3 Simple Keys to Better Health
When it comes to diet, there are 3 simple keys to better health that consistently prove effective at promoting health and reversing chronic diseases. The 3 key principles are:
- Whole Food
- Plant Based
- Food As Grown
Industrial food production replaced traditional farming practices during the last century. One consequence of that sea change was that our nation went from having pockets of malnutrition to suffering widespread obesity, diabetes, chronic heart disease, and other infirmities directly attributable to changes to our diet. Well-meaning efforts to enrich food and extend the shelf life of food combined with an idea that products containing the same ingredients contained in original whole foods are equivalent took hold of industrialized nations.
Manufactured foods and whole foods are not identical. Manufactured foods typically contain more salt, added sugars, preservatives, and food coloring. When nature adds color to a whole food it often has antioxidant properties and may be a vital nutrients. There are ingredients that occur in nature but not in the quantities found in manufactured foods. Xanthum gum is a good example. After discovering that it was a natural biopolymer that increased the viscosity (stickiness) of foods, it went into industrial production in the 1960s. While it is a naturally occurring polymer (a molecule comprised of repeated subunits), it is NOT part of the normal diet. Xanthum gum keeps oil from separating in salad dressings and can change the consistency of food to which it is added.
Researchers at Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese government embarked on a 20-year observational study of diets, lifestyle, and disease characteristics of 6,500 people in 65 rural Chinese counties. This famous study became known as The China Study and it found that people who eat a whole-food, plant-based diet and avoid eating processed foods and refined sugars can reduce or reverse the development of many different diseases. Dr. T. Colin Campbell published the results of this comprehensive study in a book titled The China Study.
It should come as no surprise that nature is the best manufacturing facility for foods. The natural processes that create food-as-grown have developed over millions of years. Even for those who eat meat, should keep in mind that there is a vast difference between meat from animals raised through industrial farm practices and meat from animals that have been grass fed. The ratios of fatty acids differ widely and grass-fed animals may be expected to be less harmful to our health.
Practices that increased food production during the last century produced undesirable consequences. Widespread use of fertilizers depleted the soil and discouraged sustainable practices like crop rotation, letting land lay fallow, and the intentional cultivation of weeds. Widespread use of pesticides caused harmful effect on the environment and some have proposed that pesticides may be contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder among honeybees.
Our ancestors possessed wisdom about many of the practices that organic farmers are reintroducing these days. For example, in ancient Israel it was customary to honor the Shemitah, also known as the sabbatical year. Modern Isreal has taken steps to encourage farmers to reintroduce this ancient Biblical practice described in Exodus.
Exodus 23:11 ”but on the seventh year you shall let it [land] rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat.
During the sabbatical year, the beasts of the field would also add vital nutrients to the soil.
Food-as-grown is a term that means everything from consuming food before it is processed to efforts to consume foods that are grown locally. Locally grown food is one way to reduce the environmental and economic impact of transporting foods to our table. Eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes (beans, peas, lentils) with as little processing as possible consistently proves to be good for our health.
Medicine in the 21st Century
The 20th century witnessed medical advances in public health, antibiotic development, immunization, and effective interventions for people with advanced disease. The 21st century was ushered in with a great promise of personalized medicine resulting from the human genome project and genetic analysis of cancer. However, the greatest improvements in health during the 21st century may ultimately be achieved when we recover the basic principles of nutrition that were once commonplace.
Food For Life Program Starting Soon!
Asheville Gynecology & Wellness is a traditional gynecology practice, that has incorporated a teaching kitchen right into the practice. This is proving to be a great way of introducing the importance of dietary and lifestyles changes and how these can help reduce the burden of various chronic diseases.
I am excited to announce that beginning in February we will be offering a new, 5-week program, Food for Life in the evenings. This program is a practical, hand-on introduction to shifting toward the 3 keys to better health—a whole food, plant-based, fod-as-grown diet that is sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. I am also delighted to welcome Ms. Terri Edwards to the Asheville Gynecology & Wellness team. Terri will be leading the Food For Life classes and she has her own personal success story about the benefits she achieved through adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet.