By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Nutrient: “a substance that provides nourishment
essential for growth and the maintenance of life.”
Why do people change their diet? While popular answers are to lose weight (fat), or to get in better shape (adding muscle), good nutrition is in fact about so much more than changing your physical appearance. Proper nutrition–diet and supplementation–is a science-backed way to improve your health. “You are what you eat,” and everyday you have the power to decide how the foods you consume will serve you. Let food be thy medicine: heal your gut, balance your hormones, improve your mood, boost your energy, and more.
As kids, many of us were told to eat our vegetables–why? ”Because they’re good for you.”
As adults, we are told to eat our vegetables–why? “To shed some weight.”
Neither of these answers demonstrates the true healing nature of what we put in our bodies, so, without further ado, here are some of the most powerful science-backed healing properties of a healthy diet!
We all know that changing our diet can help us lose weight, but did you know that a healthy diet can improve the appearance of your skin and hair too? B-vitamins, like biotin, have been shown to improve the appearance of skin and nails. Collagen also supports healthy hair, skin, and joints!
A poor diet lacking in healthy macro and micronutrients–paired with a diet high in sugar, alcohol, and processed foods–can lead to headaches, brain fog, and fatigue. On the other hand, eating grass fed meat, healthy fats, and lots of fresh vegetables will give your body the fuel it needs to function optimally.
The Standard American Diet (“SAD” – a fitting acronym) is full of inflammatory processed foods and refined carbs & sugar which deplete the immune system, increase the rate of cancer, and increase the risk of developing autoimmune disease.
Inflammation is the root cause of most diseases: but a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods is the best gift you can give yourself to feel and function at your best!
Poor sleep–whether you’re lacking hours, or your sleep quality is not that good– can increase your risk of diabetes, decrease your immune system, and accelerate aging.
Alcohol and caffeine both impair sleep quality. Caffeine has a half-life of around 6 hours, so ideally you want to have your last cup by 2pm. Alcohol robs you of restorative REM sleep, which in addition to its dehydrating effects, lead to the next day’s dreaded hangover.
Food that positively affect sleep include veggies, grass-fed beef, chia seeds, sweet potato, wild-caught salmon, and those rich in magnesium. On the other hand, simple carbs and sugar negatively affect blood sugar and sleep–especially if consumed in the evening.
Your body *needs* fat! Fat is required for your body to produce various hormones and keep inflammation low. Carbs, especially simple carbs, can actually increase inflammation and disrupt the delicate balance of your hormones.
If you suffer from leaky gut or other gut issues, you may be deficient in gut bacteria. Probiotics, like those from fermented foods–like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha– provide your gut with beneficial bacteria which can help keep your hormones in balance.
Did you know that dairy, sugar, and gluten are linked to depression? While the Mediterranean diet, rich in saturated fat, fish, and vegetables is associated with both decreased rates of depression *and* a longer lifespan!
By now, you should have all the motivation you need to make a change for the healthier. Here are some resources to help you get started:
Jun S Lai, Sarah Hiles, Alessandra Bisquera, Alexis J Hure, Mark McEvoy, John Attia; A systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary patterns and depression in community-dwelling adults, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2014;99(1):181–197