So how do you use food as medicine? Is there a specific diet or protocol that you need to follow? The answer is no. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to eating for health. Different people may have different needs and preferences depending on their age, gender, genetics, lifestyle, medical history, and goals.
However, there are some general principles that apply to everyone who wants to use food as medicine. These are:
Eat a variety of whole foods. Whole foods are foods that are minimally processed and retain their natural nutrients and phytochemicals. These include fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy products, meat, fish, poultry etc. Eating a variety of whole foods ensures that you get a balanced intake of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) that your body needs for optimal function.
Avoid processed foods and added sugars. Processed foods are foods that have been altered from their natural state by adding or removing ingredients, preservatives, flavors, colors, or other substances. These include refined grains, sugars, oils, snacks, fast foods, ready meals, sodas, candies etc. Processed foods are often high in calories, fat, sugar, salt, and chemicals, and low in nutrients and fiber. They can cause inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance, weight gain, and various diseases. Added sugars are sugars that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. These include table sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, corn syrup, fructose, glucose, sucrose etc. Added sugars are also high in calories and low in nutrients. They can spike your blood sugar, increase your appetite, and contribute to diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Choose healthy fats and proteins. Fats and proteins are essential macronutrients that provide energy, support cell growth and repair, and regulate hormones and enzymes. However, not all fats and proteins are created equal. Some are more beneficial than others for your health. Healthy fats are fats that are unsaturated or have a high ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. These include olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, eggs etc. Healthy fats can lower inflammation, improve cholesterol levels, and protect your brain and heart. Unhealthy fats are fats that are saturated or have a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. These include butter, lard, palm oil, margarine, vegetable oils, red meat, processed meat etc. Unhealthy fats can increase inflammation, raise cholesterol levels, and increase your risk of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Healthy proteins are proteins that are complete or have a high biological value. These include eggs, dairy products, meat, fish, poultry, soy, quinoa etc. Healthy proteins can help you build muscle, maintain bone density, and regulate metabolism. Unhealthy proteins are proteins that are incomplete or have a low biological value. These include wheat, corn, rice, beans etc. Unhealthy proteins can cause inflammation, allergies, and digestive issues.
Include more plant-based foods. Plant-based foods are foods that come from plants or are derived from plants. These include fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds etc. Plant-based foods are rich in fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that can help you prevent or fight diseases. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by the human body. It can help you regulate your blood sugar, cholesterol, and bowel movements. It can also feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut that support your immunity and mood. Phytochemicals are natural compounds that give plants their color, flavor, and aroma. They can modulate your hormones, enzymes, and gene expression. They can also act as anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic agents. Antioxidants are molecules that can neutralize free radicals that cause oxidative stress and damage to your cells and DNA. They can protect you from aging, inflammation, and chronic diseases.
Drink enough water and limit alcohol. Water is the most essential nutrient for your body. It makes up about 60% of your body weight and is involved in every bodily function. It can help you hydrate your cells, flush out toxins, regulate your temperature, lubricate your joints, transport nutrients and oxygen, and maintain your blood pressure and pH balance. You should drink at least 8 glasses of water per day or more depending on your activity level and climate. Alcohol is a psychoactive substance that can affect your brain and nervous system. It can impair your judgment, coordination, memory, mood, and sleep quality. It can also dehydrate you, damage your liver, increase your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and increase your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. You should limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.