Hippocrates was a Greek physician and philosopher from 400 BC, widely regarded as the father of medicine and for the physician’s mantra of “First do no harm,” as well as“ The greatest medicine of all is teaching people not to need it.”
More and more studies are confirming this to be accurate and underscoring the importance of nutrition and exercise and their role in preventing diseases and optimizing physical and mental health. So that might not exactly be news to you. But the studies are also honing in on the EXACT foods we should be eating and WHY we should be eating them.
With that said, there are a ton of misconceptions and misinformation that persists in this field, particularly about what constitutes a healthy diet. When there is so much deception out there, so much information that contradicts itself, fats are bad, fats are good, carbs are bad, carbs are good, and so on….what ends up happening is many people have unhealthy eating habits, even when they’re TRYING to eat healthily, or THINK they’re eating healthy. Also, the nutrient content of the food is not on most people’s minds. Neither is what’s been DONE to the food.
Many critical factors go into your decision-making process when deciding on what you put in your stomach. How accessible or convenient is it? What does it cost? Is it acceptable to the society you live in? Is it familiar to you? Do you know how to cook it? Does it taste good?
And last but not least, how much time does it take? Ultimately, unhealthy eating habits lead to chronic inflammation and chronic disease, and people simply do not feel their best. In the short term, unhealthy food makes you feel lethargic. It leads to things like metabolic syndrome, which goes hand-in-hand with diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, obesity, HEART disease, even dementia, and some types of cancer!
It’s estimated that 88% of the US adult population is metabolically ill! The VAST majority of adults are metabolically sick. And maybe someone who is not overweight thinks to themselves, “well, that doesn’t apply to me because I’m not overweight.” But that’s not necessarily the case because there is something called thin on the outside, fat on the inside, and they are, in fact, metabolically ill. Why are so many people sick metabolically? Metabolic syndrome develops as insulin resistance increases, which happens when we eat unhealthy food. Yes, exercise plays a role, but not to the extent of nutrition. Unhealthy eating leads to fat being deposited in places that don’t belong, like the liver, and inside muscles.
But what are healthy and unhealthy eating? And how do we know if it’s truly healthy or not? To answer that, we have to one, define what nutrition is, two, understand how nutrition studies are conducted, and three, how to interpret a study. That’s how we get to the truth.
Nutrition is a term that refers to the nutrients and foods they occur in, how the food is ingested, absorbed, and used in the body, and its effects on the body. Nutrients are categorized as macronutrients, micronutrients, fiber, and water. Macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, which provide energy to the body, and are required in RELATIVELY large amounts. Their intake and expenditure are measured in terms of calories, which are units of energy. In comparison, micronutrients are needed in much SMALLER amounts. We’re talking about vitamins and minerals required by the body. They don’t provide power but are usually necessary for metabolic processes related to the body’s use of macronutrients. They also serve many other roles that are essential for normal body function.
Fiber is not absorbed, so fiber is technically not classified as a nutrient, but it’s SUPER important for gut health and overall health. Both soluble and insoluble fiber. Macronutrients are typically highly bioavailable, meaning a large proportion of the nutrient is absorbed during digestion. On the other hand, micronutrients have much more variable bioavailability that depends on many factors.
Doctor Mike Hansen, MD
Internal Medicine | Pulmonary Disease | Critical Care Medicine
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