So, we need food to pick us up from a mid-afternoon slump, fix that late-night hunger pang and cure a sweet tooth. What if, instead, we were to look at each sip and bite we take as actually doing the work for us in our quest for optimal health? I like that idea! Letting your food be your remedy is just what the doctor (or dietitian) ordered. Did you know that our gut plays a leading role in our immune system? Let’s explore what it means to allow everything we eat to be the ultimate remedy!
Never underestimate the power of a well-balanced diet (even if it means a piece of dark chocolate every once in a while, thank goodness). Meeting your daily value of vitamins and minerals, keeping “macronutrients” in check (make your calorie intake 20-35% fat, 45-65% carbohydrates and 10-35% protein), and consuming adequate water can rev our energy, keep our minds sharp, support metabolism and just help us feel great. Keep in mind that nutritional deficiencies can occur if we manage to ignore, or have a medical condition in which we cannot adequately use, a particular nutrient. Unsaturated fats in the form of avocadoes or nut oils and fiber-filled carbohydrates from the likes of whole grains and fresh/frozen fruits are great bets for our diets. And whether it’s beef, chicken, quinoa, tofu or almond milk for your protein needs, Simple Truth has you covered.
Some of the major diseases that unfortunately afflict much of our country are heart disease, cancer, obesity, stroke and diabetes. How many of these diseases are largely impacted by diet? Yep, 100%. Some of these conditions can be managed in combination with medication; however, how we eat is not only part of disease prevention, but also a key strategy in its treatment. From colorful fruits and vegetables to lean proteins, hearty grains, healthy oils and powerhouse legumes, our diet can be our greatest tool in the fight! Loading up on foods like apples, broccoli, turkey spinach wraps, tabbouleh, cinnamon oatmeal, mixed greens with EVOO or black bean soup puts us on the right track. These foods can reduce cholesterol, assist with regularity, keep our weight in check and even help us sleep better (Up with the sunrise! Well, maybe).
Let’s talk phytochemicals. These are the plant compounds that lend us some natural healing power in the form of antioxidants, flavonoids, polyphenols, catechins and anthocyanins, among about ten thousand others. Phytochemicals not only help plants thrive, but they also do double duty to protect us when we make them part of our diet! Yes please! Phytochemicals have been studied for their role against cancer, as these compounds are anti-inflammatory and can create a barrier between carcinogens and our cells. Isoflavones found in soy (as well as other foods like alfalfa and kidney beans) also help our arteries stay healthy, while carotenoids from foods like pumpkin and sweet potatoes protect us from age-related eye diseases.
What about the ability of food to comfort us? I’m convinced that’s the cure-all sometimes. A warm chicken noodle soup (I cube Simple Truth Meatless Griller Strips and combine water with a dehydrated poultry-flavored soup mix) or fresh banana bread (thanks, Simple Truth Unbleached All-Purpose Flour) hits the spot! What about a pot of hot chamomile tea or fresh-brewed coffee (hold the creamer)? Nutritious foods that warm our bellies or remind us of home can certainly improve our mood and even encourage stronger immunity.
Foods also have the ability to help us deal with more minor ailments. Foods that could help you say farewell to allergy season include omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish (examples include salmon and tuna); flaxseeds or walnuts; vitamin E from foods like celery and sunflower seeds; or magnesium from foods such as wheat germ and raisins. Adding foods like bell peppers, cauliflower and melons can boost our intake of vitamin C, along with nuts and low-fat meats lending us zinc to help control the severity, or reduce the length, of common colds and flu. Heartburn or indigestion can also be limited by choosing caffeine-free beverages and maybe getting some probiotics into our regimen from cultured yogurts or fermented foods such as tempeh or kefir.
Hippocrates had it right: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Let’s be proactive, instead of reactive, about our health! And now we know where to start. All right, what’s for lunch?
Molly McBride, RD, LD, is a corporate registered dietitian for The Kroger Company, working through the Kroger Customer Connect (C|c) to provide nutrition, diet, food safety, allergen and other health-related feedback to customers and to the community. She is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Science in General Dietetics. Molly is involved with the Vegetarian Dietetic Practice Group and holds weight management certificates for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a Certified Food Safety Manager by the FSP National Registry and her past experience includes work in many short and long-term care clinical settings. She also is a Zumba fanatic.
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