Saturday, June 12, 2010

whole foods versus whole medicines

"The less we spend on food, the more we spend on health care."  ~ Michael Pollan 

I think this recent quote is true.  The more we spend on "convenience" the more we buy over-processed, non-nutritious foods.  This leads to a nutritional deficit that in turn can lead to illness.  This then leads us to take medicines to "correct" whatever is wrong with us and unfortunately no attention whatsoever is paid to managing what fuels our bodies.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not suggesting that medicine is bad or unnecessary.  On the contrary, I can recall being very grateful for the sophistication of our current state of medical care and what pharmaceuticals can do to help.  My foot surgery in 2003 is a prime example.  However, I do believe that in many instances we have gone too far in trying to fix everything with a pill and not looking at the food (i.e., fuel) that we put into our bodies.  Chemicals are not enough to run the complex organism that is our body.

The more our food is broken down for us, in other words processed, the easier our bodies can work through that food.  In the process of breaking down foods many nutrients are stripped.  They are then replaced with chemicals that promote shelf stability for longer life in the grocery store, colorants to make them look more attractive, flavorings to fool our palates into thinking we're getting something good, and emulsifiers to help it all stick together.  All of these non-nutritive additives do nothing for our state of health.  In fact, the faster our body can  work through that highly processed donut, candy, cereal, canned pasta, etc, the less it needs to work.  And the more empty calories we wind up consuming.  If we can't use them all our body saves them.  Where does it save extra calories?  As fat.  Adipose tissue.  Frequently in the belly area, but all over our bodies if it needs to.

I believe that it is important to look at what we are eating and how we can increase the nutrient density.  The more whole foods you eat, high fiber, no chemicals, low processed, the harder your body has to work to retrieve those energy units we call calories.  Yes, overeating even healthy foods can lead to weight gain, but I challenge anyone to eat the same number of apples it takes to make one glass of apple juice and claim that they still have room for more.

While eating a whole food, low process diet may not be the answer to all of your medical problems it will certainly give your body the best possible support it needs to be as healthy as it can be.  Staying well hydrated, exercising, getting enough sleep.  Those help too.  But one of the most important foundations is good nutrition.  Eat well to be well.

photo courtesy of pleasant family shopping | Wikimedia Commons

1 comment:

Jim Purdy said...

"I do believe that in many instances we have gone too far in trying to fix everything with a pill and not looking at the food (i.e., fuel) that we put into our bodies."

So true. Unfortunately, too many doctors never discuss diet with their patients before they start prescribing statins, anti-hypertensive drugs, blood thinners, all of which are followed by other drugs to relieve the digestive problems caused by those drugs.

Jim Purdy
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