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Getting Back to the Basics — Starting with Food

In my 2023 New Year’s blog, I offered seven steps to reset and create the life you want. The steps were not in any specific order and, in fact, step #7, Get back to the basics, is probably the most important place to start, particularly when it comes to how we fuel our bodies.  

                                                           Image by Martin Vorel from Pixaba

“The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings.

Let food be your medicine.” Hippocrates

In my 2023 New Year’s blog, I offered seven steps to reset and create the life you want. The steps were not in any specific order and, in fact, step #7, Get back to the basics, is probably the most important place to start, particularly when it comes to how we fuel our bodies.

Maintaining balance and/or regaining our balance are essential to being able to find our path, even if not the original path, to lead us to where we want to be, either the top of the mountain, enjoying the vista, or the bottom, where the camaraderie and sustenance are waiting.

The key begins with actual sustenance — good nutrition and mindfulness about what we ingest. For, without nutrients, we will very quickly lose our balance or our ability to navigate the journey.

We Are What We Eat

The food that we eat has a very direct effect on the health and vitality of our bodies. Food also has a powerful effect on the health, sharpness, and vitality of our brains and on the hormones and neurotransmitters, those brain chemicals that transmit messages our nerve cells to tell them what to do, both of which affect our emotional well-being. The food we ingest can cause depression and anxiety, and it can also help us to feel happy and energized. For example, recent research by Dr. Michael Greger has found a direct relationship between the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables we eat and our mood and level of energy. According to this research, people who eat more produce are more likely to experience greater feelings of calm, good mood, and energy. The findings indicated that the reason for this better mood and higher energy is that fruits and vegetables have high levels of:

  • dopamine, associated with feelings of pleasure and happiness,
  • serotonin, responsible for boosting mood, increasing restful sleep, improving memory, and slowing down the effects of aging on our bodies and brains, and
  • melatonin, a hormone important for restful sleep and for good mood.

In addition, plants are very high in antioxidants, which, as most of us already know, protect us from cancer and other illnesses. But did you know that antioxidants also protect the brain from oxidative stressOxidative stress is associated with a greater risk for depression. Therefore, plants (a/k/a fruits and vegetables) can help to protect us from depression.

A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that those participants who ate seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day had a 42% decreased risk of death due to any cause, compared to those who ate the lowest amount of plant-based foods. Because of the health benefits of plant-based foods — and the recent findings suggesting that animal products, such as meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy, as well as sugar, simple carbohydrates, including refined wheat flour, white rice, and white potatoes, and processed foods are often the root cause for most diseases, including cancer, hypertension, and heart disease — many nutrition experts recommend eating a mostly plant-based diet. In other words, it’s not recommended to follow the Standard American Diet (SAD).

One tip given by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) for boosting brain health and decreasing the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease is that of eating plant-based foods. Making fruits and veggies, as well as beans, peas, lentils, and whole grains, the primary staples of our diet, rather than having animal products, such as meats and dairy products, as the main staples can help us to ensure our health and vitality well into our golden years.

Some Tips for Healthier Eating

Over the years, on my radio program, Dr. Mara Karpel & Your Golden Years, I’ve interviewed several experts of healthy eating. Here are just a few of the tips they told me for finding a better nutritional balance:

  • Dr. Joel Fuhrman: “Greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds (GBOMBS)…If everyone included all of these in our diet every day, we could wipe out most cancers in America. At least one meal per day, eat a large green salad with all sorts of vegetables and maybe some beans. There should be a healthy dressing on it, maybe made out of nuts and seeds.”
  • Dr. Scott Stoll, national speaker, member of the Whole Foods Scientific and Medical Advisory Board, team physician at Lehigh University and department chairman of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Coordinated Health: “When you eat a bowl full of a combination of berries, they all work together like a marvelous symphony. They work to create this great orchestra of health in your body. Also, at every meal, add as many vegetables as you can.”
  • Chad Sarno, Chef, CCO & Co Founder of Wicked Foods and Gathered Foods: “Just minimizing processed foods and incorporating more fruits and vegetables, no matter what diet you follow, is a huge first step.”
  • One more tip: Avoid refined sugar. The National Institute of Health has found that consuming large amounts of sugar, obviously, increases our risk for diabetes. It has also been found to increase inflammation in the body, which makes us more susceptible to develop chronic immune diseases and osteoporosis. In addition, sugar feeds cancer, and it speeds up the aging of our cells and increases our risk for degenerative diseases associated with aging. And, sugar has been found to increase the physical appearance of aging, by increasing inflammation and wrinkles in our skin.

We have the power to right our equilibrium, so that we can find our back to find our path to passion and vitality, and this can begin with the basic step of making better food choices.

The next step will be literal steps — moving our bodies. See you then!

You can read similar blogs by Dr. Mara and listen to her internet radio show. Now also on Apple Podcasts.  Check out Dr. Mara’s internationally best-selling book, The Passionate Life: Creating Vitality & Joy at Any Age, now available on Audible!   And be sure to follow her on Facebook!