It’s true. We really are what we eat

Our body is the most complex and amazing machine imaginable, and food is the fuel that makes it run – or in some cases, break down. The right combination of foods provides a balance of amino acids, glucose, fats, vitamins and minerals that are needed for the millions of biochemical reactions that occur in our body every second. Each of the body’s systems must work together to regulate hormones, glucose, blood pressure, the blood’s pH, and so much more, all to maintain a steady state of equilibrium known as homeostasis. Without the right food, none of it is possible.

Luckily, our bodies are also fairly resilient, because more often than not, the Standard American Diet (SAD) doesn’t provide the right food. Our SAD diet, really is quite sad. It’s full of super-sized portions of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and the wrong kind of fat, and it’s far too low in fruits, vegetables. The SAD diet often leads to excess weight, but that’s just the start of the problem. A diet full of foods with too many calories and not enough nutrients also sets in motion an entire chain of metabolic changes in your body that promotes major chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. It triggers two major problems – insulin resistance and inflammation, and here’s how they wreak havoc on the body:

Insulin’s job is to lower blood sugar, but when you make it work overtime, by eating too many of the wrong kind of carbs – especially sweets, sodas, bread or pasta, it gets tired and worn out, and not very efficient. Your pancreas pumps out more and more insulin, but your blood sugar remains high. The high levels of insulin also promote weight gain. Together, they lead to a condition called metabolic syndrome, which triggers diabetes and heart disease.

Inflammation is the body’s response to stress, and believe it or not, when you carry excess weight, and you eat the wrong kinds of foods (especially sugar, refined grains, and unhealthy fats), your body gets stressed. Too much long-term inflammation seals the deal for lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease. It also turns on cancer cells, and triggers the development of gastrointestinal issues, autoimmune diseases, and many of the diseases that age you, including problems with memory and cognitive decline.

A healthy diet, that’s focused on whole, anti-inflammatory foods is the foundation for a healthy and more vibrant life.

Metabolic changes happen quietly, and over time. You may not even be aware that it’s happening, because there are rarely symptoms. While the wrong kind of diet can trigger negative metabolic changes, it’s important to know that the right kind of diet can help prevent further damage. So – let food be your medicine. It’s never too late to reverse course and take steps to improve your diet, and stop the damage that inflammation and insulin resistance causes. Yes, it’s all about a “diet” – but not the kind of diet that forces you to restrict certain foods or entire food groups.

It’s about adopting a non-SAD dietary pattern that focuses on adding more health-promoting foods each day.

Food as medicine:  The Non-SAD approach

Traditional diets demand that you count calories, measure portions, follow someone else’s rules, and in the long run, they just don’t work. What does work however, is a “dietary pattern” that takes the focus off restricting, and puts it on eating more whole, real, unprocessed foods. It’s true that you are what you eat, but it’s not what you eat today, or this week that counts – it’s what you eat over the course of months and years, and a lifetime, and doesn’t it make more sense that the longer you eat clean, healthy foods, the cleaner and healthier you’ll be?

You’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean Diet. It’s one of the most famous dietary patterns, and for good reason. It’s not a diet, but instead, a style of eating that has been proven to reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar, and reduce the risk of most lifestyle diseases. Studies on large populations (those who live in countries around the Mediterranean Sea) have found that eating a diet that contains mostly plants, healthy fats (especially olive oil and nuts), and lean proteins, makes people healthier – and even happier.

Other similar and equally effective dietary patterns include the DASH diet pattern, MyPlate, and the vegetarian diet pattern. There are subtle differences between these patterns, but they all focus on adding more plant foods and improving the quality of your diet, rather than subtracting calories. Are you starting to get the picture?

Eating more of the right foods can help keep you feeling younger, reduce your risk of chronic diseases, save you money on healthcare costs, and make you happier.

In short – changing your diet pattern can change your life.

 

 

Our body is the most complex and amazing machine imaginable, and food is the fuel that makes it run

 

The Anti-Diet

1) Eat real food most of the time

2) Eat a lot of plants

3) Make friends with healthy fats

4) Cook it yourself

5) Eat mindfully

References

Jacka, F. N., O’Neil, A., Opie, R., Itsiopoulos, C., Cotton, S., Mohebbi, M., … & Brazionis, L. (2017). A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’trial). BMC Medicine, 15(1), 23.

Key elements of healthy eating patterns. Health.gov. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-1/healthy-eating-patterns/. Accessed February 14, 2017.