In keeping with this year’s Nutrition Month theme of Unlock the Potential of Food, today will be about food’s ability to help us prevent diseases.
First off, I’m not going so far as to say that food IS medicine. But food is a huge area where we can make some tweaks that CAN help you prevent diseases. Let’s take a closer look …
The power of prevention
I’ve talked about prevention many times in the past … and I will continue to for a long time!
Preventative care has been missing for a long time in the healthcare system, probably due to the fact that when people are already sick, they need help … and that takes up a whole lot of resources.
So when I talk about how I help people, I break it down into 2 important parts:
PRESERVING the health you currently have
PROTECTING your health from
- developing illness or
- worsening of conditions that may progress over time such as diabetes or heart disease
I’ve also said before that scary numbers don’t often motivate us to makes changes. But in order to make informed choices, I think they’re important to at least be aware of. Numbers like:
- 1/3 of cancers can be linked to poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise
- 80% of premature stroke and heart disease can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices
- the many numbers in this article by Harvard showing the risk of developing diabetes due to unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices
Prevention through diet
There are a few ways of eating that are proven to help preserve and protect your health. And the interesting thing about them is that they follow a similar pattern.
You’re going to start thinking I sound like a broken record here when I start listing off the things you want to see in your eating pattern:
- whole grains and little or no highly processed carbohydrates
- lean meats, less red meat
- more fruits and vegetables
- healthier fats
- less added sugar, including sugary drinks
- plant-based meals more often
So let’s get real about this
You see, the problem is not that you don’t know these things. It’s not that you aren’t trying or that you don’t care.
It’s very possible that there are just so many confusing messages flying around! Messages with convincing people promising to solve your problems. Clients tell me often that they get discouraged with all the messages. They say information is constantly changing and they aren’t sure who or what to believe. They wonder if they should be counting calories or eating intuitively. Should they become vegan or paleo or go gluten-free? They hear headlines to “cut out carbs”, “cut out fat”, “don’t drink milk”, “eat organic only”, “coconut oil or kale or apple cider vinegar cures everything” … you get the idea.
Maybe it makes you feel like you don’t know what or how to eat healthy anymore too.
It’s also likely that your body just doesn’t work the same way it did … and that’s normal. You notice can’t eat the same way or same amount you used to. Or now you’ve gotten a diagnosis from your doctor and need to make specific changes.
I’ll also bet your lifestyle and day-to-day routines have changed with the years along with your body. This can lead to changes in when you eat, where you eat, with whom you eat, what you eat and even how you eat.
It can feel like a lot to untangle before you know which direction to start.
You probably DO know what to eat
It’s not always a question of not ‘knowing’ what to eat or what’s healthy, even though that’s what clients tell me me all the time. Once we get talking though, we might realize that it’s really about
- focusing on finding strategies for your exact problems, not just trying to do ALL the things that are ‘supposed’ to be healthy
- creating a system so meal-planning is more manageable, so it’s organized and fits into your schedule, so you don’t throw out so much food or end up skipping meals
- learning tools to help you make informed decisions about food
- tuning out the noise about “the best diet” and eating in a way that you enjoy and will be able to stick with – it might even be a mish-mash of different eating styles
- or any other thing that makes eating feel like a struggle
So more often than not, clients come to me with other factors getting in the way of their ability to eat well. A huge part of what I do is to help people work through those other factors before we even get to talking about actual food.
Are you concerned you might be at risk of developing a chronic condition like heart disease or diabetes?
to get dietitian-approved tips and info as well as to share and discuss with other community members.
Angela Hubbard is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) with 10 years experience working in the field of nutrition. Her work focuses on helping people take back control of their health & weight … before it feels like their health controls their life. In her off time she loves swapping recipes, creating and exploring Northern BC life with her young family.