You know that eating healthy is good for you. But, is it possible that you can use food as medicine? Evidence shows eating whole foods promotes health. Better yet, if you pair whole foods with exercise, this healthy lifestyle can prevent, treat or even reverse some health conditions, according to research.
[CAUTION: Food is not, nor should it be used as, a replacement for medication.]
Can food heal the body?
Yes! Eating nutritious foods, such as whole foods, helps decrease the risk of disease. Over 100 research studies have shown that adopting a lifestyle, which includes healthy food choices, physical activity and a positive mindset, can make significant changes in one’s wellbeing – changes significant enough to reduce, or even cease, the need for medicine in health conditions including diabetes and high blood pressure.
Can food be used as medicine?
Yes, an apple a day may keep the doctor away. Whole foods nourish and protect the body. When you eat a whole food, the unique nutrients it contains work synergistically to offer health benefits to your body. A study of more than 100,000 adults found those who ate whole foods (or minimally processed foods) had lower risks of all reported diseases. In other words you can use a diet rich in whole food as medicine to promote health. From antioxidants to fiber, eating whole foods provides your body nutrients that support health. Here’s what each has to offer:
Many plants are sources of nutrients which have antioxidant abilities. Antioxidants neutralize reactive oxygen species which play a role in aging and the development of many diseases. Spices and culinary herbs, such as garlic, ginger and turmeric, contain antioxidants. They are reported to have therapeutic effects in cardiovascular disease. Many different antioxidants in whole foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, have been studied for their health promoting effects.
Eating fiber helps reduce bloating and promotes pleasant visits to the porcelain throne. No giggling – good elimination is key to the health of your heart! Eating lots of dietary fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, as well as type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Per day, adult women need about 25 grams of fiber and men need 38 grams. Inside the gut, the fiber from whole foods also promotes a healthy microbiome. Research shows a healthy microbiome reduces inflammation and helps normalize cholesterol.
Inside your gut, protein gets broken down into tiny building blocks, called amino acids. Your body uses these amino acids to build muscle and create hormones. You need hormones to make energy and for muscle growth. Evidence supports that eating more plant-based protein than found the typical Western diet may reduce one’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
Healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, help regulate inflammation. Evidence suggests adults consume at least two servings per week of fatty fish. For those who do not consume fish, omega-3 supplementation is a reasonable alternative.
Effects of a poor diet on the body
What you are eating could be healing you; however, if you are eating the typical Western diet it’s likely not. The typical Western diet contains very few whole foods and consists heavily of processed foods. Processed foods have lower nutrient content than whole foods. This makes it easy to become deficient in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Such deficiencies increase your risk of disease. A study found for every serving of ultra-processed food an adult (age 20-91) ate their risk of death increased by 18%. Yikes! It makes you rethink eating a hot dog, packaged baked good or sugary drink – all examples of commonly consumed ultra-processed foods.
How to eat healthier?
The Pritikin Healthy Lifestyle has been proven in over 100 studies to prevent, treat or even reverse some health conditions including hypertension, obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation and some forms of cancer. Let food be thy medicine. At the luxurious Pritikin Longevity Centrer and Spa, the elite team of doctors, nutritionists, exercise physiologists and chefs will help you discover how to incorporate a healthy lifestyle that fits into your unique routine, and help discover how it is possibility that food be used as medicine.
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- Association between consumption of ultra-processed foods and all cause mortality: SUN prospective cohort study. BMJ 2019; 365.
- Ultra-processed food and adverse health outcomes. BMJ 2019; 365.
- Dietary antioxidants and health promotion. Antioxidants 2018 Jan;7(1):9.
- Antioxidant activity of spices and their impact on human health: A Review. Antioxidants. 2017;6:70.
- Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health implications of dietary fiber. J Acad Nutr Dietetics 2015 Nov; 115(11): 1861 -1870.
- Plant protein and animal proteins: do they differentially affect cardiovascular disese risk? Adv Nutr 2015 Nov 6(6):712-728.
- Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease: are there benefits? Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc Med 2016; 18(11): 69.