Nutrition. A powerful word when you fully grasp its meaning and yet, the word implies different ideas to many people. Food is our source for nutrition and nutrition is the aspect of that food which supplies for and rebuilds our health. Fruits and vegetables, including grains, are the foundation for nutrition, as these are the food sources from which true nutrition is derived. From macro- to micronutrients, all is provided for in ample quantities to sustain your body, mend it, and defend it in the future. The question is what ‘food’ are you providing as fuel for your body, and how do you feel?
If you pay attention to medical literature or even the news, it is not hard to miss the fact that as a society, we are ‘sick’. Cancer rates are climbing. Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are found on every street corner. Anxiety, depression, and cognitive disorders are rampant. Digestive health is dramatically impaired with a high incidence of IBS, IBD, Crohns disease, and ulcerative colitis in the human population. What’s going on??
One thing is clear, at least in research, and this is taken from a research paper titled, “Diet and Health; What Should We Eat?” (Willett, 1994)
“One clear conclusion from existing epidemiologic evidence is that many individuals in the United States have suboptimal diets and that the potential for disease prevention by improved nutrition is substantial.”
Nutrition; Cause and Effect
Today’s society is fueled by sugar, usually in most simple form. In addition, our food base as a society is high in fat, high in calories, and often void of true nutrient value, referred to as “empty calories”. We literally ‘eat on the go’, grabbing what is available, going through a drive-thru, visiting a cafe or smoothie shop, or eating what is present in our office kitchen. We tend to look at food as just a fuel source to keep the engine going, and unfortunately not so much on the fact that the food we choose can either sustain or destroy life. Food and nutrition go together, as food is the source of nutrition. It is those macro- and micro-nutrients that our body requires to repair, grow, and sustain life. When deprived, the engine slows, and the machine becomes susceptible to damage, unable to defend and repair.
This is simple science, the basis of biology, but sadly overlooked in our world today. Even a body in a state of unconsciousness or coma requires ‘feeding’, which is often done intravenously or through a feeding tube. This is also true for many cancer patients, as the body deteriorates. The body can only sustain itself for a short period of time on reserves which have been built up over time. After these reserves are depleted, the body will begin to literally consume itself in order to keep functioning. This results in muscle wasting and fat store losses, as the body scavenges these areas for energy purposes. Eventually, if not provided for, the body will shut down, lights out.
Today’s society is on the go, constantly moving, and perceived as being ‘busier’ than ever. If this is true, which is really based on your perception, then the body requires an even higher level of support. When you step back and look though, you will see the true need of the body, but lack of current provision. This is evident by the mammoth consumption of energy drinks, caffeinated drinks, and sugary foods. In fact, many of us have become so addicted to sugar, that we literally avoid ‘real’ food because it is perceived as lacking flavor or tasting horrible. The foods we curently eat are a sign that unconsciously we realize our body is running on reserves, being depleted, and instead of addressing the situation properly, we reach for a quick fix, being sugars, caffeine, and other additives. While these substances can keep the body going, there is a significant downside.
Consumption of these types of foods and drinks creates two major issues from my point of view:
- Further depletion and dependence
- Nutritional void and harm upon the body
In the medical world of today, there is a significant rise in certain health conditions, which may include diabetes, cognitive dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Incidentally, all of those are tightly related to the other main health ailment, which is obesity. Ironically, this root problem of obesity is fueled by the foods we choose to eat and the lifestyle in which we play.
Why obesity? Obesity is a state of imbalance within the body. Not only is there an excessive load placed upon the machine, being our body, but with it there is a rise in internal chronic inflammation. This is evident not just in the sore back, knee or other joint, but a strong contributor to the failing heart, the improper function of insulin, poor mental function, and the rogue cell forming cancer.
Nutrition; How Should You Eat?
Various health councils have recommended for eons that we consume a balanced diet, which includes around 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The higher end number, being 9, was introduced more recently to further promote benefits to the body. A serving would be around 1/2-1 cup of that fruit or vegetable per day, averaging around 75 grams in weight for a vegetable and 150 grams of weight for a fruit.
How does your daily diet fit into these criteria?
Those that are aware, try their best to meet these criteria. For others, they tend to fly by the seat of their pants, almost in a state of unconsciousness on a daily basis, totally unaware of what they do eat. The problem is not hard to see, and all one has to do is to watch people. Look around you at work or even better, at the grocery store. Look at what the majority of people’s carts contain. Then, take a look at the fruit and vegetable section. How many people are over there, as compared to the butcher’s counter, or the chip or soda isle?
So, why don’t we eat better? For starters, it is a conscious decision and more times than not, some event must take place to create that shift in thinking. Being overweight and having a desire to lose weight may be that event. Being diagnosed with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer may be another event. The interesting thing is that once a person gets started and commits, a shift occurs within them, and these new choices are present throughout their life.
There are many stories, some documented in research or case studies, of people that have literally cured their health condition, from diabetes to cancer, through dietary changes, with no need for medications. While this is true and I believe it can be done, it is usually not the only change in their life. For most, if you pay close enough attention, there is likewise a shift in lifestyle, mental attitude, and adoption of exercise. Is this a general shift? Or did the proper food choices literally ‘awaken’ the mind, through nutrition and repair, which then brings about a different level of consciousness?
In working with veterinary patients over the years, and including my own health recovery, nutrition is the foundation of all recovery. There are no exceptions and this is the place to start. For many, unfortunately, they have to break through this addiction to sugars, salt, caffeine, and other additives and relearn what ‘real’ food tastes like. If you can do this, then you are reconnecting with the core you, and not the you that is dictated by processed food companies. You realize you were meant to eat an apple, a bowl of spinach, and intermittently even high quality meats, but not orange colored snacks in a packaged bag.
Change is possible, but in order to create that change there must be a level of understanding and commitment. We are all the same regarding potential. If one person can make that change and succeed, so can you. There are no exceptions, only beliefs.
Author: Tom Schell, D.V.M, CVCH, CHN