February 2008

Health Note: Let your food be your medicine

Author: Theresa Jackson

Cardiovascular disease is reported as the leading cause of death in the United States. About 30 million Americans suffer from heart or blood vessel disease and as many as 27 million from high blood pressure. Heart disease is the leading killer of women, responsible for one-third of all deaths of women (more than all cancers combined) in the U.S. Heart disease kills six times more women than breast cancer each year. Cardiovascular disease accounts for 45 percent of all deaths in the United States. Cardiovascular disease is reported to cost the United States $65 billion annually; more than $38 billion of this cost is related to premature death.

Why is this happening?

The answer has been around for more than 2,500 years when Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, set out a series of guidelines for his medical students. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

This simple statement highlighted the importance early physicians placed on good nutrition as a means of maintaining good health and preventing and reversing disease. Medical science has since advanced beyond many of Hippocrates’ simple attempts to explain medicine over the passing centuries. But modern research has confirmed his teachings that lifestyle (the right kind of diet and exercise) continues to be the key to maintaining good health and preventing disease.

How can Hippocrates’ healing philosophy “letting food be thy medicine” be applied to our modern food? We now know that trans fats cause significant and serious lowering of HDL (good) cholesterol and a significant and serious increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol, make the arteries more rigid, cause major clogging of arteries, contribute to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, and inflict other serious health problems.

These “fake fats” are factory-made, foreign to the body, and the food industry loves them because they are cheap, preserve food, and give foods a longer shelf life. But these foods are decreasing your shelf life! A study at Harvard called trans fats the “biggest food-processing disaster in U.S. history” and blames trans fat for at least 30,000 premature deaths per year.

Trans fat can be found in vegetable shortening, margarine, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods and other processed foods made with partially-hydrogenated vegetables oils, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Cheap, easy and fast “junk” food is now available everywhere—at every drive thru and all throughout our grocery stores.

But even when you’re reading labels, you still may be consuming unhealthy food. Many products have labels stating they have zero grams of trans fat, but the list of ingredients may still contain partially hydrogenated oil. That’s because under FDA regulations, “if the serving contains less than 0.5 grams, the content , when declared, shall be expressed as zero.”

Suppose a product contains 0.4 grams per serving and you eat four servings (which is not uncommon). You have just consumed 1.6 grams of trans fat, despite the fact that the package claims that the product contains zero grams per serving. Trans fats have such a high health risk that they are illegal in some European countries. America is slow, but the policy is catching on in some states such as New York. For now, it is up to us to make wise choices about what we put in our mouths.

Heart disease, cancer and diabetes are all clearly linked to the foods you eat. In order to benefit from Hippocrates’ philosophy, we will need to rephrase his words to fit our current situation. “Let good whole food be your medicine and let your medicine be good whole food.”

The fastest way to restore wellness is to stop consuming the things that have caused the physical problem to develop in the first place, and then give your body the nutrients it needs to repair and rebuild. The body has the ability for self-healing when nutrients are provided. When you supply your body with the proper nutrients, in a form that your body can use—whole grains, fruit, vegetables and legumes—it knows how to repair itself.

A doctor who used nutrition to assist in the healing of his patients was quoted, “The body has the inherent ability—the vitality—not only to heal itself and restore health, but also to ward off disease. Illness is not caused simply by an invasion of external agents or germs, but is a manifestation of the organism’s attempt to defend and heal itself. Prevention is the best cure! Health is a reflection of how we choose to live.”

Doesn’t it make sense that your kitchen is just as important to your health as the doctor’s office or the local hospital? Unfortunately, some people just want their doctors to fix them. They don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives.

Food is necessary for life. You must eat to live. But today you have a choice. You can choose to eat to look and feel better, live longer and, as Hippocrates believed, you can even use good whole food as “medicine” to heal yourself. If you select, prepare and cook food wisely, intentionally and properly, very little time could be spent visiting healthcare facilities. Your food could literally save your life!

Theresa Jackson is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Nutritional Counselor who is also pursuing a doctorate in natural health. She is the founder & president of Wellness Within Centers with programs in weight reduction, smoking cessation and golf performance improvement. You can reach the Wellness Within office at 843-986-9700. Have a question you might like answered? You can e-mail your questions to theresa@wellnesswithincenters.com.

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