Good food and good health

Good food and good health

By Michael J Lieberman

There have been many studies and reports over the years that show the link between good food and good health.  Personally I’m not much of a report person because you can twist numbers to pretty much show whatever you want.

I like to strip away all the layers and look at what’s going on. In the past 50-100 years the way we eat has changed.  Also the overall health of people has dwindled, from obesity to diabetes to cancer to ADHD.

Good food and good health - Is there a direct correlation?

I cannot say, but the numbers coincide.

If you look around and see what people are eating, I’m not very surprised as to our well-being.  We are inundated and consume lots of food products, but not much real whole food.

For those of you that are into the reports and studies, I will now mention a couple:

In the book Organic Manifesto by Maria Rodale it says, “In period 2001-2006, MSRA (methicillan-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) head and neck infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria in children have more than doubled - from 12 in 2001 to 28 percent in 2006.”

This is attributed to the increasing resistance of using too many antibiotics in raising our food.

There is also the book Clean by Alejandro Junger, M.D. Dr. Junger used to be a cardiovascular doctor in New York.  Due to his hectic lifestyle, he developed irritable bowel syndrome and suffered from depression.

If you are interested in learning more, I would highly recommend either of those books.

How to ensure the quality of your food

Most of what I eat is organic and non-chemically treated, especially produce.  I do this for the health benefits, but also because I believe it is also what’s best for the planet as well.

When I talk to people about this, they say that, “eating organic is too expensive.”

That is so not true. There are many ways that you can incorporate more whole and non-chemically treated foods into your life and not go broke while doing it.

Three simple ways to improve your diet

1.  Join your local CSA

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  They work as follows - you pay to become a member and get a weekly "share" of fresh produce, meats and cheeses (depending on your CSA) from a local farm.

This helps to ensure the quality of your food because you have a better connection with your food and community.  You will likely have direct contact with the farmer that grows the food and raises the cattle.  It also cuts down on the travel distance of the food as well.

You are getting locally grown food directly from the grower and can find out how it is being grown.

2.  Shop your local farmers market

When you shop at your local farmers market, you are often buying directly from the one who grew the food or raised the cattle.  You will have direct access to ask about their procedures in growing the food and tending to their animals.

One of the added benefits of going to the farmers market is the direct relationship that you can form with the vendor.  You might get some discounts or added produce with your purchase.

3.  Grow your own food

What?  Why would we do this since we can just go to the grocery store and pick up what we want?

The answer is, because who better than you to grow and take care of your own food?  No one.  Only you are going to have your best interests in mind.  You aren’t going to use or put anything harmful into your food.

Space shouldn't dictate your decision to grow. I'm started growing on the fire escape of my New York City apartment and now I am growing on my balcony in Los Angeles.  You can grow anywhere.  It's just a matter of how much and every little bit helps.

Ultimately the most important thing you can do is ask questions.  Regardless of where you are getting your food from, ask how it is grown or raised and what methods are used.  You owe that to yourself and to your health.

Start Growing Your Own Food

This is usually a stumbling block for people.  We often get intimidated and will give a million excuses why we can’t.  The excuse that I hear most often is the lack of space, so it’s not worth growing anything.

Those are just that - excuses.  It’s not required to have tons of land and space.  You only need two things - action and commitment.  I always say that it’s worth the time and effort if you can grow just one thing.

I don’t have experience

If you never start, you’ll never have experience.  When I started in May 2009, I didn’t have any experience either.  I don’t have a fancy certificate and haven’t taken any classes.

For me it started with a 2x3 fire escape garden in the middle of New York City.  Even though I had little space and zero experience, I managed to grow cherry tomatoes, lettuces, swiss chard, kale, peppers and herbs.  In April 2010, I moved to the other side of the country and currently live in Los Angeles where I have a balcony garden.

So growing without any land and experience is possible.  Here's how you can start.

Decide on a location

Look around your home or apartment and choose your location, outside or inside.  Just find a spot.

When you are looking, take into consideration how far it is from water.  You don’t want to be lugging water around your home.

Look up and down

You can grow on more than just the floor - windowsills, ledges, railings and the space above you.  Get creative.

What are the conditions?

One of the most important conditions to look into is sunlight.  How much direct sunlight does your space get?  All you really need is 2-3 hours of direct sunlight to grow something.  It won’t be tomatoes or cucumbers, but it will be something.  My balcony gets about 4-6 hours of early morning sun.  Since I get limited sunlight, I can’t grow everything, but I can still grow something.

What to grow in?

If you are into the DIY thing, you can build self-watering containers or you can buy some containers.

What I like about self-watering containers is that they are pretty low maintenance once the plant is established.  I make mine using two 5-gallon containers.  You can get from your local flower shop, deli, restaurant or farmers market for little to no money.

If the space that you plan on using has rails, you can use soda bottles to make hanging planters or buy new ones.  I’ve successfully grown herbs such as basil, oregano and mint in these.

What should you grow?

Here it is the million dollar question that could very well be decided by the sun and space conditions.  I am restricted because of the smaller containers I’m using and the limited direct sunlight.

Once you have all of your options laid out, grow something that you know you will eat and like.  That is why you are doing this after all isn’t it?  To eat something that you grew.

My suggestions are usually greens and lettuces.  We all know how to use them and should be eating more of them.  They also don't get to be too big and grow pretty easily.

Herbs are also something else that I suggest because I think they are the best economic value.  At the supermarket, you buy a big bushel of them, only use a few sprigs and the rest goes to waste.  When you grow your own, you can take what you need and let it continue to grow, it’ll always be at hand.

This helps to give you the basics of you starting to grow your own food.  There is no need to plant a huge garden (unless you want to).  I firmly believe that growing just one plant will make a difference.


Food and health are certainly connected.  There are many ways that you can take back some control of your overall health by consuming better quality foods.  You can either grow them on your own or source them from trusted local sources.  The power is in your hands.


Through his blog and social media, Mike Lieberman shares his expertise on urban gardening, green living and real food.  He inspires others to start growing their own food and believes that growing just one herb or vegetable will make a difference.  It will help to cut back the intensive resources that go into the production and transport of food to our plates.  It will also help us to re-establish our connection with food that we've lost over the past few years.  We are humans.  We grow food.  Connect with Mike on his blog, Twitter or Facebook.

Further reading

If you found this article of interest, you may also enjoy the following:

Food for good mental health

Eating for the mind

The importance of B Vitamins

Mind Food - Omega 3, 6 and 9

Sources of Omega Fatty acids

Mind Food Recipes 

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