It’s Not Just a Hill of Beans
BY FLORENCE LEVINE
I’ve been passionate about eating
healthy ever since my father
died young. I wanted to learn
how we could’ve helped him.
We had a special bond, my father
and I. When I was eight we’d sit
together for a bedtime chat. He’d
be on a chair next to my bed, close
enough so that I felt him in my
corner, but not too close so as to
invade my space. We’d talk about
whatever; I have no memory. I
only remember the feel of our safe
oasis, refuge from the world, and
our being timeless together.
Like a silent movie, like Neil
Armstrong’s stunning first walk
on the moon, silent…free to roam.
Our time together loomed large in
my eight year old eyes and still in
my 70 year old eyes.
I remember asking him, “What
should I dream about?” And he’d
answer: “Dream about tomorrow.”
It was his pearl to me and also
soon, the title of his off Broadway
show. He said he wrote it in answer
to my question. “Dream About
Tomorrow” was about a black
family that had a dream for a better
tomorrow. Way before the time of
Martin Luther King.
My father finished his PhD and
soon after, died. Too young for him.
And too young for me. Wasn’t there
some way he could’ve been helped?
His best friend had been his cardiol-ogist,
taught at Downstate Medical
School. Science didn’t have any
Years later I came across
“Surprising Secrets of The Blue
Zones,” regions of the world where
a higher proportion of people live
healthy to 100. Dan Buettner, the
author, had noticed these regions
of surprisingly high percentages of
centenarians and called them the
“Blue Zones.” They were found
in Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda,
California; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia,
Italy; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa
Rica. What did they have in com-mon?
His team of anthropologists,
and researchers studied these
communities. They asked ques-tions.
How did they live? What
were their secrets? Then he distilled
their cross-cultural answers into
lessons for the rest of us which, if
you follow, “you stand an excellent
chance of adding happy years to
your life,” Dan says. But we can’t
all necessarily be a centenarian,
because for that you’d “have to win
the genetic lottery.”
I’m getting ready to look at
apartments in Okinawa! But then
I learned that wherever I am, I can
adopt parts of a longevity lifestyle...I
Maria Shriver was on a mission
to spread the word about these
Blue Zones practices found to
help us live longer. “Eat beans!” she
announces. Interviewed on Hoda
and Kathy Lee to raise money for
rising dementia rates in our country
but little in Ikaria, she says, “Let’s
go to Greece!” Kathy Lee and Hoda
loved it, jumped right in and said,
“Yes, LETS!!!” Maria’s spreading
this: just a single cup of beans a
day--(just?!)--can add four years
to your life! (FYI: Buffy’s Yankee
Bean soup’s delicious! They have
it on Mondays.)
I came across another respect-ed
source of information. Dean
Ornish, M.D., has been researching
heart disease for 40 years. Results
are in. His findings on preventing,
and even reversing, heart disease
(most of it) are validated. It seems
our lifestyle can be as powerful as
medicine! My point: Every credible
source I read tells me pretty much
the same thing! For our health it’s
essentially a Mediterranean diet:
vegetables, fruit, whole grains,
The longest living people in the
Blue Zones focus on greens, grains,
and beans. Yes, we can do that at
times! If we want to! Our own
NIH, Department of Agriculture,
after the famous Framingham
heart study, recommends the
same, the Mediterranean diet,
also similar to the DASH diet.
Dean Ornish amends it slightly to a
Mediterranean diet but also low-fat,
low-animal protein plus nuts and
Omega-3’s (like wild salmon, etc.).
But here in America, we’ve
lost our perspective. We may feel
deprived rather than see it as
eating for health, as they do in
Mediterranean countries. ‘Why
CAN’T I have whatever I want on
the menu?!’ and ‘What exactly IS
whole grain???’ We are known to
eat a ‘SAD’ diet (‘Sick American
Diet’.) I watch “Grace and Frankie”
with Jane Fonda (Grace), trim at 82.
I assure you, she does not!!!
Dean Ornish describes a spec-trum
of foods from healthy to
unhealthy and advises us to aim
to eat closer to the healthy choic-es
of the spectrum in his book of
that name, “The Spectrum.” We
have tremendous power over our
health!!! He reminds us: It’s not just
diet that drives our health. It’s a
lifestyle of diet, exercise, de-stress-ing
and social connection. Dean
Ornish puts it: Eat well, move more,
stress less, love more. It’s good for
you. I visualize running into each
other as we walk in the arcade.
And it’s not just heart disease this
lifestyle helps prevent. It’s cancer,
diabetes, and other chronic illness-es!
Because it’s also about inflam-mation,
the secret to better health.
If I’ve convinced just one reader
to eat healthier, then I’ll be happy.
And if I’ve convinced my kids,
who gripe at getting my informa-tional
Jane Brody-type emails to
eat healthier, then I’ll be thrilled.
I’ve passed my father’s age now. I
don’t want what happened to him
to happen to me.
I remind myself of that some-times,
as I’m enjoying a Yasso pop.
(I didn’t say this would be easy…
ever try the salty caramel?!)
Florence at Mr. O’s fruit stand in the arcade
42 NORTH SHORE TOWERS COURIER ¢ March 2020