-starchy ones!

  2. Sherrie Cannon

    Then there is the thought that even our grocery store fruits and vegetables aren’t all that nutritious because of the soil they grow in–worn out, full of chemicals, etc. Organic is too expensive for many people. But I’m counting on the grocery store variety still being better than canned and frozen.

    • Yes, although possibly not unless it’s very fresh. For the best of all options (organic, fresh produce that tastes great) you can’t beat a home garden. Unless you have the kind of squirrel population we have, or not much sunshine, etc. I wish we lived close enough to my parents to raid their freezer for organic produce! I think you’re right, though…even when not optimal, veggies and fruits still beat fast food and the sugar/fat/salt that’s added to processed foods.

  3. Sheila

    Julia, I’ve been thinking of you today and assuming that Matt had his procedure. I hope all is well. It’s encouraging that Jeff continues to improve. The produce in your photo is displayed so beautifully. We stopped at a produce stand leaving Garden City to stock up on our tomatoes and corn to enjoy this weekend. I remember a photo of your mom and dad at their kitchen table with some of their garden veggies. What a treat!

    • Hi Sheila, garden veggies are THE BEST!! We just got home from the hospital. Overall they were pleased with most of what they found, although they do feel that Matt needs to have his open heart surgery soon. Given Jeff’s planned treatments that will probably go on for the remainder of this calendar year, they said we can wait a couple of months and maybe plan for Matt’s surgery to come after Jeff’s treatments are finished at least for the time being. This means we will probably be looking at that 5th open heart surgery in January or February. Needless to say, we’ll keep you posted. Matt is such a trooper. Jeff told him a few nights ago that he was going to start calling him “Nails” because he’s been so tough about getting all those Lovenox shots in his stomach morning and night, as he has to do for several days before and after every surgery. I sure am glad Jeff is willing to be the one working the syringe – that’s definitely NOT my skill set! Thanks for thinking of us. Have a great weekend!

      • Sheila

        Good morning, Julia. That is such good news about Matt. As my Mom would say,”That apple didn’t fall far from the tree!” I think all the Dentons are remarkable. 🙂

        • Sheila, you are so kind. I feel very UNremarkable this morning – one of those days when I badly need some caffeine to get started! Thanks for your encouraging words.

  4. Mike Bertoglio

    Holding Matt in prayer at this time.

    • Thank you Mike, he came through the catheterization very well as always. They were pleased with his overall condition considering his circumstances, but do feel that we need to go ahead with open heart surgery as soon as Jeff gets finished, or at least at a temporary pause, in his treatment. We are probably looking at having that 5th open heart surgery scheduled for January or February of next year. As always, we appreciate the prayers!

  5. I love all my veggies, even ones I hated as a kid like brussel sprouts, but I have to eat way more fruit. It’s hard to eat them before they’re ripe. Banana’s last 1 day at home. Then they’re too ripe. I’m happy we can get fresh fruit year round but worry about the environment and trucking in the winter. But, you just can’t buy local all year round in Northern Alberta. I eat healthier than some but I could do better. Yesterday Mr B was in NY so I had a dozen Salt Water Taffies for supper…LOL. Then I had ruin my dinner.

    • I just can’t get into brussel sprouts, though I’ve tried. I am way happier with fruits. I like bananas before they get too ripe, too. Sounds like you fall into the same “hubby isn’t home so I can eat however I want” trap that I do! 🙂 I’m glad Jeff isn’t gone much! Don’t worry too much about buying produce that has already been trucked in – perhaps someday we shall master the ability to grow locally all year round (I still remember the Land pavilion that was there when EPCOT first opened at Disney World, with their space-age notions about greenhouses of the future– NOT YET!) In the meantime, if the (relatively) fresh stuff has already been brought in, it’s better to eat it than have it go to waste.

      • There is actually a Greenhouse built on top of a Parking Garage in Vancouver. They grow produce all year round. I wish we had something like that here. You might enjoy a peak at their website: Very Cool! Until we have one here, I guess I’ll have to shop at the local markets.

        • Wow, this is so cool! I would like to see one of these on top of every parking garage! I read an interesting article about our First Lady’s campaign to get kids exercising – someone wrote an essay that if we were serious about making people healthier, we would change the food stamp programs to pay only for healthy foods, not junk. Apparently lots of grocers (especially in urban areas) won’t carry much fresh produce because it doesn’t sell well (due to cost) and thus they don’t make money because much of it spoils. Then people in urban areas, especially those with limited income, end up eating junk that has a long shelf life, because many of them have to shop close to home. If we could get these kinds of gardens growing in every city, it might help solve that problem. Thanks for sharing this link!

          • That’s an interesting point Julia. I’ve seen some of the news reports of Michelle Obama’s garden at the White House. I think it’s nice to walk the talk. I don’t get how someone could be offended by her efforts. A minority of people will always find something to complain about though.
            I think they should consider this in Detroit. They could have a whole new industry going on and employ more citizens and they’d have healthy local food choices from it.

            I often wonder how fast food joints can sell their products soooo cheap. I imagine it’d be very tempting to someone with limited incomes. As a vegetarian, I never stop for fast food and actually can’t take the smell in those places. But I’m very fortunate to be able to buy nutritious produce because like you point out, it costs much more. Especially in climates where it isn’t grown. Lot’s of things could be done better. Making nutritious food affordable should be a priority as health care costs skyrocket.

            • I love it that there’s an organic garden at the White House. Actually, it’s something of a tradition going all the way back to John and Abigail Adams (our 2nd president and his wife, who were also farmers), although not all first ladies have had one. I think Hillary Clinton had one on the roof. If you wonder about fast food, you MUST read the book Fast Food Nation, which is very interesting and is NOT just about fast food, more about the overall trajectory of a culture that always wants more for less. It’s been around for many years, but I think there’s a new edition. One thing that disappointed me about the health care reform is that it didn’t really do much to encourage nutrition and wellness, though there was much talk about that when I attended the White House health care summit in 2009, shortly after President Obama took office. What is referred to as “preventive care” actually amounts to screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies, which are really “disease-detection” diagnostics, not true prevention. And not all that reliable, either; Jeff had a 100% healthy diagnostic report on a colonoscopy less than four years before being diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer that had already spread to his lungs and liver. I assumed this is unusual since the “official” recommendation is for having one every 10 years, but after looking into it and reading tons of Medline abstracts, I found out it’s not unusual at all. Wellness, fitness, and TRUE prevention are far less expensive and infinitely preferable to the “disease care” that we refer to as “health care” — but there’s not really any money to be made in it. Still, I think most people are beginning to catch on. At least we can hope so.

              • All so true Julia. What I think might be good is a ‘health’ savings account for every family or person where the government not only matches your deposits but awards you financially for healthy check-ups. Your good health would be your responsibility. The less you take care of yourself, the less you earn. The accounts can be inherited tax free by another, but can never be spent on anything but health care.

                Obviously, some deceases attack the least likely, most healthy individuals. An acquaintance has just passed away from a heart attack. Very sudden, she was the picture of health and only 65. I think are health care system needs some fixing too. There has to be an incentive not to over use it, as some do that too and some procedures or medicines are not covered but should be. That changes province to province. As the boomers age and there’s fewer working people contributing, somethings going to snap. Now’s a good time for reform.

                • Amen, and past time. It’s going to be a slow process though, because the bottom line (as you imply) is going to involve changing people’s minds and attitudes. I do honestly believe that if each of us would take responsibility for our own (and our children’s) wellness, including good mental health habits, we would have a much healthier overall population, and have enough resources to cover those who are hit with unexpected and often lifetime illness (such as type 1 diabetes) as well as those who are very healthy, such as Jeff, who get unexpectedly hit with something despite eating a very good diet, exercising an hour daily, etc. Jeff ate way more salads and veggies than me, never smoked a single cig in his life, never drank alcohol, etc. When he got diagnosed, he said “None of that did me much good” but I said “This is why you will be strong enough to beat it!” That is what I am hoping and praying. Re: the HSAs, those were another feature that Republicans (and some Democrats) really pushed for in the ACA, but they never made it into the 2700+ pages (!) of legislation. I still don’t understand why. Part of the problem, which is a nice problem to have, is that so much more is available to us, and people such as Matt are alive today who wouldn’t have been alive if they had been born even 30 years earlier. All this medical care is costly, and we have more of it than ever available to us. A real blessing, but NOT free! And not planned for, decades ago when the whole fee-for-service and traditional insurance evolved. As with all growth and change, it will be painful and sometimes we will learn the hard way, through mistakes.


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