Just say no to too much salt and sugar


Anyone who has had the difficult privilege of spending time with someone who is in palliative care, awaiting that person’s death, watching the dying inch, day by day, toward his inevitable final breath has to also, to some extent, confront his or her own mortality.

We each have a finite number of days as we journey through life and what matters most is how well we make the journey. Ask any elderly person still traveling along the road of life and he or she will tell you that the most important thing is having good health; a healthy mind and healthy spirit, but most of all a healthy body.

But that prescription is not so simple in this environment of polluted air and the ‘Franken-foods’ being offered to us by the food industry. And, as we become a population with a significant proportion entering old age, the challenge to stay healthy increases.

Intimidated by all the reports of doctor shortages, a woman who had not seen a doctor nor had a medical checkup for many years finally found a doctor accepting new patients and at the urging of friends and family went through with the checkup. After a raft of tests, she was told what she already felt in her bones, that her health was good. However, her physician advised her that her body mass index (BMI) was close to 30 – that is close to obese – and to lose weight.

That the doctor even spoke to the woman about excess weight was the exception rather than the norm. Yet, here was the first problem.

The doctor did not provide any additional direction or support, but spoke of the consequences of carrying extra poundage. In other words, ‘You have too much fat, and you’re on your own.’

On her own and with the blessing of her doctor the woman sought a consultation with a diet doctor who advised a rigorous weight loss plan, and lowering salt and sugar intake. Being of Caribbean sensibility, with a mind of her own, she rejected the weight loss plan but decided to take seriously the advice about lowering sugar and salt intake. Hypertension is rampant in the Black community and is very much related to unhealthy levels of salt intake.

However, here was the second problem.

The woman has now joined the legions of grocery shoppers who spend extra time in the supermarket reading labels to learn salt and sugar content of prepared foods from cereal to fruit juices, condiments, canned soups frozen food and so much more. Sugar and salt are stabilizers in processed foods and it is impossible to read a label without finding them present.

Her conclusion: In order to keep her daily salt intake to the 1,500 – 2,300 milligrams (2,300 mg is about one teaspoon) recently recommended by the federal health ministry, prepared and processed foods would have to be removed from her shopping list almost entirely.

The same goes for processed sugar. The recommended daily intake is between 20 and 40 grams (one teaspoon is about four grams). But as much as people of Caribbean heritage recognize our historical connection to sugar and sugar production, the fact is that processed sugar is not a necessity in anyone’s daily nutrition intake. The sweet tooth however, is another matter. But holding someone’s hand as life fades from that person while knowing the person’s life has been shortened by lifestyle habits that have adverse effects on health is a sobering experience.

The woman is now talking to friends who are practicing Rastafarians in an effort to switch to ital (salt-free) cooking.

A note on what is joke to you is death to me…

What were the folks at the legion hall in Campbellford, Ont. thinking when they voted the person wearing a Ku Klux Klan costume accompanied by another in blackface with a rope around his neck as having the best costume at a Halloween event last weekend? Is it any wonder then that many people of Caribbean heritage living here reject this annual tradition as something akin to evil when such repugnant expressions seem to surface, especially at the end of October? At least the incident was met with protests from many who recognized the ‘costume’ as extremely offensive.


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