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Home > Features > Balance > Eating Out to Stay Fit


Eating Out to Stay Fit


Alan Wagener

It's not easy staying fit when you have a sedentary job. My favorite summertime fitness strategy involves "eating out" a lot. Here's how it works: This morning, I decided to go out for breakfast. First, I took the half mile walk to the Gray Meadow Diner. It's a pretty spacious place- a whole block long, in fact, since the "diner" is really a street in our neighborhood. Instead of sitting in a booth or on a stool, you stroll down the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street. And Gray Meadow Drive is a suburban street with a difference- one block is lined on both sides with Juneberry trees, each one a little different than the next. Juneberries are a sweet and nourishing fruit, full of vitamins and other phytochemicals. They have small, soft chewable seeds that I suspect are rich in protein. So, for my breakfast hors d'oeuvre, I sampled a potpourie of Juneberry varieties- delightful!

After that I needed a little something to refresh my palate, so I crossed the street into the adjoining lobby,.. I mean field, where I treated myself to just two wild red sour cherries. Whew! refreshing, to say the least. So much so, that I couldn't resist doing a few push-ups, and a couple of chin-ups from a low-hanging limb of a nearby tree. Then it was on to the main course at the Bike Path Buffet. To give the first course time to settle, and give me a change of scenery, I took the quarter-mile long-cut through the woods, listening to birdsong, smelling leafy fragrance, inhaling peace.

When I arrived at the "buffet", the spread was so inspiring, I did a few more push-ups to pique my appetite. Our bike path is a 6 mile + supermarket aisle of wild edibles- berries, nuts, greens, and herbal teas. Today, the special was red and black wild raspberries. I'm almost embarassed to say I stuffed myself, first on wild black raspberries, then on wild red raspberries, and finally, more wild black raspberries.

Despite the feeling of fullness and contentment that swept through me - the feeling that I would never need to eat again - I knew lunchtime would inevitably roll around and I had better be prepared. So, after a short rest to say thanks to nature for feeding me so well, I walked another 1/4 mile to the local community garden for some "takeout".

Right next to our family plot is a vacant plot loaded with a variety of wild veggies, many of them tastier (and richer in nutrients) than the pampered plants in the occupied plots. From the wide selection available, I chose some particularly succulent purselane. It took me all of 60 seconds to pick enough for a couple of meals- a purselane omelet for lunch, and Quick Purselaned Beans for supper. Next time I come to the garden, I'll remember to bring a bag so I can pick enough to make a batch of purselane pickles. Later on this summer, I'll harvest the seeds to make purselane bread. The harvest was a little too easy, so, before leaving I did some weeding to stretch my back.

Finally, lunch in hand, I began the half mile walk back home to my work feeling wide awake, with a full stomach and well-exercised muscles.

Can such a simple workout really keep you fit...and fed? While you may want to do more (I usually take another, more vigorous walk in the afternoon, followed by a 30-40 min. swim., and I certainly do eat other foods), the impression I get from reading the most recent research is that most of the longevity and health promoting effects of exercise are achievable with mild, but frequent, consistent exercise- the equivalent of a brisk 1/2 hour walk, five days/week. Of course, even greater benefits accrue as you increase the level of exercise (up to a point- too much isn't good, either).

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As to "eating out", other research is making wild foods look better and better. For example, wild raspberries and juneberries are loaded with a class of phytochemicals (anthocyanins) that recently have been shown to act as powerful antioxidents. Similar compounds in cranberry juice help prevent and eliminate urinary tract infections. Anthocyanins may also help prevent strokes and heart attacks by acting as anticoagulents. Some researchers think they may protect collagen to retard the effects of aging and aid the body's resistance to cancer. Purselane, generally rich in vitamins (6 times the vitamin E of spinach) and minerals, is particularly rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, known for their heart-protective properties. Many other wild edible are similarly rich in nutrients that match or exceed those found in cultivated foods.







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