Healthier Plate

Nutrition: Eating to Live

May 01, 2015

By Victor S. Sierpina, MD

Perhaps no other topic is so widely debated, discussed, and as confusing as nutrition. One study confounds another. Long held sacred cows like cholesterol management in diet, eating eggs, artificial sweeteners, and so on seem to be slaughtered daily in the media and scientific journals. Daytime food shows have been so popular as we love to talk about, shop for, cook, and of course eat food. It is the human thing to do.

We are increasingly discovering that food is more than calories. It is information. Our choice of foods alters our microbiome, the critically important bacteria in our gut. These affect everything from obesity, diabetes, inflammation, and even may be related to neurological conditions like Alzheimers’ disease and autism. Genetics is no longer destiny and the food we eat and the exercise we do alter the expression of genes we are born with. This process, epigenetics, produces measureable and large outcome changes in our health destiny. Family history no longer needs to be a fate to await and endure but an inspiration to eat well, be active, and be cured.

So what is a hungry human to do? Well, the best of current advice is to eat foods you like and that make you feel good. A plant-based menu seems best for reducing all cause morbidity and mortality. The Mediterranean diet is widely held to be one of the healthiest diets because it tastes good, people stick to it, and it offers a wide variety of healthy foods. It is anti-inflammatory, encourages consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish, and healthy fats like olive oil. Yum!

I have long recommended the SuperFoods diet made popular by Steve Pratt, MD as a path to optimal health and weight management. Eating 80% of your meals off this list of colorful fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins will squeeze out unhealthy, low nutrient, junk food from your meal plans as you feel better and better.

Portion size remains important no matter what diet you choose. So eat for pleasure, eat for health, and know that this is a chance to make life-affirming choices daily.