One of the most confusing elements of modern-day living is the many messages that come at us daily about food. I often think back to my days growing up in Brooklyn, New York, spending hours with my Italian grandmother whose greatest passion was cooking. Meals were considered to be a special part of the day where we gathered as a family to enjoy conversation and the delights of my grandmothers’ cooking. I never heard anyone discuss how the marinara sauce was found to reduce prostate cancer, that the olives were good for your skin, or that white potatoes would elevate your glycemic level. There were looks of dismay if you put too much on your plate, talked with your mouth full, clinked your silverware, or interrupted when someone else was talking. I hardly ever saw an obese person. Being grossly overweight was just not part of the culture. Perhaps it was because snacking was frowned upon. You ate three meals a day and that was it and they never included donuts, French fries, soda, or anything that was smothered in some suspicious looking sauce. Today, you are surrounded by fast food, and barraged by ads for junk food. Other ads tout weight-loss programs, some of which promise you that you can eat anything you want as long as you drink their special elixir and exercise five minutes a day. I love the ones that say you will lose ten to fifteen pounds in the first week. It might happen if you have your head cut off, but otherwise this is nothing more than a scam! Scientists and food activists at Yale University call this a toxic food environment. The sad fact is that certain people are making a lot of money selling foods that are unhealthy. Many of the individuals who were brought up in this culture have become hooked on fatty foods, excessive sugar and lots of salt. Once they are on the path to having illnesses related to their diets, they are put on drugs to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin levels. The sad fact is that many of these health problems could be solved by paying attention to better dietary habits. Unfortunately health insurance payments don’t go down if you’re at a healthy weight, exercising or monitoring your stress levels. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to recognize that food can be a cure or a curse, and to understand that the old axiom “you are what you eat” is really where it’s at!