At least one billion people in the world suffer from metabolic syndrome, a medical term used to describe a cluster of chronic and usually degenerative diseases including obesity, insulin resistance (which is related to Alzheimer’s, dementia, arthritis, and cardiac disease), hypertension, and diabetes.
Sixty percent of Americans have at least two of these chronic diseases, and studies show that only 12% of Americans have what researchers call ‘optimal metabolic health.’ In other words, more than 80% of the population has poor metabolic health. In normal times, this statistic would be alarming. Considering the current state of the world, it is downright frightening. If there was ever a time to be in good health, it is now.
Our healthcare system already spends an inordinate amount of time and resources treating chronic disease, and has now been sent into a complete tailspin because of COVID-19. Although initially considered a disease of older populations, new C.D.C. data has shown that nearly 40% of people hospitalized because of the virus were between the ages of 20 and 54. However, the risk of dying is still significantly higher for older people and those with heart disease.
So why are so many young people falling victim to this disease, and why are chronic health conditions like obesity and diabetes increasingly accepted as the norm? One word: food.
Before COVID-19, this nation, most of the civilized world, and several underdeveloped nations were already sick. The cause was not due to an infectious communicable disease, but rather a global epidemic of non-communicable diseases related to poor diet and lack of physical activity.
Is the food we are eating trying to kill us? The short answer appears to be yes. Metabolic syndrome and almost every chronic and degenerative disease in our society can be related to what we eat and how much we eat. As bleak as this situation may seem, there are changes that you can start making right now to turn your health around.
How to Increase Your Metabolic Health:
Lose weight. Obesity and its related conditions suppress the immune system and worsen the effects of viruses like COVID-19. Removing processed carbohydrates (refined sugars, bread, pasta, muffins, cookies, cakes, sugary soft drinks, etc.) is an excellent place to start. It’s also important to eat more animal protein, good sources of fat (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil), vegetables, and fruit, nuts, and seeds. A Paleo diet template can help get you on track.
Eat less; fast intermittently if possible. If you are eating three meals plus two snacks a day, you better be an elite athlete in training. Based on the amount of exercise the average person engages in per day, there is no need for three large meals with the addition of snacks. Make sure you include animal protein and fat in your meals, both of which will keep you feeling full until the next time you are really hungry.
Move more. We have become a world where we spend more time sitting in one spot than we do standing, squatting, or moving around. Even though most of us are practicing social distancing, we are still able to get outside and go for a walk. Spending time outdoors is also a great opportunity to recharge our Vitamin D stores, which help boost our immune system.
Get more sleep. If you sleep less than seven hours a night, you are not doing yourself any favors. Sleeping is when our body restores energy and repairs cells and muscles. It is also important for our overall emotional wellbeing.
Learn to cook. If not now, when? With many restaurants temporarily closed, make this your opportunity to go back to basics. Start with my recipe for Cajun Shrimp with Cauliflower Rice, a flavorful dish that combines healthy animal protein with a veggie-forward spin on a daily staple.
I am ever the optimist, and believe that most of the time things happen for a reason. Through this all, I keep asking myself “Why is this happening and what can I learn from it?”
I can’t say for sure, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe this is a nudge from Mother Nature telling us it’s time to take back responsibility for our health and pay attention to what we are eating, what we are doing, and how we are living. Maybe it’s time to go back to eating whole, natural foods, slowing down, and simply living.
Cajun Shrimp with Cauliflower Rice
This is my second recipe using cauliflower “rice,” and I’m sure it won’t be my last. I didn’t add a lot of seasoning to the cauliflower because the Cajun prawns pack more than enough flavor on their own. Once you have removed the prawns from the pan, I recommend adding a little more oil and a couple pinches of the spice blend and then spooning a little onto your rice. You will have enough of the Cajun spice blend to easily double this recipe.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 lb. large prawns
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil + 1 tablespoon
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 cups cauliflower rice
- 1/2 small onion finally chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper chopped
- 2 stalks green onions cut on the bias
- juice of 1/2 a lime
- Remove shell from prawns. You can leave the tails on if you want.
- Place in bowl. Add 1 tablespoon avocado oil and 2 teaspoons of the spice blend to prawns. Set aside.
- Chop onions and bell pepper.
- Add 1 tablespoon avocado oil and 1 teaspoon butter to skillet over medium heat.
- Add onion and bell peppers and cook for 4 – 5 minutes.
- Add cauliflower. Cook for 5 – 7 minutes or until tender.
- In a separate skillet, heat remaining avocado oil and butter over medium heat.
- Add prawns and marinade to skillet.
- Cook until prawns are pink, approximately 1 1/2 – 2 minutes. Do not overcook.
- Remove from pan immediately.
- To serve, spoon cauliflower rice into dish. Add prawns and spoon any oil left in the pan from prawns over top. Garnish with green onion and a squeeze of fresh lime.