There’s nothing quite like that comfortable feeling when you sit down for a nourishing meal—something almost magical about a warm, hearty plate of food. But as experts in food and nutrition, we know that each bite we eat has profound effects on our health. It got me thinking—how can we leverage this daily necessity for prevention?
Believe me, with my hopeless cheese addiction and sweet tooth the size of Texas, I’m no saint when it comes to clean eating. But over years of researching nutritional science (and listening to my doctor’s pleas to lay off the triple fudge ice cream), I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks to make food work harder for long term prevention and wellbeing.
And isn’t that what we all want deep down? To feel great now and have the energy we need for years to come? Not to mention avoiding some nasty diseases that no one wants to deal with—here’s looking at you, heart disease and diabetes. As much as I love ripping open a bag of chips now and then, I’d also love to make it to my grandkids’ college graduations one day with all my vital parts intact.
So how can we start tapping into food’s miraculous disease-busting potential? First things first, load up on plant foods. I’m talking mountains of fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds. Remember “an apple a day”? Turns out good old Grandma was right. Produce powerhouses like leafy greens, berries, citrus fruits, and vegetables like broccoli and tomatoes contain potent antioxidants, micronutrients, and fiber that can help prevent illnesses from cancer to dementia.
Next up—aim for moderation and balance in diet overall. Everything in moderation, right? As much as I’d like to live off pasta and never worry about heart health or type 2 diabetes, too many refined carbs or calories can spell disaster. But too little food or nutrient variety can also impair the immune system and disease defenses. As the experts say, it’s all about balance.
Speaking of balance, pay attention to protein sources too. Some meats and dairy products contain ample protein but can increase risk of certain ills when eaten in excess. Yet plant-based proteins like beans and lentils offer protein with a disease-fighting kick from extra nutrients and less saturated fat. I don’t know about you, but I think beans have an undeserved bad rap—with the right spices, they make a hearty, prevention power bowl!
Last but not least, don’t forget about your gut! Beyond quinoa salads and kale smoothies, optimizing our microbiomes with gut-healthy fibers from whole plant foods feeds the trillions of tiny microbes that influence everything from digestion to immunity. As research continues unfolding, it’s clear gut health deserves way more credit when it comes to long term wellbeing and avoidance of chronic lifestyle diseases. Hey, when microbiologists start talking special dietary fibers, prebiotics and probiotics, it’s gotta be good!
There you have it—four key tips to start leveraging food for prevention from someone still learning to heed her own advice. As much as I’d love to justify donuts every day in the name of self-care, science doesn’t lie. Hopefully these insights from my continual nutrition education inspire you like they occasionally manage to inspire me. But if you ever see me with one too many slices of cake, feel free to remind me to take my own medicine! Here’s to healthy, moderate indulgences and using the power of food to feel our best now and years from now!