Before we dive into the main course, however, here are a few observations on food and health throughout the ages. You may recognize some of the quotes :
When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.
Each patient carries his own doctor inside him.
We need every doctor to become a nutritionist and to know how food impacts the conditions he or she sees inpatients every day.
The father of medicine, Hippocrates believed that illness stemmed from inadequate nutrition and bad eating habits and that if people were to learn good eating habits then optimum health would be restored.
Besides breathing and sleeping, eating is life’s most vital activity. We cannot sustain ourselves without eating. But we seem to have forgotten this, spending very few hours (or even minutes) gathering, preparing, and eating food.
Food as a Preventative Medicine to keep us Healthy
It’s estimated that 80% of disease can be tied to food and lifestyle choices.
Overall, seeing your food as medicine helps you make better decisions about what (and how) to eat in order to make the best decisions for your own wellbeing.
There are many factors that culminate to bring about diseases such as stress, nutrition, hormone balance, the health of our gut, and the importance of detoxification and food.
How A Food As Medicine Approach Can Help Prevent Disease
What we eat is the main culprit behind many chronic diseases, and eating a healthier diet helps prevent and treat the most common of these debilitating conditions.
Take for example Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It is a relatively modern condition, which impacts over 25 million people in the US alone. The majority of them spend money on various over-the-counter drugs, specialized treatments and doctor visits — a multibillion-dollar industry. Yet, IBS is completely curable within a month of eating right. No need for long-term ineffective treatments, no extra spending. Just plain, simple, good food.
Potassium helps to maintain healthy blood pressure. Dietary fibre reduces cholesterol levels in the blood. Folic acid helps the body produce red blood cells, and vitamins are building blocks used throughout the body.
Fueled by a healthy diet, the body is more resilient. A strong immune system is great for fighting infections short term, but if the immune system is constantly triggered, it can create chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a factor in diabetes, obesity.
For people with diabetes, living well means keeping blood sugar levels in a normal range. Too much sugar in the blood and they risk damaging their kidneys, eyes and vascular system. Too little, and they could pass out or slip into a diabetic coma. There is an abundance of research that shows how managing diet is essential for sustaining healthy blood sugar levels.
On the flip side, the saturated fats and sugars in highly processed foods can trigger a cascade of events that may leave us sleepy, tired and craving more food. High-fat and high-sugar foods contribute to obesity and increase the chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
What does food do in our bodies?
The food we eat gives our bodies the “information” and the materials they need to function properly. If we don’t get the right information, our metabolic processes suffer and our health declines.
If we get too much food or food that gives our bodies the wrong instructions, we can become overweight, undernourished, and at risk for the development of diseases and conditions.
In other words, nutrients give our bodies instructions about how to function. In this sense, food can be seen as a source of “information” for the body.
Food gives us energy and allows us to think, move, and prosper. But we are no longer attentive to the impact of food on our functioning. Our food preferences and choices are now influenced more by food companies, ad campaigns, and the notion that “faster is better.”
We don’t always (or perhaps even often) pick foods based on what our bodies need for optimal wellness. Our busy lives and stress prevent us from taking the time to really nourish body and soul. We eat for convenience, not health.
What eating Mindfully means
Eating a mindful/conscious meal means completely focusing your mind on the ‘process’ of eating. You take it moment by moment and focus on the here and now. You begin by looking at the food, noting the different colours and shapes. You really see what is in front of you. You also become aware of the manner in which you reach for the spoon and fork.
Food doesn’t automatically end up in your mouth. Your entire body is involved in getting it there, from ingredients to atmosphere, whether appealing or appalling, both the psychological mood and the physical accessories that surround you when you eat may influence the way in which you metabolize food and in turn your health and wellbeing.
Mindful eating is a skill that you can acquire if you do it enough. When you move from emotional eating to mindful eating, you’ll feel much better because you’ll be taking care of yourself. You’ll know you’re in charge and, therefore, you’ll be able to stay in control of your body.
Mindful eating means being conscious of your food choices and how the foods you eat affect every level of your existence, from your body to your mind, to your spirit, to the world you live in.
How does mindfulness help?
1. If we begin to pay attention to how specific foods impact our body, we can start to make better choices about what foods to buy and eat.
2. If we pay attention as we eat, we are likely to eat less and to better digest what we eat.
3. We are participating in an activity that replenishes us. By eating, we are literally providing our body with the material – physical and mental – to “build” ourselves.
The way to conscious eating begins with the intention: choosing to eat consciously at each meal. Keeping the intention alive is a great way to achieve mastery over self.
To eat consciously, we need to work from the inside out. We begin by going beneath our habitual relationship with food and getting to know the energetics of food and digestion.
It is our own digestive experience that determines whether what we eat is supporting our body’s metabolic processes or disrupting them.
Thinking about food in this way gives us a view of nutrition that goes beyond calories or grams, good foods or bad foods. This view leads us to focus on foods we should include rather than foods to exclude.
Instead of viewing food as the enemy, we look to food as a way to create health and reduce disease by helping the body maintain function.
Relishing the tastes and flavours: Enjoying meal while paying close attention to the tastes, sensations, flavours and textures of the food. You’ll be surprised at how much better food tastes when you’re paying attention. When you focus on enjoying the taste of food, even something as mundane as a slice of warm toast can feel like heaven!
If food has the power to prevent much of the chronic illness we experience today then it makes sense to alter our diets to use it to our own advantage to not only heal and restore the body but also to prevent illness.
Thinking about what is at the end of your fork can help you to avoid specific illnesses that arise due to years of unhealthy eating.
The good news is that these can be reversed with the help of a good diet. Even if you live on takeaway you can make healthier choices. More and more food services, restaurants, and other institutions are recognizing the healing power of food and are including healing foods as part of their menus so nutritious food is not as hard to find as it once was.
By Priyanshi Bhatnagar