If you would rather eat an apple than take a pill to prevent and treat illness, you may be in luck. The age-old wisdom that food can be used to treat illness is gaining increased acceptance in some studies. As Hippocrates stated, “our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food.”
A variety of nutritious foods should be consumed every day. Reach for 5-13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which contain vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. Whole grains such as whole wheat, oats, and brown rice contribute to good health by lowering cholesterol, regulating blood sugar, and aiding with digestion, among other things. Meats, fish and beans are proteins which are essential for providing the body with amino acids, which it does not store. Proteins also fill you up, helping to control appetite. Healthy fats and oils help increase the body’s amount of good cholesterol, and perform a host of other roles.
How does a healthy diet affect risk for disease? This question is being studied and researched to help us understand better how to live healthier lives. A developing area of study called Nutrigenomics is acquiring knowledge about how certain foods interact with specific genes and can possible increase or decrease the risk of various diseases. Nutrigenomics also seeks to pinpoint the molecules in foods that interact with the genes to cause sickness. A home genetic test or blood draw can indicate a person’s particular genetic makeup and it can be determined what kind of personalized diet he or she should follow to stay healthy. We may be hearing more about nutrigenomics in the future.
How we feel mentally and emotionally can also be affected by the food we eat. Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, including Omega-3 fatty acids, folate, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and selenium have been observed in individuals with depression, according to an article by Lisa M. Bodnar and Katherine L. Wisner. The authors note three ways diet may improve mental health functioning: Adjusting diet or supplementing with vitamins can correct nutritional deficiencies that adversely affect mental health. Depressed people with increased nutritional needs can be helped by supplementing with nutrients. And lastly, good nutrition can help a person with depression respond better to pharmacological treatment.
It makes sense that whole foods that grow naturally and are not processed are better and healthier for the mind and body. When our nutritional needs are met, we feel better, look better, and are less prone to illness and disease. Good decisions about food can definitely make a significant difference in a person’s overall health and quality of life, and a nutrient-rich diet can even help the body heal when it does become ill.