‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food’ is a saying attributed to Hippocrates, the father of medicine. Many centuries ago, he advised his patients to prevent (and treat) diseases by changing their diet to a nutrient-rich one. Ayurveda, India’s ancient traditional medicine, has long advocated a healthy diet based on a person’s ‘dosha’ or mind-body type.
We live our lives in pressure-cooker situations. So much so, we do not have time to savour a meal. This means that we eat hurriedly, unmindful of what’s on our plate. Studies show that when people eat quickly, they tend to overeat. What’s more, because we do not have time to share a leisurely meal, we lose our emotional connections.
With obesity and lifestyle illnesses on the rise, ‘food as medicine’ is now making inroads into mainstream culture. Nutritional changes help complement medications in slowing inflammation, and reversing illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes. Medical institutions and physicians worldwide are prescribing dietary changes an integral part of their treatment protocol.
So, what can we do to keep ourselves healthy?
Stop focusing on ‘bad foods’ or foods to avoid. What we fail to eat impacts our health more than what food is bad for us. Keep your focus on eating food you know is good for you – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, white meat, dairy. Eat an array of foods from these categories. The wider the variety of food on your plate, the more nutrients you get.
Eating a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fermented foods helps bolster our immune systems. It also helps to regulate our stress hormones.
Eat fermented foods – while kimchi and kefir may be trending now, our ‘desi dahi’ is equally good in increasing good gut bacteria.
The importance of water cannot be emphasised enough. Water not only flushes out toxins from our body, it helps us manage hunger too. It also aids in digestion and helps absorb nutrients.
The most important thing, perhaps, is to avoid packaged foods. Though convenient, these foods lack nutrients which are lost during the refining process.
Processed foods are another no-no. Apart from losing essential nutrients, processed foods are filled with additives – artificial food colouring, sweeteners and flavours, and chemically-altered fats.
The other mistake that we all make is to cut fat from our diet. ‘Fat’ will make us fat, we fear. However, fat is a vital nutrient that allows our body to absorb nutrients from food. Eating beneficial fats helps to neutralise the harmful effects of our diet and to maintain balance.
‘Food as medicine’ works to use daily meals as an alternative to medical supplements. Whole foods contain more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals than supplements do. What’s more, these vitamins and minerals are more easily digested. Make these simple dietary changes and see the difference that it makes to your health – and your life.