Most of us know that good nutrition is important. But how, exactly, does a nutrient-dense diet help us prevent disease, fight illness, reduce pain, and recover from health problems? Good question!
Naturopathic doctors understand that healthy food itself doesn’t heal our bodies. Our bodies actually heal themselves – good nutrition simply provides the necessary fuel and materials for the rebuilding process to occur. Imagine a new building under construction. The site workers rely on regular deliveries of specific woods, metals, and other materials to assemble the building according to the blueprint. If the deliveries don’t arrive, construction ceases. If the wrong materials are delivered, construction ceases. Or let’s say the builders choose to use the wrong materials anyway, so they sacrifice the strength of the structure, inviting a dangerous collapse in the future. As the building ages, it will endure bad weather and its structural components begin to lose integrity. Imagine this building’s fate if, when something breaks, the repair technician shows up with the wrong parts. Maybe the repair technician never shows up at all. The building, over time, falls apart.
Now apply this metaphor to the cells of your body, which are responsible for constantly rebuilding and healing the tissues of our body. Without the proper nutrition, they are unable to perform their regular tasks. Injuries don’t heal properly. Body systems begin to malfunction. Over time, chronic diseases may develop. Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Heart disease, stroke, cancer, type II diabetes, obesity, and arthritis are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems.1
There is no such thing as a “perfect” diet. We are unique biochemically; what provides pleasure and health for one person may cause pain and discomfort for another. Healthy nutrition isn’t complicated, though. Here are two straightforward guidelines that apply to everyone:
- Eat a wide variety of colors and textures, especially lots of vegetables in every color!
- Avoid food products made in a factory or laboratory, which are confusing and harmful for the body. If your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, it is probably a product of industrialization.
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.” —Ann Wigmore
Caroline Hinchliff is a graduate student in Nutrition at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland. She is currently completing her internship at The Benchmark Clinic of Integrative Medicine in NW Portland.