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by Gigi DeJoy
In the past decades, Americans’ ideas of healthy eating have changed radically and continually. We have seen the development of the government-sponsored food pyramid and then seen it be altered countless times, all alongside the explosion of “lifestyle” diets that encourage one to eat raw, vegan, gluten-free or like a caveman. In this quest to make good health simple, what to eat can end up seeming excessively complex.
Dr. Jerri Jensen has embraced a new idea, which she put simply: “Half of everything you eat, every time you eat, should be fruits and vegetables.” This is on top of many life changes that Dr. Jensen, a holistic health coach, would recommend to the average American. As a first step, however, she believes that this one straightforward rule is imperative in preventing disease, rather than waiting to treat the symptoms.
At her presentation titled “Simple Solutions for Improving the Quality of Your Life,” held in the Bay School’s Emlen Hall on July 16, Jensen combined holistic nutritional advice (remembering, she said, that feeding your body should include feeding your mind) with advertising. A segment of her talk was dedicated to describing the benefits of a product called Juice Plus, which makes it easier for people to get their recommended dose of fruits and vegetables.
“I’m probably preaching to the choir here,” Jensen told her audience of around 20. She encouraged them to go out and spread the nutritional word. “The origin of the word ‘doctor’ came from ‘teacher,’” she said. “I’m all about education.”
Jensen is a graduate of Albany Medical College and a trained whole foods chef. She completed a fellowship under Andrew Weil, the physician who founded the field of integrative medicine. She lived in the Penobscot Bay area for many years, working at the Blue Hill Memorial Hospital and establishing quite a following in her own private practice. Jensen currently lives in Arizona, where she is an integrative family physician, holistic health coach and a Juice Plus distributor. Local homoeopathist Edie Howland was one of two loyal ex-clients of Jensen who introduced her talk, saying, “This is really just a gift for the community.”
Jensen’s presentation covered four main ideas: empowered nutrition; feeding the body, mind and spirit; learning how to predict, protect and prevent disease; and living an anti-inflammatory life.
Following her emphasis on education, Jensen asserted that part of exercising empowered nutrition is understanding how we are feeding our bodies. She understood the many complexities that go into making nutritional decisions, from religion and ethics to politics and economics. With this in mind, she said we should be careful not to be hoodwinked by advertising. For example, she gave a categorical definition of a whole grain: “If you put it in the ground, it will grow.” Considering the unfortunate lack of Lucky Charms trees in the world, many brightly-colored cereals that advertise being “a good source of whole grain” are clearly being less than truthful.
Jensen showed two slides with ingredient lists, each for a different product. One was full of unpronounceable chemicals and artificial colors, while the other seemed slightly more appetizing with ingredients such as chicken and rice. She had the audience guess what each might be, and then which they would rather eat. When the products were revealed, the audience learned that they would rather ingest dog food than a Pillsbury Toaster Strudel.
When it came to feeding the body, mind and spirit, Jensen argued for a more holistic look at nutrition. She quoted the World Health Organization’s definition of health: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” She then showed the audience a circular chart which she calls “The Circle of Life” wheel. There were twelve “cogs” on the wheel that Jensen said affected our health, most of which represented non-traditional ideas of health such as relationship, spirituality and stress. “These things really do physiologically impact us,” she said.
Stress was one of the big factors that Jensen said contributed to inflammation, as well. Stress, poor diet, and other lifestyle factors are all things that cause inflammation at the cellular level. According to Jensen, this cellular inflammation builds up until it affects organs and entire systems within the body. This systemic inflammation, she said, is to blame for “virtually every chronic disease.”
Jensen lamented the fact that this swelling is almost always going on, yet nothing is done until symptoms of it manifest themselves. She told her audience that America spends only 4 percent of its healthcare budget on preventive measures, and the rest on treating conditions after they have occurred. “The silent inflammation, that’s what percolates in the background, that’s the cellular inflammation,” she said. “We’re trained in our society that until we have a symptom, we think we’re healthy.” Jensen told the audience that the best ways to avoid inflammation is to meditate, exercise and, of course, eat your fruits and veggies at every meal. “Food is medicine, and medicine can be our food,” she said. This is where Juice Plus comes in. The product can be taken as vitamins, powder and chewables, and contains concentrated fruit and vegetable extracts.
Phil Tardif, a Juice Plus convert who attended Jensen’s talk, extolled the benefits and uses of the product. He thought that the product could be very useful for people with diabetes or stomach staples, because it provides so much nutrition with minimal sugar or actual food intake. Tardif also saw the benefits for people who might not be able to afford to keep their refrigerators stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. “Think how expensive it would be to make a glass of juice,” he said. “A lot more expensive than that [vitamin].”