Can Nutrition Be Used As Medicine?
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates.
It’s almost guaranteed that you have seen that quote framed on cafe wall, in a textbook or even said in some television shows and movies. But can you really use food as medicine? Does what we eat affect our health and how well we age? What types of foods should be used as “medicine”? Can we prevent diseases from forming in our bodies? These are the types of questions we’ll be answering for you when we go in-depth on this topic. Read on!
What Does Using Food As Medicine Really Mean?
When Hippocrates said that famous quote in 400 B.C., he was talking about preventing and treating disease first by eating a nutrient-dense diet. Even though that was a lifetime ago, he was very much correct. Almost all health conditions can be linked to nutritional deficiencies and toxicity from a poor diet – while they may not be the root cause, they are certainly a large factor. John Hopkins University even reported that about 80% of people with cancer are malnourished from poor food choices and not eating a nutrient-dense diet. The number one killer in the United States, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, arthritis and thyroid function are all highly influenced by someone’s diet. I’m sure we all know at least one person suffering from one of those health conditions!
Short answer, is yes food can really be used as medicine to prevent diseases from forming and slow down the aging process. We don’t only mean slow down the signs of physical aging like preventing wrinkles and laugh lines, but we can delay the process of our body functions declining. It is only natural that our bodies don’t run as smoothly as when we’re 65 compared to when we’re 25, but if nutrient-dense food can prevent a drastic drop in our health, then we should on board! Here’s how.
Using Food As Medicine
Below is a list of most of the positive outcomes that eating nutrient dense foods (we’re going to get into the specific foods later on) and avoiding processed, convenience foods have on the body.
It is a fact that inflammation is the root cause of almost all diseases and can quickly escalate the aging process. When the body feels it is being threatened (from unnatural chemicals, modified ingredients, bacteria, manmade additives in food, etc.) the immune system’s response is creating inflammation. It can affect every tissue, hormone and cell in the body.
When we talk about hormones, we don’t only mean the sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, but hormones that affect our energy levels, thyroid function, stress response and more. When the body experiences abnormal hormone changes, it can cause diabetes, fatigue, mental health disorders, fertility issues, weight gain and autoimmune disorders.
Alkalines The Body
The body is always working towards keeping a pH level at about 7.36. Low-nutrient and processed foods greatly increase the body’s acidity levels. Disease thrives in higher acidic body’s. Nutrient dense food promotes alkalinity in the body and assists in cellular renewal.
Balances Blood Sugar Levels
Diabetes and weight gain are both associated with poor insulin response in the body. Poor insulin response can happen when blood sugar levels are not managed and are usually caused by a diet of refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta and sugar. This can lead to cravings for unhealthy foods, low energy, mood swings, hormonal imbalances, etc.
Assisting The Detox Process
Poor digestion and decreased liver function can be caused by toxicity in the body. Our body is always working to eliminate toxins through urine, bowel movements, sweat, etc. and the liver is the main organ used to assist in this. Our diet and the chemicals in the environment both contribute to this so that’s why it’s important to choose nutrient-dense food to avoid excess toxins.
Improving Nutrient Absorption
Like we mentioned above, many health conditions are caused by nutritional deficiencies. Most packaged and convenience foods are so highly processed that no natural ingredients remain causing them to provide little to no vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. If they do provide any of those, most of them are manmade to “increase the nutrient” content but if they weren’t so processed in the first place, they wouldn’t need to add them back in!
Improved Lung Function
Many studies have shown that people who consume diets high in fresh fruit and vegetables and low in refined carbohydrates, processed meats, desserts and fried foods had better lung function, less risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and less severe asthmatic symptoms.
What Should You Eat?
Now that we know all the wonderful things that using food as medicine can do in the body. What exactly should we be eating? We’ve broken it down for you!
If you ask any healthcare professional what the healthiest food on this planet is, they would almost always answer with green vegetables! Especially leafy greens such as spinach, kale, broccoli, etc. They are packed with an assortment of vitamins, minerals and fiber, provide an alkalizing environment, reduce free radicals in the body (read: prevent cancer) and help with the detoxification process of toxins. Try to consume some raw vegetables to get the most nutrient content out of them.
Anti-oxidant Rich Fruits & Vegetables
A general rule of thumb is to “eat the rainbow.” Fruits and vegetables that are bright in color usually provide a high amount of anti-oxidants which slow down the aging process and help reduce free radicals in the body. The best examples are berries, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, citrus fruits and cruciferous vegetables.
Whole grains such as brown rice, beans, quinoa and millet provide high amounts of fiber and nutrients. Fiber ensures that the digestive system is working properly to eliminate toxins from the body, keep you full, balances blood sugar levels, promotes healthy gut flora and boosts the immune system.
Choosing the right types of fat can decrease inflammation, promote healthy brain function, lower bad cholesterol, help maintain a healthy weight and produce moisture to the skin and hair. Eat a variety of nuts, seeds, avocados, fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut and healthy vegetables such as olive, coconut oil, ghee and grass-fed butter.
Choosing lean proteins such as poultry, fish and eggs provide healthy amounts of protein, which is essential for healthy growth and maintenance of the body, is the better option over fatty cuts of beef and pork. It can prevent high cholesterol, heart disease and poor immune function. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you can get your protein from plant-based sources such as beans, lentils, chia seeds, quinoa and nuts.
You Are What You Eat
This has become a popular phrase in the health and wellness world because it could not be truer! Our body is constantly going through cellular reproduction, growth, metabolic processes, cellular regeneration, hormone changes and so much more. It only makes sense that it has to use the food we consume to do all of these processes. Yes, our body can make certain vitamins and minerals, but most of the time it needs help from other vitamins and minerals that are only found in food!
“You are what you eat, so don’t be cheap, easy or fake.”
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