By Natalie Williams/Gordon, ARNP
Above treasures and wealth, health is one thing that no one can put a price tag on.
The state of our health depends largely on choices we make during our lifetime. Are we exercising enough? Are we involved in risky behavior? And the question I’d like to focus on: Are we eating the right things? Did you know that one cookie here, one carrot there can still affect your health 10 years down the line? If it was easy to predict the impact of each of our food choices, I’m sure some of them would be reconsidered.
I’d argue that the biggest choice that every person on the planet makes every day is what to eat. Granted, some of us are more blessed than others, but the thought of what to eat is faced by all. Our diet should ideally consist of that which is made of life itself — natural foods. As organic creatures, we should consider the balance of our diet. Are we eating as “close to the soil” as possible? Foods with one-word ingredients, such as broccoli, almonds, pears, and salmon, are much healthier than those with a laundry list attached. The fewer the ingredients, the better.
“There’s also strong evidence that, as a rule, the closer to nature you eat, the fewer calories it will take for you to feel satisfied,” writes David Katz, M.D. “Processed foods often have low amounts of fiber and water; a high ratio of calories to nutrients; and a mix of tastes from added sugar, salt, and flavoring that overly stimulates the appetite center in the hypothalamus. Clean foods are the opposite: lots of fiber and fluid, a high ratio of nutrients to calories and free of added flavors — all of which send signals of [satisfaction] to your brain before you consume too many calories.”
So, if I’m not eating right, I’m going to be fat, right? Not necessarily. Judging a person’s health by their weight can be deceiving. Even though a person may be eating all the wrong foods, they may remain “thin” due to the limited amount of food they eat or because they have a high metabolism. Thin people are negatively affected by their food choices just like everyone else. They may suffer from bad skin, low energy, insomnia, and a host of internal problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes.
Just like a car runs on gasoline and will develop problems if foreign chemicals are introduced to the gas tank, our bodies will develop problems when foreign chemicals are introduced to our gas tank. The average adult loses roughly 300 billion cells every day. Our bodies are constantly using the food we eat to replace those cells. We are literally manufactured out of whatever we consume.
We have heard it before: You are what you eat. It isn’t just a saying. There are certain things we cannot fix — our genes being one — however, most diseases are not caused by genes, but by “lifestyle.” When I think of lifestyle, I think of choice. How am I going to choose to live? The following are three quick tips for making better nutrition choices:
Drink water — A 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that even mild dehydration in men reduced vigilance and memory and increased tension, anxiety and fatigue.
Put down the French fry — A 2009 Cambridge University study found that high-fat diets made laboratory rats not just slower but dumber.
Sugar = bad — A UCLA study found that a diet high in fructose slows the brain, hampering memory and learning. Omega-3 fatty acids — found in salmon, walnuts and flaxseed — can counteract the disruption.
Don’t fall for the misconception that eating healthy means eating the same three things every day. The best diet is a diverse one. Our diet should consist of many colors, for each color has unique benefits. Orange and red fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids; green foods contain a long list of nutrients; and blue, purple, crimson and brown foods contain flavonoids. Many foods with deep color have antioxidants and phytochemicals. Sweet potatoes, kidney beans, walnuts, tomatoes, spinach, blueberries, celery — each have important nutritional values.
No matter on which end of the spectrum you find yourself today — healthy eater or unhealthy eater — make the choice to eat better going forward. What you eat can add and take away from life. Who knew that the very composition of one morsel literally holds life or death?
About the author: Natalie Williams/Gordon has lived most of her life in Florida. She earned her undergraduate and NP degrees from Florida Atlantic University. Natalie has served on many short-term mission trips and hopes to one day be a full-time missionary. She feels very strongly about living a healthy lifestyle, including eating right and exercising regularly.