Eating right provides more benefits to your body than just keeping it looking good. Although many people who want to eat better are motivated by the desire to shed some pounds for the sake of their appearance, eating a truly healthy diet can help prevent many common health problems and contribute to greater longevity. Proper diet and good nutrition are thus among the primary tools of natural medicine, since one of the main goals of a naturopathic physician is to prevent disease and premature aging.
By now we’ve all heard and read many stories about the growing epidemic of type II diabetes in the United States. Diabetes can cause heart, kidney and nerve damage, increase the risk of stroke and blindness and even lead to amputation of the lower limbs. In addition to lowering the quality of life, diabetes can shorten life considerably. Diabetes caused or contributed to more than 231,000 deaths in 2007. Yet regular exercise and proper diet alone are usually enough to prevent diabetes. Eating less fat and sugar and consuming more fiber, especially whole grains, helps to lower blood sugar and maintain it at a healthy level.
Eating a high-fiber, low-fat diet – along with drinking plenty of water and healthy juices – also helps keep the colon (large intestine) healthy. The human colon was not meant to process large quantities of hard-to-digest fats and artificial food ingredients. A balanced, natural diet that includes lots of toxin-free raw or minimally processed fruits and vegetables helps the colon do the important job it was designed for, eliminating waste from the body. Eating such a diet can reduce the risk of colon cancer, which ranks as the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.
Poor food choices don’t just affect the digestive organs, however. Even parts of the body far removed from the digestive system are affected by what we take in, as our circulatory system delivers what we eat and breathe – good and bad – to every cell in our bodies. Thus, some studies have shown a connection between diet and breast cancer in women. Cutting fat intake and maintaining a healthy weight seems to reduce the incidence of breast cancer. Some studies have also shown a link between breast cancer and pesticides, suggesting that choosing organically grown foods may contribute to breast cancer prevention. The strongest dietary risk factor for breast cancer, however, is drinking alcohol. Unfortunately, even moderate alcohol consumption may increase a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer.
The foods you eat affect every organ of your body, and your brain is no different. Fad diets that require you to go hungry or forgo certain kinds of food can deprive your brain of needed nutrients or cause drops in blood sugar that affect thinking and concentration. But consuming sugary snacks or energy drinks only makes blood sugar spike temporarily, which strains the metabolic system and eventually leads to the infamous “sugar crash.” Rather than getting an emergency jolt of refined sugar from candy or soda, you should eat meals and snacks that include fruit, which contains natural sugars, along with carbohydrates in moderation for a steady supply of necessary sugars that help brain function without taxing the body’s metabolic system and leading to other health problems.
A proper diet is also crucial to long-term brain health, including prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Foods that contribute to brain health include wild cold-water fish such as salmon, nuts such as almonds and walnuts, green vegetables like broccoli and spinach and high-antioxidant fruits like blueberries and cherries.
As a practitioner of naturopathic medicine, Scottsdale physician Dr. Paul Stallone advises clients on the importance of maintaining wellness through the practices of good eating, regular exercise and stress reduction. Call the Arizona Integrative Medical Center today for your appointment at .