“You are what you eat.” How many times have you heard that old adage? It probably has never been truer than now. Many health experts agree that our Standard American Diet (SAD), has caused an overall deterioration in health. Add in exposure to toxins, lack of exercise and insufficient nutrients, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for chronic disease.
Most diseases that plague us—including cancer, diabetes, arthritis and more—have been linked to chronic inflammation. As we discussed in a previous article, there are many causes of inflammation. There are actions you can take to mitigate the damage it causes.
People suffering from chronic disease often find little relief from prescription medication or face terrible side effects. Many experience pain and fatigue, making exercise difficult and causing weight gain. It is a vicious cycle if not interrupted.
Many people living the SAD lifestyle simply don’t know any better; they are “nutritionally challenged.” Most of us are disconnected from our food, not thinking too much about where it comes from or taking much time to prepare it. Finally, each one of us is different. What bothers you might not bother the next person.
If you want to eat with the intention of healing and/or gaining vitality, there is good news: when given a chance, the body heals. What we first must overcome is the “fix it quick” mentality. While results may not come “quick,” simple changes in your diet and lifestyle often present real improvements within weeks. As Hippocrates said so long ago, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
There are three basic areas related to naturally restoring your health and vitality through your diet: 1) Toxicity, 2) Nutrition, 3) Lifestyle
Health and Vitality Restoration Area 1: Toxicity
Toxins are found all around us, and when they accumulate in the body, they create inflammation, which causes and exacerbates disease. When you “detox,” you cleanse internally, which eliminates toxic accumulation. After a detox, you’ll absorb nutrients much better. Your body uses vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to reduce inflammation. This creates a vitality cycle instead of a vicious cycle!
Before you detox, make sure you have your toxic load evaluated and nutrient needs established with a functional-integrative health professional who will provide guidance, advice and counsel.
Once you begin eliminating toxins, don’t put them back in! Follow these steps to help keep toxins out of your system:
- Buy organic produce, especially those on the Dirty Dozen list.
- Choose fewer packaged foods. If it’s not processed, there’s less of a chance of food additives and other toxins being present.
- Install a water filter for bathing, drinking and cooking.
- Scrutinize personal care and home cleaning products. Your lungs breathe in chemicals and your skin absorbs them!
Vitality Restoration Area 2: Nutrition
Make no mistake, WHERE you get your calories from is just as important as HOW MANY calories you consume. When your food is NUTRIENT DENSE and BALANCED, it nourishes and satisfies. Nutrient dense food contains the most antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation in the body. Balanced food choices fuel your body with the proper proportion of fats, complex carbohydrates and protein.
There are always choices. Consider kale chips (for which there are many tasty recipes) versus potato chips. Kale has less calories, but is also a “super food,” meaning it is extremely nutrient dense. It is packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. Potato chips usually contribute fat and carbohydrates, and some Vitamin C and potassium, but very little nutritional value overall compared to the number of calories you consume (and subsequently need to burn off for weight loss or maintenance).
Health and Vitality Restoration Area 3: Lifestyle
Tossing toxins and straightening out your diet doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Life happens and can be a distraction at best—a deterrent at worst. You’ll reach your goals with the least resistance if you:
- get buy-in from your family and friends
- prepare meal menus, snacks and shopping lists ahead of time
- cook more than you go out to eat
- get enough sleep
- deal with stress
Little habits, practiced over time, become second nature. Everyone is different physically and was also raised with different attitudes and beliefs about food and life in general. Everyone has different challenges—from chronic disease to obesity to out-of-control stress. However, when you give your body the “medicine” it needs, it begins to heal.