Food, A Valued Medicine
“Let food be thy medicine”. Socrates, one of the greatest pioneers this world has ever seen, recognized the immense power that our food had. Food has the capability to steal life from our years or provide the means for us to thrive with optimal vitality and health.
Due to state of the art technology, an unhealthy food industry is booming. As a result, this has introduced the general population to an array of foods from all corners of the earth. This abundance makes it easy for us to mindlessly reach for fare that does nothing but satisfy our palates momentarily. Refined sugars and trans fat laden options affect our bodies in negative ways. Quite similar to the effects of recreational drugs, food, although on a much smaller scale, feeds the same reward system by increasing the production of endorphins, also known as the ‘feel happy’ hormones. This vicious circle is the cause of all addictions, including food addiction.
A constant rise in diet related diseases in developed countries is wreaking havoc on healthcare systems. A study conducted in Canada found that 29% of Canadians 18 and older were obese and 41% were overweight. In children and adolescents, 8% were obese and 18% were overweight. We clearly have a severe epidemic waiting to implode in the near future. We are all aware of the detrimental effects unhealthy food has on our bodies, increasing LDL and blood pressure, but it has an even more adverse effect on our minds.
In 2013 I decided to change my diet. Previously I followed the “see, grab and stuff my face” diet. Without giving any thought to the nutrition value or lack thereof, I would mindlessly reach for and eat anything within my sight. I always felt bloated and extremely lethargic for a teenager. My 5 foot 3 inch height did not cope well with the staggering 185 pounds I had become. I did not exercise and convinced myself that I couldn’t do anything about my weight, destined to remain this way forever. My mind didn’t feel well for a lengthy portion of my teen years. Though I’m sure the raging hormones were in large part to blame, I couldn’t help but feel that the nutrient sparse diet I was following was also a contributing factor.
I decided to cleanse my body. This involved eliminating all processed foods and replacing them with a variety of wholesome foods. Within a week, I noticed a difference in my mood. I felt happier and my energy levels were through the roof! As more weeks rolled by I began to shed weight and acquired the energy to exercise, albeit grudgingly at first. I felt as though the new food was healing my body and mind simultaneously.
We tend to disassociate our bodies from our minds, when in reality, they are more intertwined than we can begin to comprehend. In the past decade the scientific community has shed light on the potency of food. A 2009 Spanish study considered the connection between the participants’ diet and their psychological well being. Their findings proved that those who consumed the Mediterranean diet, which is known as the ideal brain diet because of the high consumption of seafood, had a 30% reduction in the risk of acquiring a mental disorder. Another 2010 Canadian community health survey found that the standard American diet led to deficiencies of folic acid, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. Consequently they also observed a higher prevalence of depression among the participants and the diet also exacerbated the symptoms of pre-existing mental ailments. A slew of studies have continually identified that food affects our hormones and neurotransmitters, which in turn dictates our mental health. Thankfully we live in a booming technological era and have access to an array of information which can empower us to make calculated and knowledgeable food choices.
The journey to finding the connection between food and my overall health will be life long, as I have yet to reach my ideal fitness and weight levels. As the years go by, my body will continue to change and I’ll have to adapt nutritionally to those new changes. I admit, some days it feels the equivalent of trekking through the harsh terrains of China’s Gobi desert. But then I quickly retract and remind myself that the goal I have set is truly attainable, and not a distant and imaginary mirage.