Monday, March 7, 2016

Do The Foods We Eat Affect Our Health?

The human body is one of the most complex and fascinating subjects that can be studied. Simple functions like breathing, digestion, and immune function are extremely complex when broken down. The body is smart and almost always knows how to handle anything, but what if we are unknowingly sabotaging our bodies by simply choosing to eat certain foods?

            At a young age you hear it over and over again, “be sure to eat your fruits and vegetables”. At some point you become an age where you are able to choose what you eat. You no longer have to sit at the table and have a staring contest with despised green vegetables. Some fast food, processed foods, and pre-made meals can be tasty, but are they the right choice?
            Some of the most common and widely available foods can cause inflammation in the body. To break this down, the immune system works to attack anything recognized as foreign to help keep you healthy. Invading microbes, plant pollen, or certain chemicals can be the cause of inflammation, but certain foods can also cause this process to occur. Many major diseases that are linked to inflammation include: certain types of cancers, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s. Foods that inflame are usually those that lead to weight gain. Weight gain can cause so much stress on the body that the immune system sees excess fat as an invader, thus causing a major disease to develop and leading to poor health.

            Foods that inflame:
·      Refined carbohydrates (white breads and pastries)
·      French fries and other fried foods
·      Sodas and other sweetened drinks
·      Red meat (burgers, steaks, and processed meats)
·      Margarine, shortening, and lard

On the other end of the spectrum, there are foods that are known to be anti-inflammatory. This doesn’t mean that you can eat as much junk food as you want, and then counter-act the harm by eating known anti-inflammatory foods. Those who eat these nutrient-dense foods are healthier and less likely to be obese and develop chronic disease. This doesn’t mean that all other fruits and vegetables other than the ones on this list aren’t good for you. It is important to keep a well-balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Foods that are anti-inflammatory:
·      Tomatoes
·      Olive oil
·      Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, and collards)
·      Fatty Fish (salmon and tuna)
·      Nuts (almonds and walnuts)
·      Fruits (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges)

Having a little bit of everything, but not a lot of anything can be the key to finding nutritional balance. 

Kayti Persall
Community Wellness Coordinator
Cullman City Parks & Recreation