This article’s focus in on nutrition. I am constantly bombarded with questions from patients asking what they should be eating to stay healthy. This makes me very happy because I am genuinely concerned about their health and without proper nutrition a person cannot truly be healthy. The old saying speaks the truth, "You are what you eat."
What should I be eating you ask? Well most nutritionists will tell you to eat "natural whole foods," meaning foods that grow in a natural life cycle (opposed to being manufactured in a laboratory), have minimal processing (little or nothing removed between field and table), and have no additives such as preservatives or artificial colors/flavors. Examples include: vegetables, fruits, whole grains (unless you are gluten free – which by the way you should be), legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, animal milk (also up for debate), organ meats, and animal fat and muscle. As mentioned above, whole grains do contain gluten which has a fair amount of research against it, and animal milk also has some negative attributes such as possible links to acne and many saying we are not baby cows therefore we do not need cow’s milk.
One good approach to eating healthy is considering the fact that you should try to eat lower on the food chain. This statement means a variety of things. We all know about the food chain, for example the small fish is eaten by the bigger fish which is eaten by the biggest fish, etc. Eating higher on the food chain (the biggest fish) will give you the highest concentration of nutrients, however it also gives you the highest concentration of toxins picked up along the way. So as you can see there are both benefits and drawbacks to eating higher on the food chain. On that same note, eating animal organ meats such as liver, etc. gives you a very high concentration of nutrients, but at the same time the liver filters the toxins from the body so you get a fairly high level of toxins as well. Many nutritionists suggest getting the majority of your diet from plant foods, which are low on the food chain and yet still very healthy.
The toxins I am addressing include pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and antibiotics found in land animals and farmed fish, mercury and heavy metals found in fish, and industrial chemicals and other pollutants. It is honestly very difficult to avoid all of these toxins, so perhaps the best approach is to simply do the best you can to limit them. Suggestions include trying to find foods that have a maximum nutritional value, find foods that are grown organically if possible (especially those foods that are known to contain high levels of toxins and pesticides such as berries), purchase foods that are grown locally and are in season, and perhaps the very best idea is to simply grow your own food in your garden.
Another important concept in nutrition is to eat a variety. There are a wide variety of dietary approaches throughout the world, so there is not just one correct way to eat. You should try eating a variety of foods to get a variety of nutrients and phytochemicals. Eating a variety does not mean that anything goes, obviously some food choices are better than others. Variety means different types of fruits and vegetables, not McDonalds one day and Burger King the next.
Basically you need to get the majority of your diet from plant sources, getting a variety of fruits and veggies. You need to get plenty of fiber in your diet and avoid excessive sugar, fats, and salt. Remember you are what you eat, so eat healthy if you want to be healthy. If you are like most patients you will not truly understand the importance of nutrition until you get older and begin to develop health conditions related to what you have eaten your entire life. So make it easy on yourself and eat healthy now.