Thinking about food - Pt. 2
In an earlier post, we discussed the importance of food to us, what it meant to us, beyond just the calories it provided. We discussed the psychological aspects of food and how central it was to our lives. In this post we will discuss what really should matter to us when we think about food; how truly it is important to us, to our physical and mental health. Food should matter, and this is why it should.
Food as Nutrition
Food is the source for our energy, but that is not all it is. Seriously, please stop looking at food as calories! There is so much more to food than that!
Instead, think of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols, phytochemicals and so on. All these components, these “micronutrients”, play very vital roles in how our body and mind function and help us stay healthy and immune to infections. From vitamins in alphabetical order to elements from the periodic table you might never have thought of since high school (you need zinc, selenium, copper, magnesium, fluorine, sulfur among others), foods are a source of so much that we require to stay in proper working order. And what we choose to eat ultimately decides how well we maintain our stores of these essential components.
So before popping something in your mouth, think what kind of nutrition it provides to your body. If it’s nutrient-dense, you are good to go! If not, you are better off without it. With this strategy, every plate you prepare for yourself will nourish your body and mind.
And you would never need to worry about weight gain or body image either. You will look and feel good. Also, you will have a well-functioning immune system, a more efficient digestive system, improved cognition, more energy, reduced risk of Lifestyle Diseases, and an increased life-span (with quality). These are significant benefits, aren’t they?
So, say it with me, food is nourishment, not calories.
Food as the primary force of life
Food is also more than the nutrition it provides to us: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and micronutrients. Food deals in the basic currency of nature: energy. We as humans are unable to manufacture energy on our own, unlike plants. So, we take our energy from plants (and other animals, if you’re a non-vegetarian, but those animals got it from plants too) which are the primary source for life on our planet. Plants use sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to create energy and store it in the form of food. We, as humans, absorb that energy directly or indirectly when we eat and digest those stored foods.
Now, which foods we eat determine the quality of the energy and the amount of nutrients that enter our bodies. The more natural and unprocessed our food is, the more likely it is to be wholesome and health-promoting. On the other hand, the more processed and manufactured it is, the more likely it is to be ultimately unhealthy for us. Processed foods can destroy the nutritional value of foods and, on top of that, add chemicals in the form of preservatives, homogenizers, flavors and so on; chemical components that our bodies don’t need and have not evolved to handle. At best, these chemicals might go through our bodies without contributing to our nourishment; more often, they tax our body as it puts in extra effort to get rid of these alien substances; at worst, they can poison us slowly, eating away at us from the inside out.
Food as your medicine, or your poison
My extensive research, study, as well as experience has shown that food can be a very powerful medicine.
A medicine that we consume three times a day, all our life. Can you imagine the impact it has on us?
Choosing the right food can reverse your insulin resistance, put diabetes type 2 in remission, even halt the progression of cardiovascular disease. Can you name any pills/surgery that would have the same effect?
On the other hand, choosing the wrong kind of food can slowly poison your body, one-bad meal at a time. It can disrupt your metabolism (and if you have central obesity you have already reached that point). Then come hypertension, atherosclerosis, and insulin resistance. You become vulnerable to all Lifestyle Diseases and face a life full of pills, doctor’s appointments, invasive procedures, disability, suffering, and decreased quality (and duration) of life.
Why would you choose to have poison, on a daily basis? Choose wisely, every time you sit to eat!
What are food-like substances? Things that might use some food ingredients, but grill, fry, refine and process them to such an extent that the food ingredient loses all its nutrition. On top of that, we add so many chemicals to the food substance, we can no longer identify what the “food-like substance” is if we were provided only the list of ingredients. In fact, many of these “food-like substances” would have a similar list of ingredients.
Most packaged food items, fast food, bakery products, and items our taste buds get addicted to, are food-like substances. Chips, biscuits, pastries, donuts, burgers, soft drinks these are all promoted and propagated as delicious food objects. We are constantly bombarded with ads of these food-like substances everywhere.
Have they been tested in laboratories to find the ideal palette that will suit our taste buds? Yes
Do they harm our body’s metabolism and make us susceptible to all kinds of diseases? Yes
Do they harm our DNA? Yes
Does our body need any of this? No!
Sugar, caffeine, white flour, artificial flavors, preservatives; these essential components of junk food are just illusions, not substitutes for real food. They have no nutritional value (no micronutrients) and they just create short-lived bursts of energy followed by crashes, a cycle that can actually promote repeat eating, almost like drug-addiction.
Once you would start viewing these things as not real food, but factory-made objects designed to suit your taste buds but harmful to your mind and body, trust me, they will lose their charm for you.
Food is information, food is intelligence
Every bite of food that passes your lips, influences you at a cellular level, impacting the expression of your genes.
Were you aware of this? It’s a relatively new field of science, Nutrigenomics, which studies the effect of nutrients on the expression of an individual’s genetic make-up, and how it can protect the genome from damage.
In short, your food impacts your DNA.
Here’s the thing, you inherit your genes, they can be strong or weak, and you cannot do much about it. However, the manifestation of your genes, how they express themselves and influence your body and mind is influenced by your environment, and nutrition is one such environmental influence.
For example, some studies have shown that the deficiency of micronutrients, such as folic acid, vitamins B12, B6, C, and E, selenium, niacin, and zinc can cause changes into the DNA similar to what is seen after radiation exposure, increasing your risk of developing cancer.
In essence, food impacts the flow of your genetic information. By controlling what you eat you can potentially impact the destiny of your genes: you can control your destiny.
We will cover this topic in detail in future posts.
There is still more I want to talk about when it comes to food, so stay tuned for the third and final instalment of our food series!