Food as Medicine

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, is a popular quote from Hippocrates, known as the father of Western medicine.

Using food as medicine is not a new concept, in fact, this quote was said over 2500 years ago! What if you were told that the secret to a long healthy life could actually begin with what’s on your plate? Would it surprise you that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and complex carbohydrates can help reduce the risk of multiple leading causes of illness and disease? What’s even more shocking is that only one in ten people in the United States eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day.1 The foods we eat have a significant effect on our overall health. Medicine has done humankind wonders over the years, but we seem to have forgotten the importance of a healthy diet and its direct impact on our health and wellbeing.

Over 860,000 people die from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the United States each year. CVD includes coronary heart disease, stroke, coronary heart failure, high blood pressure, and more. The costs related to treatment of just CVD exceed $216 billion yearly.2 The Westernized diet, defined as a diet high in calories, saturated fats, sugar, and low intake of fiber and physical activity, is contributing to the prevalence of these chronic diseases.3 This diet may be directly promoting insulin resistance which later develops to type II diabetes, causes obesity, and promotes inflammation. The diet of many Americans lack essential micronutrients and fiber, which further worsens detrimental health outcomes. Even with all the interventions and prescription drugs available, millions of Americans continue to suffer each year from many preventable illnesses. Its been shown that populations with better quality diets consistently have better health outcomes.4

But what exactly is a “better quality diet” and how does it impact our health? Both the Mediterranean and Longevity Diets feature high consumption of olive oil and nuts, which is associated with longevity, increased healthspan and protection from cardiovascular disease.5 In longevity associated regions or populations with better quality diets, the diet usually consists of foods high in complex carbohydrates while being low in refined carbohydrates, lean sources of protein with relatively low overall protein consumption, high in fiber, and mostly plant based. Its been shown that the intake of saturated fats from fish and plant-based sources such as nuts is associated with reduced cardiovascular disease and overall death.5 People with high vegetable-based protein diets (such as Mediterranean or Longevity Diet followers) usually will have a lower overall protein intake, which directly contradicts the popular Westernized diet that contains a high protein content most notably derived from fatty domesticated processed meats.3 Individuals following lower protein (mostly plant-based) dietary habits show lower incidences of disease. This low disease prevalence may be directly influenced by both the beneficial effects of plant-based foods and the lower overall protein intake compared to the Westernized high animal-based protein diet.5 A good quality diet offers whole foods and vegetables that contribute a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (substances found in plants believed to be beneficial to human health and the prevention of diseases) into the body which collectively work to keep people healthy. The key nutrients found in the Longevity and Mediterranean diets are responsible for the observed health benefits include antioxidants, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), B vitamins, and more.4 The antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables along with omega-3 PUFAs from fish have vascular and anti-inflammatory properties. Each meal kit day from Nutrition for Longevity provides at least 6 servings of fruits and vegetables to address nutritional deficiencies so you can support your health according to the principles of the Longevity Diet.6

It is time to start thinking of food as medicine and fuel for our bodies. Over processed foods, excessive calorie intake, and poor quality of nutrients in Westernized diets can wreak havoc on our health and wellbeing. Let us be clear, no one should be throwing away prescription medications as many are life saving and certainly necessary for specific conditions and better quality of life. However, many diseases experienced by millions of Americans each year can benefit long-term from a change in diet, not just a medication as a quick fix. What we choose to put into our bodies can affect us not only physically but also mentally.3 Food can be the source of disease or the solution in prevention and possible treatment of diseases. It's time to make positive changes by reconsidering the quality of food we eat for our overall health and wellbeing.

 

References:

  1. Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/division-information/media-tools/adults-fruits-vegetables.html. Published 2021. Accessed April 2, 2021.
  2. org. https://www.heart.org/-/media/phd-files-2/science-news/2/2021-heart-and-stroke-stat-update/2021_heart_disease_and_stroke_statistics_update_fact_sheet_at_a_glance.pdf?la=en. Published 2021. Accessed April 2, 2021.
  3. Statovci D, Aguilera M, MacSharry J, Melgar S. The Impact of Western Diet and Nutrients on the Microbiota and Immune Response at Mucosal Interfaces. Front Immunol. 2017;8. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.00838
  4. Segal L, Opie R. A nutrition strategy to reduce the burden of diet related disease: access to dietician services must complement population health approaches. Front Pharmacol. 2015;6. doi:10.3389/fphar.2015.00160
  5. Longo, Valter. The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight. New York: Penguin Books; 2018.
  6. Nutrition for Longevity. Nutrition For Longevity Meal Delivery. https://nutritionforlongevity.com/. Published 2021. Accessed April 2, 2021.