The food we eat affects every aspect of our health, every part of our body. "What most people don't realize is that food is not just calories; it's information. It actually contains messages that connect to every cell in the body." – Dr. Mark Hyman. What Dr. Mark Hyman is saying is that everything we introduce to our body contains energy and information. This energy and information are affecting our body function on every level. In this blog, I will focus only on plant-based food. Earth provides us with everything we need to be healthy. Our goal as humans is to be good stewards and guardians of the earth.
Every plant has a purpose. Nature, in its universal wisdom, grows certain plants in specific places and groups so they can provide support to each other and create a harmonious environment. Indigenous people know this very well and use this knowledge. The most used example is planting "three sisters" by Native Americans. Every plant we consume provides energy, macro and micronutrients, and information.
Today I would like to focus on the nutritional value of the plants. Let's start with the fact that the same plant could have a different effect on the human (nutritional value, energy, and information) depending on its growing condition. Rich soil increases the nutritional value of the plant. One of the characteristics of rich or fertile soil is a vast number of microorganisms. Monocultural (Monocropping) agriculture and excess use of chemicals deplete the soil and kill most microorganisms — like antibiotics affect the microbiome in our gut. Every gardener knows not to plant the same vegetables in the same part of the garden every year. But factory farms in a rush for bigger profit ignore that. This practice's devastating ecological effect could be a topic for another blog post. Depleted soil and climate changes affect nutritional value and create plant stress. In 2018 Dong J, Gruda N, Lam SK, Li X, Duan Z. in their paper "Effects of elevated CO2 on nutritional quality of vegetables: a review" stated decreased concentrations of protein, nitrate, magnesium, iron, and zinc in the plants. (Decreases in magnesium concentrations were at 9.2%; Decreases in zinc concentrations were at 18.1% in both fruit and root vegetables and 10.7% in stem vegetables; Decreases in iron concentrations were most significant in leafy vegetables at 31%, followed by fruit vegetables (19.2%) and root vegetables (8.2%).)
I always admire the wisdom of Nature. With many vegetables, we don't need to be a scientist to determine what organ it could benefit. Nature often makes some plants resemble or look like some of our organs. It gives us a clue of what organ could benefit. If we look at the slice of carrots, what organ is it reminded of? The majority will say eye right away. And you are right; carrots are rich in vitamin A, responsible for our vision health. When we take walnuts from the shell, what does it remind us? You are correct, brain. Walnuts contain fat that improves brain functions. And so on. You could make it a game with your kids connecting vegetables with human organs.
We all know the phrase eat the rainbow. Let's talk about colors in our food. I mean the natural color pigments in our vegetables, fruits, and berries. Colorful plants are a great source of polyphenols. Each color provides several health benefits, so having various colors on your plate is essential. If possible, try to avoid peeling your food. Many incredible color pigments are concentrated in the skin. Some of those pigments you can find in supplement form, but the best and safest way to get them is through food. James Joseph, a neuroscientist and senior researcher at the Tufts University Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston, said, "Well, there's a lot of research heading in that direction. But when you start taking these things apart, the compounds don't act like they do in the whole food." Even though vitamins and mineral supplements could help fill the gaps in your nutrients, we must remember that fruits and vegetables offer much more than common nutrients. Real food provides compounds you won't find in your multivitamins. It is why I am very cautious about recommending any multivitamins and supplements. Another reason is that the supplement industry is mostly unregulated. Supplements, unlike medicines, are not required to be standardized to ensure batch-to-batch consistency or be subject to clinical trials.
More diverse food on our table will promote a more diverse microbiome. "You can't overdose on vegetables," says James A. Duke author of The Green Pharmacy. Many health issues are a result of our mono diet. Limiting the variety of fruits and vegetables weakens our microbiome. "Worldwide, more than 50% of the human diet is composed of just three crops—rice, maize, and wheat—leading to diet imbalances and malnutrition." Willett, Walter, et. al. "Food in the Anthropocene: The EAT–Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems." The Lancet, 2019.
Another huge benefit of plant-based food is fiber richness. Fiber regulates the work of our digestive system, prevents numerous chronic diseases, and assists with eliminating toxins. “… fiber can help lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin, prevent cancer, balance hormone levels, remove excess estrogen and reduce the risk of breast cancer, make vitamins and minerals, provide food for the colon cells, and more.” Dr. Mark Hyman
I'm not too fond of the word diet. It is associated with temporary changes to achieve some goals. For example, your plan to lose 10 pounds. You go on a diet and, after losing 10 pounds, return to your usual eating habits. This yo-yo practice creates stress in our inner system. It is why I advocate for lifestyle and never diet. For years I have been promoting small but consistent changes. Not everyone can do 180 on the dime. I encourage every few weeks to remove one unhealthy product and introduce one healthy one. It is the most comfortable way for most healthy people. As Margaret Mead said: "It is easier to change a man's religion than to change his diet."
Our genomics does not predetermine our health. Our health is a result of our daily choices.
Disclosure: The information on this page is not intended to be a substitute for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. Always consult with a qualified health professional.
May 1, 2023