Hippocrates announced to the world “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food” way back in 400 B.C. Today, good nutrition is more important than ever before. Our columnist and noted nutritionist Aditi Malhotra bring you all that you need to know about healthy food and nutrition for a healthy lifestyle.
We all are at the receiving end of foods that are processed and are loaded with chemicals and additives, far from their natural state. Food selection happens with the selection of one combo meal at the nearest fast food joint. We ignore the unique genetics and experiences we were born with that dictate healthy food options. While the wrong diet can be deadly, eating right is among the cornerstones of health.
From food scavengers to internet food browsers, we have come a long way. Chemicals, additives and preservatives are added to processed foods to prolong their shelf life, not yours. “Although evolution is an ongoing process for all living beings, their genome is the result of past habits of the antecedents who came before them,” as observed by Loren Cordain, PhD, a professor and the author of ‘The Paleo Diet.
The arguments are rife with theories and hypotheses supporting fact that our genes simply have not caught up with this dietary divergence, the chief cause contributing to the epidemic levels of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity that we see today. The food supply chain has broadened its horizons altering the nutritional characteristics of the otherwise balanced unprocessed diet. This does not imply that we go back to the ‘Caveman’ Diet but at least try and adhere to the tenets of healthy eating concepts such as unpolished grains, fresh fruits and vegetables in their near-natural unprocessed state that are in sync with the existing environment.
At least 4 of the 10 leading causes of death today are heart diseases, cancer, stroke and diabetes which are directly related to the way we eat and what we eat.
We live in a digital age that is constantly being updated with newer versions. We tread through the day with confidence owing to the dependency we have on message alerts beeping incessantly and a zillion electronic notices at every step. With the proliferation of health tracking phone apps, this fast-food frequenting community confidently weigh and measure its food intake and also the resultant calorie burnout in a day.
Is there ever a pause to speculate looking back on the lives of our ancestors who were hunter-gatherers from the Paleolithic Era that ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture? Does this eat-on-the-run community- tracking its diet on smartphones, ever realize that even though their world may be evolving at a digital speed, their genes are still stuck at the hunter-gatherer dinner table. Or on the flip side, did their ancestors even foresee that food for generations to come will one day be sold frozen, packaged in plastic and metallic foils?
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Good Nutrition is one of the most cost-effective investments a country can make to advance health and development.
Many developing countries have made infant and young child nutrition a top priority included in their national policies and programs. There is an urgent need to mobilize resources, increase investments and scale up efforts to improve nutrition. Along with good nutrition as part of the overall healthy lifestyle- regular exercise, not smoking or drinking alcohol excessively, stress management and limiting exposure to environmental hazards also contribute to healthy statistics in such countries. The key to good nutrition is the perfect ratio of balance, variety and moderation.
To stay healthy, the body needs the right balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein- the three main components of nutrition.
One also needs vitamins, minerals and other substances from different kinds of food, and while some foods are better than others, no single food or food group has it all, therefore, eating a variety of different foods is essential. The need of the hour is to go ‘preventive’. For example, atherosclerosis or the hardening of arteries can begin in early childhood, but the process can be halted or even reversed with a proper diet. Gradual bone thinning that results in osteoporosis may be slowed down if the diet is made rich in calcium plus adequate Vitamin D levels are enhanced in the body. One may be genetically predisposed to diabetes, but by keeping the weight within a healthy range through diet and exercise the disease may never strike again.