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Nutrition is the New Medicine

By Carroll Rayner, MD | Internal Medicine

With so many diets to choose from, let’s talk about common sense facts and straightforward guidance on what to eat!

“You are what you eat!”

I love this familiar expression, first written in 1826, because we are now talking about the importance of nutrition with each other, in our schools and with our doctors. Although many of our eating habits were formed during childhood, it’s never too late to change them.

When we talk about what you eat, we mean food as the source of essential building blocks and energy for your body. The quality of foods you take in affects how you feel, your metabolism and your lifespan!

While there is no proof that one specific type of diet is the “healthiest,” what we know for certain is that giving priority to vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, plain water for thirst and food that is minimally processed is truly associated with health and wellness!  These foods are rich in vitamins, essential elements, anti-oxidants, healthy unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. They have lower amounts of saturated fats and sugars, and processed foods yield empty calories.  Scientific evidence suggests healthy eating is associated with lower incidences of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and obesity. However, it is important to check with your doctor about your personal specific nutritional needs and adjust accordingly. 

One version of this healthy nutrition is a purely plant based diet, also called a vegetarian diet. A person can obtain all the essential components of healthy nutrition without animal fats or proteins. Increasingly there are new and exciting options – even fast food can be a tasty vegetarian meal! Check out https://www.forksoverknives.com/articles/ for a few ideas.

The Mediterranean diet also has plant based food groups as its primary source of nutrition but does include animal proteins and fats. It uses ”extra virgin” olive oil in place of butter; herbs and spices instead of salt for flavoring; and animal proteins and fats in moderation.  Specifically, (and importantly!) fish is usually eaten twice a week, poultry once or twice a week, and lean beef or pork a few times a month. Low fat dairy such as skim milk, fat free yogurt and low fat cheese and a single glass of wine or grape juice complete the meal! More information can be found at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801?pg=2

Live healthy and live longer. Making just a few changes in your diet, combined with physical exercise can help you live a healthier, more wholesome life. Remember, healthy eating is all about balance.