While most of us can agree that diet is crucial to health and wellness, the hard part is to get everyone to agree on what makes up the most optimal diet. The problem has to do with the popularity of fad diets and weight loss trends, which only serve to confuse an issue that, at its base, is really quite simple. “With knowledge already at our disposal, we could eliminate 80 percent of chronic disease,” says Dr. David Katz, physician and researcher at Yale University’s Prevention Research Center.
With that in mind, I start by encouraging my patients to forget the word “diet” and instead eliminate processed foods; to return to the basics—clean, whole foods. “If you eat food direct from nature,” Katz says, “you don’t have to worry about trans fat or saturated fat or salt—most of our salt comes from processed food, not the salt shaker. If you focus on real food, nutrients tend to take care of themselves.” And cleaning your diet really begins by cleaning your pantry, by reading ingredients, by being accountable for everything in your kitchen and knowing where your food comes from. It is easy to be fooled by the front label of any product, where brands are free to claim whatever they want; so it is really our responsibility to know exactly what we are consuming and feeding our families.
The easiest formula for avoiding processed foods is to eat foods in their natural state, seek food items with the least amount of ingredients, each one of which should be pronounceable. Meaning, if you can’t say it, don’t eat it—because you will certainly not be able to digest it. Another go-to rule for me is always buy fresh.As Dr. Andrew Weil says: “The body has the innate ability to heal itself,” meaning that your body, at its base state, wants to be healthy, and indeed is designed to heal itself. The question is: are you giving your body the raw material, the nutrients to do so? Buying fresh foods ensures their optimal nutrients and your optimal wellness.
When you understand this—when you really grasp the direct connection between food and the way you feel, your energy, mood and health—you will cultivate a new relationship with what you eat. You will give food the respect and time that it deserves. You will stop looking for diets and trends, and instead nurture a lifestyle.
Hippocrates himself said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” And today’s science all over the world has taken a more active stance on investigating the body’s metabolic and physiological responses to food and diet, including the role of nutrients in the cause, treatment, and prevention of disease. It is becoming increasingly clear that bad nutrition is the root cause of many serious illnesses, including heart disease, many cancers, metabolic disorders, and dementia, to name a few. As a teacher and student, it is this point of convergence between science and ancient wisdom that I find most fascinating.
Thankfully food has finally begun to receive the recognition it deserves by the Western world as a healing tool. And what were in the past relegated to just the domain of “alternative medicine”, are today’s modalities employed by western medicine practitioners everywhere. Even the most modern of doctors are realizing that they can practice better medicine by learning from the wisdom of the ancient past. This new generations of doctors is not afraid to use INTEGRATIVE practices, and instead of relying on prescriptions alone, they are empowering their patients to be active participants in their own healing process by being informed and accountable for all the information they give to their cells.
Again, this should be simple – Eat real ingredients, Cook more, Increase plant base proteins, add more fiber and most of all enjoy and be mindful of what you eat.