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Nutrition is the Key to Good Health

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

Exercise is king and nutrition is queen: together, you have a kingdom.

- Jack Lalanne



Nutrition and Functional Medicine

Diet and nutrition are crucial to overall health and well-being. The food we eat can either nourish or harm our bodies, and a poor diet can lead to a variety of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Our modern Western diet is highly processed and contains preservatives and hormones. Fruits and vegetables are less nutrient-dense than in the past. They contain calories, but fewer nutrients.[i][ii] Nutrients in some crops are 38% lower than they were in the 1950s.


We are overweight, undernourished, less active, and less happy than we have been in a long time. Paying attention to what we eat and how it helps our bodies to be healthy, strong, and active can make us feel better, take care of ourselves, and lead better lives.

The goal is not just to look good. It is to feel good, be strong, function better, be more resistant to disease and stress, and be healthier. Functional Medicine focuses on the essential role that diet and nutrition in achieving health.



"You can't exercise your way out of a bad diet."



Understand that food plays a crucial role in providing feedback to the body.

The food we eat contains nutrients, which are essential for maintaining optimal health and the function of our body's systems. These nutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water, among others. When we consume food, our body starts breaking it down into smaller components, which can then be absorbed and used to support various physiological processes. These processes provide energy and fuel for our body to function.


Carbohydrates and Fiber

Carbohydrates provide energy for our bodies and are the primary source of fuel. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is used by the body to produce energy that fuels the brain, kidneys, heart muscles, and central nervous system. Fiber is also a carbohydrate. Most adults only get half of the fiber needed in a day. Fiber helps to control blood sugar, protect your heart, aid in digestive health, and keeps you feeling full[iii]. Fiber helps us to eliminate toxins and excess hormones. If you are not eating enough fiber excess hormones may be reabsorbed into your body.


Proteins

Proteins provide various essential functions for our bodies, including repairing and building tissues, maintaining pH and fluid balance, driving metabolic reactions, carrying oxygen throughout the body, serving as antibodies that fight off infections, providing structure to skin and connective tissue, forming blood clots, and maintaining muscle mass and promoting muscle growth.[iv]


Plants and Vegetables

Plant polyphenols are a category of compounds, also known as phytochemicals, that are naturally found in plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, tea, dark chocolate, and wine. Polyphenols can act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, meaning they can help protect the body from free radicals that can cause damage to cells. There are more than hundreds of polyphenols found in plants, and their definition has evolved to take into account structural features and biosynthetic routes [v][vi]


Fats

Fats function as an important depot for energy storage, offer insulation and protection, and play important roles in regulating and signaling. Fatty tissues also store fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K [vii] and help to maintain healthy skin and hair. Fats are also essential to give the body energy and support cell function. They also help protect organs and help keep the body warm. Additionally, fats help the body absorb some nutrients and are converted into important hormones.


Cholesterol is an essential lipid that plays several important roles in the body. It is a crucial component of cell membranes and helps maintain the structural integrity of cells[viii]. lt is also important in the production of hormones, including estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol[ix]. Additionally, cholesterol is used to make bile acids, which are important for the digestion and absorption of dietary fats in the small intestine [x]


Satiety, or the sensation of fullness.

Food also provides feedback to the body through the sensation of hunger and satiety. When we consume food, our body releases hormones such as ghrelin and leptin that regulate appetite and energy balance. Ghrelin is released when the stomach is empty, signaling the brain to stimulate hunger, while leptin is released by fat cells to signal that the body has had enough to eat and to decrease appetite. This feedback mechanism helps regulate the amount of food we consume and maintain a healthy body weight.


Food is an important source of feedback for the body, regulating various physiological processes and providing signals that help maintain optimal health and function.


What Diet Should I Eat?

What diet you should eat depends on individual factors, your health condition, food allergies, and intolerances. According to Dr. Elizabeth Lipsky in her book Digestive Wellness, the goal of a therapeutic diet is to eventually heal the gut to broaden what people eat to eat nearly all foods.[xi] The following diets can help to maintain better health. They are similar and contain mostly whole foods, fruits, and vegetables.


The Mediterranean Diet

The most well-known and researched healthy diet is the Mediterranean diet. It has been researched extensively and there are thousands of publications on its benefits. This diet emphasizes the consumption of whole, plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as healthy fats like olive oil and fatty fish. It also includes moderate amounts of lean protein, such as poultry, eggs, and dairy, and limits processed foods, sugar, and red meat. Studies have shown that following a Mediterranean diet can lead to a reduced risk of chronic diseases and improved overall health outcomes.


The Whole Food Diet

Another healthy diet is the whole food diet. This diet focuses on consuming foods that are minimally processed and as close to their natural state as possible. This means eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins like fish and poultry, while avoiding processed foods and added sugars. By consuming whole foods, you can provide your body with essential nutrients and avoid the harmful additives found in many processed foods.


Anti-Inflammatory Diet

The anti-inflammatory diet is gaining popularity as a way to reduce chronic inflammation in the body, which is linked to many health problems and auto-immune diseases. This diet emphasizes the consumption of whole, plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as healthy fats like olive oil and fatty fish. It also limits processed foods, sugar, and red meat, and avoids foods that are known to cause inflammation, such as refined carbohydrates and trans fats.


Summary

In conclusion, diet and nutrition play a vital role in our overall health and well-being. By following healthy diets like the Mediterranean diet, whole food diet, and anti-inflammatory diet, we can provide our bodies with essential nutrients, reduce chronic inflammation, and lower our risk of chronic diseases.



CITATIONS

[i] https://www.bbc.com/future/bespoke/follow-the-food/why-modern-food-lost-its-nutrients/ [ii] https://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/09/13/food-nutrients-carbon-dioxide-000511/ [iii] https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/role-of-fiber.html#:~:text=Fiber%20is%20a%20type%20of,people%20with%20diabetes%20or%20prediabetes. [iv] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002467.htm [v] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128135723000014 [vi] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257681/ [vii] https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/fat-soluble-vitamin [viii] https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/Inside-Life-Science/Pages/what-do-fats-do-in-the-body.aspx [ix]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513326/#:~:text=All%20classes%20of%20steroid%20hormones,%2C%20aldosterone%2C%20and%20androgens). [x]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2712638/#:~:text=Bile%20acids%20are%20synthesized%20from%20cholesterol%20in%20the%20liver%20through,in%20both%20pathways%20are%20indicated. [xi] Digestive Wellness 5th Edition. Dr Elizabeth Lipsky 2020


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