Let Food Be Thy Medicine

The famous quote often attributed to the Greek physician Hippocrates, ‘Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food’ although he ever literally stated that. But despite the authenticity of the source of the quote it has stood the test of time. This quote, though thousands of years old, acknowledges the importance of healthy eating and how the nutrients in various foods have healing properties. A healthy lifestyle with good food & nutrition is vital for maintaining good health and disease prevention.

Food as medicine refers to the vital role that access to healthy food plays in overall health and well-being. This includes basic food and nutrition security as well as how we can use food to both prevent and treat chronic disease. The United Nations definition of food security makes this connection between food and “an active and healthy life” and in its definition assumes that by food security we mean nutrition security – not just enough food, but enough of the right kinds of food.

The most powerful medicine is at the end of your fork, Food is more powerful than anything in your medicine cabinet. Food as medicine offers us a natural, holistic mode to explore core imbalances in various illnesses and emotional states. It looks at the essence of the diagnostic process as being fully geared to expand on our body’s ‘piano notes’.

Functional foods are natural, bioactive chemical compounds that have health-promoting, disease-preventing, and medicinal properties. Functional foods represent foods that have health-promoting ingredients or natural components which meet our minimum daily requirements of nutrients when taken in appropriate amounts. They include whole foods that are fortified, enriched, or enhanced – as also dietary supplements. There is, of course, no single functional food ‘potion’, or formula, that can cure or prevent health problems. The best and easiest thing for us to do is simple: eat a well-balanced and varied diet with 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables as well as foods with added beneficial components.

Poor diet quality is now a leading risk factor associated with death and disability in our country contributing to huge deaths each year from non-communicable diseases. Nowadays our eating pattern increases the risk of numerous non-communicable diseases. Millions of Bangladeshis are now living with one or more of these nutrition-related chronic diseases, and it’s costing hundreds of billions of BDT’s a year in health care spending.

While we’re seeing tremendous momentum in the food as a medicine space, significant challenges exist to fully integrate food as a covered medical benefit. Our health care system is simply not designed to partner with non-clinical food providers, or to prescribe or refer to non-clinical food services. Here are just a few of the issues that must be addressed at a systems-level if we’re going to recognize the full benefits of food as a medicinal revolution.

The Lancet, the respected medical journal, illustrates the travails of a 32-year-old woman, with progressive muscular weakness and pain, going through a high-tech medical check-up and restricted to a wheelchair for two years; she had chronic Crohn’s disease – a type of inflammatory bowel illness – which was conventionally treated by removing a part of her colon. As a result, she wasn’t absorbing vitamin D – the ‘trigger’ for her muscular debility and agony. After she was given vitamin D replacement therapy for just three weeks, she was able to walk without assistance.

Nature has provided us with a rich variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, and dairy and meat products. They all comprise numerous natural components or nutrients. They convey health benefits far beyond the fundamental diet. Examples: lycopene, the functional food component, in tomatoes; omega-3 fatty acids in fishes and flaxseeds; and genistein in soy-based foods, among others. To think of a brace of examples: beta-carotene-rich rice and vitamin-enhanced soybean. Cereals and flour, likewise, have added vitamins and minerals, including folic acid.

Research shows that eating a mostly plant-based diet can keep the body free of certain diseases, reverse many diseases, and aid in the prevention of or reduce the risk of cancers. A mostly plant-based diet consists largely of vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, fruits, nuts, and seeds. If desired, twenty percent of the diet could contain fish and chicken and minimal low-fat dairy products. These nutrient-dense foods provide the body with healing vitamins, minerals, proteins, healthy fats, and fiber. Chemicals in our environment can be detrimental to nutritional health. So, we should buy organic food items and choose products from local farms when possible.

The first and most obvious role of nutrition is to support the physical body itself. Although social media’s food messages typically demonize a type of food in its entirety, the truth is that all foods carbohydrates, protein, fat of all types—play unique supporting roles in healing and sustaining our physical bodies. These different food (fuel) groups work synergistically together in beautiful balance.

Nutrition’s next supporting role is focused on the mind. The role of proteins and fats to build the brain’s cells and foundational structure, and the unique role of carbohydrates to fuel that same structure’s every action reflects the first level of support for our physical brain itself. This same process also works to heal the gut, our body’s “second brain.” The gut is the production factory for about 90% of our body’s serotonin levels, and the brain pulls in the remaining 10%. Since serotonin is a critical neurotransmitter/hormone that regulates moods, this relationship shows that nutrition reaches beyond the brain and gut structure itself and plays a pivotal role in the connection of our moods and thoughts. The more nourished the brain and gut, the more productive therapy can be; therefore, nutrition is not just our physical body’s medicine but also our mind’s medicine for our thoughts, moods, and beliefs.

Besides staying healthy, every human’s wish is to always look young and attractive. No matter what their age is, they are intended to look the best. And the best way to ensure a beautiful, youthful face and body is to start on the inside.

There is no big secret to maintaining healthy skin and overall beauty. It can be achieved through a balanced intake of Vitamins and Minerals like zinc from Meats, eggs, seafood, liver, milk, and wheat for shiny hair. EFA from Oily fish (salmon, sardines), flaxseeds, walnuts that are used for glowing skin. Furthermore, Biotin from cooked eggs, meat, nuts, and the liver produces nails, skin, and hair cells & prevents hair loss. Protein from Milk and dairy products, meat products, and legumes act as building blocks for body cells and provides good hair health. Iron from Red meat, spinach, lentils, dates prevent hair loss and keeps our skin healthy and glowing. Antioxidants from colorful fruits & vegetables enhance a youthful appearance.

Vitamin C from Citrus fruits, strawberry, papaya, mango, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, peppers, strawberries, and broccoli is effective for producing Collagen that protects the skin from stretch marks and cells from free radical damage. Beta carotene from liver, fish oils, eggs, milk, fortified with Vitamin A, Carrots, broccoli, spinach, squash, red and yellow pepper, apricots, and mango, is used for the growth and repair of body cells (skin and hair). Vitamin E from Plant oils, peanut butter, fortified breakfast cereals, whole-grain products, seeds, and nuts (especially hazelnuts and almonds) protects cell membranes and provides anti-aging protection from environmental factors. Selenium from Brazil nuts, tuna, crab, meat, shellfish, and products with whole-wheat grains (like whole-wheat bread) ensures a healthy skin quality and elasticity & reduces sun damage. Lycopene from tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, guava, papaya, and apricots is a source of active anti-aging properties.

Spices are the original nutrition supplement. Some of the most beneficial spices include Cardamom, Chili, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Cumin, Garlic, Ginger, Turmeric. These cooking aids pack a lot of flavor in a small package, simultaneously, packing a lot of benefits, including a faster metabolism, clearer skin, and healthier hair and nails.

Wrinkles happen because as we age, our skin loses collagen and becomes less elastic. The solution is to eat foods that boost your body’s collagen production or make it easier for your body to absorb collagen’s building blocks. Avocado, berries, citrus, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes, and green tea all aids with this impeccably.

If you put healthy foods in your body, good things are bound to accompany you. But if you eat a lot of junk food, it can adversely impact your skin, eyes, hair, and other aspects of your appearance. When you can, try minimizing how often you take in: refined sugars, fried foods, soda, and juices with artificial flavoring, alcohol, white rice, caffeine-rich coffee, processed meats, white bread, etc. By approaching your nutrition from both what you eat and what you avoid, you can make such a difference in your beauty that you might be able to eliminate many of the skincare products you currently purchase. With the money saved, you can focus on your beauty investment on only the highest-quality, most essential Nutricosmetics. According to a recent report, the global nutricosmetics market will surpass US$ 12.55 billion by 2026. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 11.65%.

The global beauty industry continues to grow and it’s not only topical products that are in high demand. A stroll down the beauty aisle of any retail store reveals that natural beauty holds more weight than skin deep, as consumers increasingly adopt skin-digestible supplements for their beautification routine. With the concept of healthy aging as a top priority, fortified foods, beverages, and supplements designed to help keep skin looking and feeling its best will continue to grow in demand and market size. So, nourish your beauty, with nutritional ingredients for healthy hair, skin, and nails.

So, it turns out that we must rely on food and nutrition for both health and beauty maintenance. Therefore, we need to create a portion of food as a medicinal solution that paves a way towards a positive impact throughout the community and our food-consumption system. To reap the full benefit of the food is the medicinal revolution, we need to articulate and adopt food guidelines that go beyond the nutritional components needed by an individual patient. We also need to establish guidelines for how that food was produced and processed.

If the food we provide to a patient as part of the consumption solution involving medical intervention is produced in a way that increases cancer rates among farmworkers or pollutes local drinking water, we’ve negated the value of our investment. By merging these two movements – the movement for a better food system with the movement for nutrition security and health equity – we can leverage the value of our food is medicine investments and create win-wins for our communities.

Connecting the dots between our food system and our health care system is a first step in building a more holistic approach to health. If we’re thoughtful and intentional, we can use the food as medicine movement to make that connection. By doing so, we’ll improve health for individuals and improve chronic disease while also fostering a healthier and more just food system for all.

“Let food be thy medicine…” is a great approach to take when looking at lifestyle changes needed to prevent and reduce disease. This does not suggest that conventional medicines are not necessary, but rather shows the significant role that a healthy diet plays in disease prevention.

Take full advantage of what healthy food can do for you!   

Photo Credit: www.pinterest.com

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