BistroMD Health Library

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Health Tips

From tips on how to lose weight effectively to ways to combat boredom eating, this collection of informative articles covers a wide range of health topics that matter to real people, like you.

How to Use Food as Medicine for Good Health

Individuals commonly recognize medicine as a drug to treat or manage a number of health ailments or conditions. But an alternative definition of medicine incorporates the science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. So rather than resorting to OTC medications for short-lived effects, fill the kitchen with “diet medicine” for lifelong, good health!

How to Use Food as Medicine for Good Health

Although medications can have their time and place, we tend to discount the importance of food and gravitate to the medicine cabinet for medicinal purposes, as it offers a quick fix and matches the rate in which individuals desire weight loss. However, using food as medicine digs deeper at the underlying cause of disease, rather than managing superficial symptoms.

How Food Is Medicine

Reduces Deficiency Risk
Beyond carb, protein, and fat content, foods also supply significant micronutrients the body requires for carrying out life-sustaining physiological processes. Consuming a well-balanced diet naturally reduces deficiency risk, though a multivitamin may be valuable in filling in nutritional gaps, especially if needing to cut out dairy, gluten, or other food groups for medical purposes.

Supports a Healthy Weight
Particularly when consuming a nutritious diet, weight loss and maintenance are often supported. Achieving a healthy weight cannot be stressed enough, as the top health issues are related to being overweight or obese, including heart disease and diabetes. Body fat in excess can cause chronic inflammation, which has also been suggested as a promoter of disease states.

Controls Inflammation
In addition to controlling inflammation through weight loss, using food as medicine is regularly linked to antioxidants offering anti-inflammatory effects. Found in colorful plants, fatty fish, teas, and other sources, antioxidants defend and inhibit the process of oxidation, the chemical process and reaction that has the potential to produce free radicals. When harmful bacteria are present, free radicals come to the defense and attack them to protect the body, though they can also be produced as toxins following high sugar and fat intake. If antioxidants are absent, the free radicals can damage the body’s cells and result to chronic inflammation.

Balances Hormones
Hormones are chemical messengers responsible for major bodily functions, including roles in reproduction, mental health, and hunger and satiety. If or when they are off-balanced, a number of health conditions can surface or become exacerbated; but after controlling weight and recognizing and managing underlying health conditions, hormones can start to normalize and stabilize for better health outcomes.

Ultimately, getting a grip on health and weight can not only reduce disease risk, but eventually subside the recommendation or need for prescriptions. This serves to be true in a number of health conditions, including antihyperglycemics (reducing blood sugars), antihypertensives (lowering blood pressures), and statins (improving blood lipid levels). Despite weight loss and the grasp you have obtained on health, it is always important to consult with your primary healthcare provider regarding medication and lifestyle recommendations.

Using Food as Medicine

Like medications, foods come in all shapes, sizes, and offers the body variable sustenance dependent on the source. Using food as medicine is mostly contributed to the following sources:

Complex Carbs
Unlike processed and refined carbs, complex carbs burst with fiber and nutrients and tend to not spike blood sugar levels. Complex carbs are essentially starchy vegetables and grains that are whole in nature and do not undergo an extensive amount of processing. They are encouraged to compliment non-starchy veggies and lean proteins and include rice, quinoa, and potatoes.

Fruits and Veggies
The natural color of fruits and veggies is not only eye appealing, but signifies their potent antioxidant content. Colorful food sources are packed with antioxidants, chemicals that deter inflammation in the body. Consume fruits and veggies with all meals and snacks!

Healthy Fats
Fats tend to have discouraging assumptions encircling their intake, though the most concern is related to the source of fat. Swapping out fried and processed foods loaded with trans and saturated fats with healthy fat sources shows to offer anti-inflammatory effects to the body. Valuable healthy fat sources include monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in olive and canola oils, avocadoes, fatty fish, and nuts and seeds.

Probiotics are considered to be a type of active, “good” bacteria and mostly known for living in yogurt, though sauerkraut, soft cheeses, fermented foods, and probiotic pills and supplements are also noted sources. When selecting a probiotic source, look for commonly used probiotics (including lactobacillus and bifidobacteria) and deviate from highly processed foods filled with sugars and other unnecessary additives. And while probiotics may play a role in weight loss and offer anti-inflammatory effects, their most notorious contribution is often specific to the gastrointestinal tract. Ultimately, good gut health has been suggested to transpire into good overall health.

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