You are what you eat — and your food can become both doctor and medicine. Here’s how to use nutrition to heal your body with a 3-step approach that is both sustainable for your body and the planet.
Certain health conditions can leave you depleted of nutrients. For example, if you recently recovered from an illness, your body may be severely malnourished from extended calorie restriction. You may need to include meal replacement shakes and dietary supplements to restore your optimal level of functioning.
1. Focus On Nutrition
There are many illnesses and health conditions that can leave your body depleted of nutrition. For example, substance abuse can take a serious toll on your nutritional health. For example, alcohol inhibits the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Insufficient vitamin A intake can cause night blindness — when you combine this effect with getting behind the wheel intoxicated, you have a recipe for disaster.
Alcoholism also takes a severe toll on your B-vitamins, particularly folic acid, vitamin B-6 and B-1. Insufficient levels of these nutrients can cause fatigue and dizziness, which you may mistake for intoxication. You could be causing a deficiency without recognising it.
Folic acid or folate is vital for expectant mothers. You can find this nutrient that keeps your brain healthy in chickpeas and dark, leafy greens. It helps ward off neural tube defects in your developing infant, so you may wish to replenish your levels before attempting to get pregnant.
Are you prone to depression? If so, you might want to increase your intake of nuts and seeds. These foods contain high levels of zinc, selenium and magnesium, which can beat the blues, sometimes as effectively as antidepressants.
“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”– Ann Wigmore
2. Embrace Dietary Minimalism
Using nutrition to heal your body sometimes involves eliminating substances that harm as much as adding in more beneficial items. Embracing dietary minimalism means ridding yourself of substances that don’t benefit your physical self.
What should you eliminate? One item to consider quitting is white flour. This substance contains little nutritional value, providing only a rapidly absorbing source of empty calories.
Worse, the bleaching agent used to create the frequently seen all-purpose flour produces a chemical called alloxan. Scientists use this substance to induce diabetes in laboratory animals because it damages the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. When you combine this effect with the blood sugar fluctuations caused by foods high in white flour and sugar, you have a recipe for the Type 2 form of the disease.
Two other items to cross off your menu are certain vegetable oils and snack foods made from them. Oils like canola have little nutritional value — stick to heart-healthy olive instead. Worse, chips deep-fried in the stuff contain acrylamide, a substance known to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
3. Feed Your Soul
Finally, your body and mind are irrevocably wed — you cannot divorce the two. To use nutrition to heal your body, you must address your soul.
Make sustainable food choices, such as shopping at your local farmer’s market or growing your produce in a backyard or container garden. When manufacturers ship foods over long distances, it produces tons of carbon emissions, contributing to climate change.
You may also want to give up red meat or reserve it for rare occasions to decrease your carbon footprint. Meat and dairy production makes up nearly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. You’ll also sleep easier at night knowing that your food choices didn’t contribute to animal suffering.
“Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food.”– Hippocrates
Photography by Annie Spratt