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How to Use Food as Medicine for Good Health

Although medications can have their time and place, do not gravitate to the medicine cabinet just yet. Learn how to use food as medicine and its significant role it has on health.

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Medicine is commonly recognized 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. Although medications can have their time and place, do not gravitate to the medicine cabinet just yet.

Yes, medicine can offer a quick fix and be life-saving, but the importance of food should not be discounted. Using food as medicine digs deeper at the underlying cause of disease, rather than managing superficial symptoms.

So rather than resorting to OTC medications for short-lived effects, fill the kitchen with "diet medicine" for lifelong, good health!

How Food Is Medicine

From reducing deficiency risk to controlling inflammation, food acts as potent medicine to benefit the body.

Food Can Help Reduce Deficiency Risk

Beyond carb, protein, and fat content, foods also supply significant micronutrients the body requires to carry out processes vital for life.

Consuming a well-balanced diet naturally reduces deficiency risk, though a multivitamin may be valuable in filling in nutritional gaps. This serves mainly true if needing to cut out dairy, gluten, or other food groups for whatever reason.

A Nutritious Diet Can Support a Healthy Weight

When consuming a nutritious diet, weight loss and maintenance are often supported. And achieving a healthy body weight cannot be stressed enough!

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.

Food May Control 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 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. 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.

Nutrients Can Balance 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.

After controlling weight and recognizing and managing underlying health conditions, hormones can start to normalize and stabilize for better health outcomes. Ultimately, managing weight and optimizing health reduces disease risk and subside the recommendation or need for prescriptions. This serves to be true in a number of health conditions.

For instance, food may displace the need for antihyperglycemics and antihypertensive, which help to reduce blood sugars and blood pressure, respectively. and statins (improving blood lipid levels).

How to Use Food as Medicine

Americans spend an average of $151 to 180 weekly on food based on a Gallup report. But the type of food purchased and consumed cannot be stressed enough to reduce the risks of chronic disease and improve health.

And like medications, foods come in all shapes, sizes, and offers the body variable sustenance dependent on the source. One of the best ways to fuel the body with essential nutrients is by incorporating wholesome food sources.

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. They are whole in nature and do not undergo an extensive amount of processing.

Complex carbs are sourced from starchy veggies and grains, such as potatoes and brown rice.

• 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.

Fruits and veggies are also naturally low in calorie and supply fiber and other beneficial nutrients. Aim for at least two and a half cups of veggies and two cups of fruits on a daily basis. This approximates to the general guide of "5-a-day."

• Healthy fats: Fats tend to have discouraged assumptions encircling their intake, though the most concern is related to the source of fat. Swap out fried and processed foods loaded with trans and saturated fats with healthy fat sources to lower inflammation.

Valuable healthy fat sources include monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats are sourced from olive and canola oils, avocados, fatty fish, nuts and seeds.

• Probiotics: Probiotics are considered to be a type of active, "good" bacteria and mostly known for living in yogurt. 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. Also deviate from highly processed foods filled with sugars and other unnecessary additives.

Probiotics may play a role in weight loss and offer anti-inflammatory effects. However, they are most noted to benefit the digestive system. Ultimately, good gut health has been suggested to lead to good overall health.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) also recommends a healthy eating pattern that includes the following whole foods:

• A variety of veggies from all subgroups, including dark green, red and orange, beans and peas

• Fruits, especially whole fruits over juices

• Grains, in which at least half are whole

• Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages

• A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats, and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products

• Oils, particularly those rich in unsaturated fatty acids such as olive and canola oils

A healthy diet also focuses on proper portion sizes. Achieve proper portions by filling at least half the plate with non-starchy veggies, including leafy greens. Designate a quarter for a lean protein, such as chicken and sirloin. Use the remaining quarter for brown rice, a sweet potato, or other complex carb. Complement with a healthy fat source, including olive oil, and enjoy a piece of fruit to satisfy a sweet tooth.

A meal delivery service can also ensure meals are properly balanced and portioned. What's more, meals are prepared with the freshest of ingredients. This offers the body nutrients it needs to manage weight, reduce disease risk, and improve overall health long-term! Truly, eating healthy food has never been simple, convenient, and delicious!


Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on April 26, 2019. Updated on June 17, 2019.

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