I had an “AH HA!” moment yesterday. It was one of those ah-ha moments where a lesson is reiterated, not learned, but reiterated and reinforced in that slap-in-the-face way. It all started 7.5 years ago on a farm in Sun Prairie, WI. The day was cool, crisp and I was lonely in my Madison studio apartment, and needed some companionship. Companionship of the fury, but silent kind [cue excuse to show adorable baby bunny photo].
Ok ok ok…I’ll get to the story. Ms. Jessica Rabbit was adopted from that farm at 3 months old, and is now 7.5 year old. I have had her since she could fit into the palm of my hand. Now she fits into both of my hands, with some spillage. As a poor graduate student, I fed her foods that I could afford: carrots, parsley, and green beans. Turns out, that is rabbit gourmet. Her entire life she has eaten vegetables and hay, hay and vegetables, and not much else. Every once in a while I would run out of real food, and would give her pellets, to which she would ferociously inhale like it was her last meal and then literally throw her food bowl in disgust, and refuse to eat pellets for a good week. That is kind of how I feel after a McDonald’s value meal, when they used to Super Size it for $0.35 more.
Now that Jessica is, ahem, older she needs to see a doctor (vet) every year. And by needs to, I mean they won’t let me board her at the clinic when CFO and I travel if she doesn’t. So last night, I brought her around for her annual physical exam and she, as always, was a sassy feisty trooper. She takes after her mama. After many questions regarding her lifestyle, exercise, diet, sex life (she will live in a cage until she is 25 just like my future children), the vet came to this conclusion: she is the healthiest rabbit the clinic has ever seen. Did you get that?…EVER SEEN. I image that is among hundreds of rabbits…well…ok…at least 15. But still, that’s healthier than the young, spry rabbits. I was actually surprised because I am fairly ignorant of what ills may befall well aged rabbits. Turns out, according to the good doctor, rabbits age much like humans, and acquire a lot of old-age related health problems. The doctor’s conclusion was that a lifetime of fresh vegetables and minimal processed foods has kept Jessica’s health in peak shape. She even maintained a solid 4 lb healthy weight since her last check up a year ago, no gain or loss. I can’t even maintain the same weight from one week to the next. Amazing, Jessica, amazing.
So here is some math, friends. The average female lifespan in the US is 81 years old. The average female rabbit lifespan in the US is 10 years old. That means that there are approximately 8 rabbit years for every human year, and Jessica is roughly 60 years old. I must say, she has barely aged a day. She takes after her mama in this as well. This is her diet:
- Carrots and tops
- Green beans
- Radish tops
- Raspberries leaves
- Blackberries leaves
- Leafy greens
- Pea pods
- Corn husks
- Cherries, Apples, Pears, Berries (in moderation)
- And any number of fresh vegetables that I happen to have
This 60-year old rabbit model shows perfect health, which is considered
abnormal for her age, due solely to a diet of whole, minimally processed foods (trust me, she’s not bending over backwards to exercise). If we, humans, did the same, can you even imagine what 60 would be like?
The doctor used this metaphor: imagine a 20-year-old man eats nothing but wholesome, unprocessed foods, and another otherwise equivalent, 20-year-old man eats nothing but fast food low-nutrient garbage. At 20 years old, they will probably look the same and feel the same. But, fast forward 40 years, you can image the toll those diets will take? I mean…mind blown. Am I right? Ok, maybe not so shocking, but to see the effects of a long-term good diet in my sweet baby really opened my eyes to the actual, tangible effects of food on health. This is one of the major reasons I choose to grow my own. That, and it makes me feel god-like in my ability to both create and destroy life as I wish.
My favorite health-food reference is the nutrient tome, The World’s Healthiest Foods from George Mateljan. I got this in college when I first started becoming a whole-foods fan. It spoke to my special brand of scientific presentation and cheapness. It is literally the size of a college textbook at 880 pages, but 1/75 the cost. All of the content of this book is found for free at the non-profit website, www.whfoods.com. It has a plethora of information regarding nutrient content, cooking technique, recipes, selecting and storage, and Q&A about the foods. It’s not just vegetables and fruits, but also meats, dairy, seafood, nuts, seeds, grains, beans, etc. My one complaint is that they include “raisins” on the list and simultaneously ignore my letters and emails about the danger this poses. I am serious. If this keeps on, we run the risk of raisins masquerading as food when we all know they are poison.
I have used this reference primarily to decide what foods would benefit me and CFO nutritionally, and thus can plan a wholesome, nutritionally balanced garden and kitchen to achieve a healthy diet. Each food has a breakdown of nutrients by content, so you can easily find the best foods for, say, fighting a cold, or fighting the disease of turning 30. Whatever you need, there is a whole food for you, nutrients, and a complete reference list.
I know this post doesn’t cover too much gardening, but seriously folks, its -30 deg F windchill outside. Nothing is growing anytime soon. Stay warm and eat tasty vegetables every day, and lets come back to this in 40 years.