#healthyrgv: Words of wisdom from Dr. Pepper

I’ve received more emails writing this column than for anything else I’ve written for The Monitor. Some email to share their stories, advice or recipes — and some tell me I’m going it about it all wrong.

One such reader is Edcouch native Benigno “Ben” Villalón, who earned the nickname “Dr. Pepper” for his work breeding various types of peppers.

After Villalón served in the United States Marine Corps, he used the GI Bill to study Agronomy at Texas A&M University. He would go on to earn a master’s in vegetable plant breeding and a Ph.D. in plant pathology-virology.

He worked as a professor in Weslaco at the Texas Agricultural Research and Extension Center, now the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, for 36 years before retiring in 1996.

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In the 1970s, the country began to focus more on nutrition, Villalón said. And his presentation at conferences shifted from pepper breeding to prevention of diseases by eating healthy.

As a professor emeritus, he still gives presentations to local groups encouraging a healthy diet.

“Food is the most important medicine in the world,” he said. “It’s also the worst poison.”

His father died at age 49 in 1958.

“If you want to live to be 125, you knock out all the sugar you can,” he said. “Sugar is the culprit that causes all of these diseases, directly or indirectly.

“The good life for us in the (Rio Grande) Valley is cakes, cookies, pies, sodas, beer — all the high-glycemic crap.”