We know that eating healthy food is good for us…but do we understand why?
Does eating healthy affect more than our weight?
The answer is yes. Doctors are increasingly promoting food as medicine. Research is showing that healthy food can prevent disease and health problems. But food can also be considered medicine for managing a chronic condition. This doesn’t mean that you stop taking medications prescribed by your doctor. But it does mean you may have more power on the healing capability of your body than you previously thought.
So, How Can We Think of Food as Medicine?
Food provides nutrients for your body. Good nutrients help your body work at its optimal level. Bad food, or a lack of good nutrients, can harm your body.
“Nutrients are the nourishing substances in food that are essential for the growth, development and maintenance of body functions. Essential meaning that if a nutrient is not present, aspects of function and therefore human health decline. When nutrient intake does not regularly meet the nutrient needs dictated by the cell activity, the metabolic processes slow down or even stop.”– Perspectives in Nutrition, Wardlow and Insel
Food with good nutrients can positively impact our immune system, nerve function, tissue repair, and metabolism. Therefore, eating healthy may prevent health problems. For example, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.
But what if you already have a chronic condition you are managing? The good news is, food can also help treat disease. Sometimes healthy food can even reverse disease, by putting the right nutrients in the body to help you heal.
What Are the Right Foods to Eat?
Fruits and Vegetables
You know fruits and vegetables are good for you. But why? Two molecules in our bodies that influence our health are free radicals and antioxidants. And our bodies need a balance of these two molecules. Free radicals occur from our body’s natural metabolism. But free radicals are also caused by toxic things like smoking or air pollution. Antioxidants are important to fight excessive free radicals. This is because excessive free radicals can lead to disease. In fact, an accumulation of free radicals can lead to diabetes, certain cancers, or heart disease.
Antioxidants are found in fruits, vegetables, and whole foods. So, including fruits and vegetables in your body regularly is important. But, what if you don’t expose your body to toxic environments? Do you still need antioxidants then? Yes. The lack of good nutrients can still create an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. So, this can cause a problem for your health in the future.
Whole foods are foods that aren’t processed. They are foods that remain in their most natural state. For example, eating raw peanuts instead of peanut butter. Another example would be eating a baked whole sweet potato instead of sweet potato fries.
Processed foods, on the other hand, are often bagged, canned, or boxed. Examples include bagged chips or boxed sweets. When foods are processed, some nutrients are taken out. And sugars and preservatives are added to help foods last longer on a grocery store shelf. Processed foods can be a part of your diet. But do you have a balance between processed and whole foods?
Also, it’s important to note that eating well can also help you have more energy. What would feeling less tired mean for you?
For some people, that means having more energy to take part in physical or occupational therapy. For others, that means getting more physical activity at home. (And more physical activity has its own healthy benefits.) Finally, feeling less tired may improve your social health. With more energy, you may go out into your community more. Or spend more time with family and friends.
In conclusion, what we eat is important. Food can prevent and even reverse some disease including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain kinds of cancer. You may not have control over some parts of your physical health. But you can be empowered to choose what you eat to improve your healing capability and energy while managing a chronic condition. Think of food as medicine. And more than just a new diet or for weight loss. Instead, consider the powerful benefits of eating healthy and putting good nutrients in your body. You may have more energy, improve your healing, and positively influence your well-being. Even beyond your physical health.
For more information on how food can improve your well-being, check out these articles:
Disclaimer: This blog is a resource through which you may obtain information regarding your health and wellness. Information is intended for the general reader and is not a substitute for medical advice. The content in this blog is intended to be informational only and not interpreted as specific advice for you. There may be delays, omissions, or inaccuracies in information contained in this blog. You should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional who is familiar with your health and past medical history before making any changes you may read about in this blog.