19 Aug EATING HEALTHY BY APRIL STOOKSBERRY
Many factors affect why, when and how we eat. They may include heritage or culture, social interaction, emotional associations or comfort, political beliefs, personal values, personal preference or habit. But the one factor that has caused our eating patterns, behaviors, and the foods that we eat to change the most is convenience.
Meals used to consist of fresh, whole, local and seasonal foods including vegetables, fruit, nuts, meat, and unrefined grains that were prepared and eaten at home. Now days, most of our food comes out of a package or from a drive-thru window. We consume fast food and food out of cans or boxes because it is more convenient. But those convenient foods are usually filled with artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, chemicals, and genetically modified ingredients. And those convenient foods are taking a huge toll on our health!
In the U.S., we have seen a significant increase in the number of people who live with chronic health conditions like cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders. The number of people considered overweight or obese is approximately 70% of the population. We have also seen increases in the number of people with allergies and asthma. Our immune systems are so overwhelmed that they can no longer protect us from simple viruses and bacteria.
Michael Pollan said, “Don’t eat anything that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” And great-grandmother always said to eat our vegetables. Turns out, she was absolutely right! And now we can scientifically prove it!!
One of the most significant advances in scientific research is in the area of genetics. We have made huge discoveries about gene expression and behavior in just the last 10-20 years! Most of us know what genes are and we know they are responsible for inherited traits so we believe that if something is genetic, that means we have no control over it. In fact, most of our gene behavior is affected by external or environmental factors. This area of study is called epigenetics because the Greek work “epi” means “outside.” Turns out that everything we eat, drink, breathe, and touch affects how our genes behave, which in turn affects our biologic processes. And the single most studied epigenetic factor? You guessed it … diet!
Scientists can now identify specific genes associated with specific diseases. They are studying the behavior of those genes when exposed to essential nutrients as well as those chemicals and artificial ingredients in our food supply. Our genes understand how to use nutrients that we are familiar with like vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients; and our cells function the way they are supposed to. But when our genes encounter those artificial elements, they become confused, leading to miscommunication and mixed signals. That causes our cells to misbehave, affecting our biologic processes in negative ways, and initiating disease.
To be healthier, we need to get back to eating those whole, real foods that our great-grandmothers wanted us to eat. Some of those healthy foods are not so inconvenient like fruit, nuts, and raw vegetables. Others may take a bit more planning and preparation as we learn how to eat healthy again. But we also might find that we spend less time home from work or school due to illness and make fewer trips to the doctor’s office. We might actually fit some healthy, quality time back into those busy schedules!
After all, it was Hippocrates, known as the Father of Medicine, who is quoted as saying “Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”