Answers by Renee Gust, RN, personal health coach in West Fargo, ND
Quote, “Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.” - Hippocrates
Can food really heal the body and prevent chronic diseases?
Of course, it can! What we eat has a major role in the development of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and auto-immune diseases. This concept is not new, of course. Yet, the standard of medical care is primarily prescription medications and medical procedures, and very little on teaching people what to eat to prevent these conditions and possibly reverse them.
“Food as medicine” experts advise eating the healthiest foods on the planet; whole plant foods. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat), legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), tubers and starchy vegetables (corn, green peas, potatoes, winter squash). These foods provide all the vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fiber necessary for a healthy digestive and immune system. And since these foods are low in calories, they can be eaten ad libitum, which means as much as you want! The key is to eat them whole and in their most natural states with as little salt, fat, or sugar as possible.
The problem is eating this way is not easy. We live in an environment that is abundant with affordable rich foods such as highly processed fast foods and high fat animal products. It used to be difficult to get these foods, and they were more expensive. This is no longer the case. Eating too much of these foods overwhelms our immune system and disrupts the disease fighting capacity of the body.
Here are some suggestions for making the change to a whole foods diet:
1. Healthy eating will often initially be experienced as unpleasant, boring, and maybe even downright painful. Refraining from high fat, sweet, and salty foods can cause withdrawal symptoms just like with any drug. You will feel uncomfortable at first, but with time healthy foods will eventually taste wonderful, and you will no longer have the intense cravings.
2. The most important change is to create an environment free from unhealthy, tempting foods. Fill your refrigerator and kitchen counter with easy to access fruits and veggies ready to eat. If you have cakes, cookies, and candy in the house, it won’t matter how much willpower you have, you will eventually eat them. Why tempt yourself?
3. Learn how to make easy and tasty meals using whole plant foods. There are countless recipes and tutorials on-line.
4. Exercise is well-known for improving health. It also helps to block appetite swings, diminish cravings, improve mood, and helps with sleep.
5. If you are taking medications for chronic conditions, work closely with your provider to adjust them. It is amazing how fast the body starts to heal when eating whole plant foods. Your medications for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes will need to be lessened or discontinued.
6. Get support. Most people underestimate how difficult eating healthy is in the current food environment. Work with a health coach or find others who will support you to walk this new road of good eating.
The foods you chose will either enhance the disease fighting capacity of your body, or it overwhelms the immune system causing devastating diseases. It is almost never too late to significantly improve one’s health by eating a whole plant food diet every day.
Find out more
Renee Gust is a registered nurse and personal health coach in West Fargo, and has helped hundreds heal from chronic conditions with diet and lifestyle changes. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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