It is not an exaggeration to say that food is medicine. I am sure you’ve heard the famous quote by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” And while he said this 2,400 years ago, it has never been more applicable than it is today. Every bite you take can either contribute to your best health or take away from it. This is empowering because it puts you in the driver’s seat – giving you the ability to take charge of your health. It is a powerful choice you can make for yourself each and every day with every bite you take.
If you think your diet could use some improvement, know that you are not alone. Most Americans are eating a highly processed diet that is loaded with saturated fat, sodium and added sugars, and does not have nearly enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nutrients and fiber. This way of eating is causing a lot of health problems and contributing to many lifestyle diseases – such as heart disease, obesity and type -2 diabetes. But many of these health problems can be prevented and often reversed with a nourishing healthy diet.
You have the power to transform your health through the healing power of nutritious foods. Eating a healthy diet to support your body doesn’t have to be difficult and even small changes can add up to make a big difference over time. It doesn’t have to be expensive and you might just be pleasantly surprised about how incredibly delicious it can be! And the best thing about eating nutritious healing foods is that not only can it help you look and feel better, it can help you to heal your body on a cellular level from the inside out.
It wasn’t long ago when I was eating foods that were not the best for my health. I was working a lot and couldn’t find the time or energy to cook. But once I learned about the power of whole foods and made the connection to what I was eating and my health problems, I got motivated to make some changes to my diet. And while it was hard at first to give up my favorite foods, it wasn’t too long before I found new healthy replacements and started seeing the benefits of changing my diet. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and was one of the best decisions I could have ever made for my health.
Food is more than calories; it is information. If the body isn’t given the right information, it won’t work as well and health may decline. Nourishing food has the potential to provide the body with the right information and what it needs to function at its best level. Unfortunately, much of what people are eating today is not real food. Pizza, pasta, fast foods and convenience foods are overly processed to the point that most of the vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrition have been stripped away. Eating this sort of diet leaves our bodies devoid of what it needs to function well. Plus, these fake foods are loaded with preservatives, dyes, inflammatory fats and other chemicals that wreak havoc on our health.
A healing diet includes what our bodies were designed to eat fresh, real food in its natural state that is full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and antioxidants. When we eat the foods that help our bodies thrive, we create a healthy, healing anti-inflammatory environment that, along with medical guidance and proper treatment, can help reduce symptoms caused by chronic inflammation and malnutrition.
Think of your body as a car and food as your fuel. What would happen if you put the wrong type of fuel in your car? It probably wouldn’t work so well and eventually it could cause problems to the engine and you’d end up in the shop. You wouldn’t put low-grade fuel in the tank of a car you loved, would you? So why put less than the best fuel in your body? You are far more valuable than any car and the results can be transformative. What does a healthy diet look like? I hope you are starting to get excited about taking advantage of the healing power of food. You might be wondering what to eat since this can often be confusing. Not only is nutrition a highly debated topic; the best approach for one person might be different for another. We are all unique and have different bodies that are impacted by our genetics, certain health conditions and reactions to different types of foods. So while it is vital to work with your medical team to identify the specific healing diet that is right for you, there are some general concepts, on which most everyone agrees on for health maintenance and disease prevention.
A healthy diet includes eating:
1. Whole foods:
Eating a healthy diet includes eating a “whole foods” diet. This doesn’t mean you have to shop at an expensive chain grocery store! It simply means eating real food that still looks like it did growing in nature, or pretty close to it. For example, a roast chicken is a whole food where chicken nuggets are highly processed. You can also consider whole foods as “one-ingredient foods.” The highly processed foods we want to avoid have been stripped of much of their nutritional value and often loaded with additives, artificial ingredients, excess salt and inflammatory fats that are harmful to our health. Did you know there are 38 ingredients in a McDonald’s chicken nugget? Whole food eating incorporates a wide variety of foods including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds and animal protein. These foods are recognizable to your body and are loaded with important nutrition is required to run the chemistry of life and to function optimally. Trading in processed and packaged foods for fresh, whole foods is a back to basics eating approach that your body will thank you for.
2. A rainbow of fruits and vegetables
It is well known that eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the best things we can do for our health. While the USDA recommends 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for wellness and to prevent chronic disease, only 9% of Americans are meeting this goal. We suggest aiming for a minimum of 9 servings a day so this percentage is even less! Eating plenty of colorful fruits is a great way to amp up the nutritional punch in your diet since you’ll see that color is key to good nutrition. Unfortunately, the most common color of the standard American is beige! Why is having a colorful plant-based diet so important? Colorful plant foods
contain something called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. These words are used interchangeably and refers to the abundance of plant compounds critical nutrients containing valuable disease fighting and anti-aging benefits through something called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. Phytonutrients are plant-based compounds containing a range of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits. These compounds give fruits and vegetables their deep colors – so typically foods vibrantly colored foods are packed with phytonutrients.
Some examples include:
Blue/Purple: blueberries, black beans and purple cabbage
Green: Avocado, kiwi and leafy greens
Red foods: Tomatoes, watermelon and red kidney beans
Yellow: Mangos and spaghetti squash
Orange: Carrots, oranges and sweet potatoes
Tan/White: Mushrooms and bananas
And since different colors represent different phytonutrients, try including a rainbow of colorful foods into your diet each day to put the spectrum of power plants chemicals to work for you. By the way, herbs and spices such as basil, turmeric and cinnamon provide high levels of phytonutrients that help fight disease. So sprinkle on plenty of fresh and dried herbs and spices to make your foods taste great while getting the added benefits from phytonutrients. [Include IFM Phytonutrient Spectrum Foods in resources]
3. Fiber rich food
Dietary fiber is critical for good health and digestion. Fiber binds to toxins and excess hormones and helps the body excrete them though elimination. Getting sufficient fiber is also essential for gut health since it is the one component of our diet that directly feeds our gut microbiota – the community of microorganisms that make up our digestive track and impacts much of our immune system. We can get sufficient fiber from a range of different whole food sources including whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits. It is possible to get too much of a good thing since too much fiber may result in digestive issues such as bloating or gas. Plus in some digestive conditions, such as SIBO or irritable bowel syndrome, it may need to be reduced. But in general, most people are not getting nearly enough fiber in their diets and can benefit by gradually increasing their fiber intake.
4. Healthy fats
Because of the low-fat craze and past advice to avoid fat for hearth heart health, many people are confused about the essential role that healthy fat has in supporting our optimal health. Fat is our friend when it comes to good health and our bodies need good quality fat for a number of biological functions. It is a major source of energy, it keeps us warm and helps our bodies to absorb important nutrients that are vital to our everyday functions. It also makes eating those important vegetables delicious and helps to keep us feeling full between meals and reduce unhealthy snacking because it is so satisfying. But choosing which fats to enjoy and which to avoid can be tricky since not all fats are created equal.
There are many types of fat including saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, omega-3s and combinations of these. Let’s start with what fats to avoid. Trans fats are saturated fats are considered the worst fat for our health and has been linked to heart disease. Although the FDA banned trans fats in food in 1998, they can still be found in some products such as margarine, non-dairy creamer, fried foods and packaged foods like granola bars or frozen pizza. If you see “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on the label, you know to skip it since it includes unhealthy trans fats. Healthy fats are mono and poly-unsaturated fats and omega-3 fats, which most often come from plant-based sources. Some healthy fat food choices include:
Olive Oil. A staple of the anti-inflammatory Mediterranean Diet, olive oil has been linked to heart health. Extra virgin olive oil is the healthiest choice since it is cold-pressed and the least processed oil. Not only is delicious drizzled on salads and vegetables it is an excellent source of antioxidants.
Another good source of healthy fats are nuts. Unsalted raw or roasted nuts contain healthy unsaturated fats which also help balance blood sugar. They are great for snacking and some, such as walnuts, provide a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Seeds such as pumpkin, chia and flax seeds are healthy fat sources. Flax is also a rich source of fiber as well as omega-3s and can be ground up for use in smoothies, added to soups and salads or used as an egg substitute when baking.
Wild salmon, sardines and other small cold water fish are another great source of healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Avocados are tasty on salads, guacamole or avocado toast. They are also packed with fiber, folate and vitamins C and E. There is a lot more to learn about healthy fats but these tips should get you started in a great direction. You need healthy fats for a healthy body! Reducing your intake of processed foods is one of the easiest ways to reduce your consumption of unhealthy fats and improve the overall quality of your diet. Other important aspects of a healthy diet include drinking enough water during the day to keep your body well-hydrated and cutting back on sugar. One easy way to support both of these goals is to eliminate soda and other sugary drinksand drink plenty of pure water. If you feel plain water is too boring, try drinking seltzer water with a slice of lemon or lime and a splash of 100% cranberry juice. It’s an easy way to make a big positive change in your diet.
Eating a healthy whole foods diet can be just the medicine your body is waiting for to transform your health. The more we cut out the things that are taking away from our health while adding in nutrient dense foods that our bodies needs to thrive, the better opportunity we have to prevent disease, recover from illness and feel our best.
Learn about how you can make massive impact with you health through personalized nutrition at Med Matrix.