What kind of fuel are you charging your body with?
By Bahareh Salmani
Some 2,500 years ago, the father of modern medicine Hippocrates said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
As a mother of a young girl under the age of three, and in an attempt to establish the foundation for a healthy way of life for my daughter, I am on a constant journey to educate myself on the various types of diets. After all, how can I become the beacon of a healthy regimen when I don’t practice what I want to instill in my child?
You see, a mother’s role from birth until the age of five in a child’s life is paramount as the first five years are formational, structuring a child’s happiness, intellect, wisdom, growth, cultural values, emotional well-being and most importantly, the child’s health.
An integral aspect of development lies in the intricate relationship between health and the food we put in our bodies. Hence, I am consistently stimulating my child with the most wholesome and nutritious food that will be the fuel to support her daily growth.
Recently, Dr. Lanaelle Dunn, a North American board certified naturopathic physician, owner and medical director of the Chiron Clinic, drew my attention to the significance of the human gastrointestinal tract in daily life and well-being.
“The human gut is an amazing organ. It is a sense organ and it has the most neuroreceptors, second only to the human brain. The gut has to sense what we are putting into it and whether or not to use what we eat to make its own, which we call nutrition, which produces fuel for the body, or to produce an immunological reaction,” she tells Newsweek Middle East.
And to master one’s health, one must first understand how to nurture the gut. For that reason, Dunn, an advocate of a holistic approach to health and healing, places great emphasis on the singularity of each individual’s body in relation to nutrition and dietary intake, as the good doctor believes that food has become very comprehensive nowadays.
Despite the fact that the word “diet,” as a noun, refers to the type of food an individual primarily consumes on a daily basis, yet many misuse the term to indicate the abstinence from certain types of food to achieve weight loss.
Middle Eastern cultures rely very heavily on the use of animal meats, fish and dairy products, and often vegetarian and vegan diets are met with skepticism.
However, the rapid onset of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and cancer have reached staggering figures over the past three decades in the Middle East.
There is a direct correlation between genetics, unhealthy dietary intake and lifestyle choices and the onset of these chronic diseases.
Generally speaking, a plant based diet is more nutrient dense than a meat based diet because the body receives more vitamins, enzymes and fiber through plants, in comparison to a meat-heavy diet. Be that as it may, an individual or family normally makes nutritional choices based on their cultural practices, religious ideologies, way of life and financial liberties.
In today’s “connected world,” social media and most notably, Instagram, have played a significant role in creating a shift towards a global health movement. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Instagram accounts advocating fitness, nutrition and overall wellness.
What piqued my interest in healthy-living was the documentary Food Choices by Michal Siewierski. The film was very informative, but most importantly, it forced me to rethink what my daughter and I have been consuming as food and fuel to “energize” our health.
I would like to point out that amid a sea of social media “experts on nutrition,” it is vital to know that there is no one-diet-fits-all, simply because physiologically we are all different, autonomous beings.
More importantly, culture plays a pivotal role in the food choices of millions of people around the world.
In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its report on the estimates of the global burden of foodborne diseases—the most comprehensive report to date on the impact of contaminated food on health and well-being.
WHO’s findings indicated that approximately 30 percent of all deaths from food-borne diseases are in children under the age of five, despite the fact that children make up only 9 percent of the global population. As many as 600 million, or almost one in 10 people in the world become sick from consuming contaminated food.
In young children, long-term exposure to pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics that have been pumped into genetically modified food and crops can increase the risk of reproductive and developmental illnesses, immune system exhaustion, endocrine disruption, impaired nervous system capacity, and the growth and intensification of cancer.
The top three poisonous foods that have unequivocal scientific evidence showcasing the relationship between high usage and various forms of chronic diseases (mainly cancer) are corn, sugar, soy and dairy.
A hundred years ago, most people consumed only four pounds of sugar a year. Today, the average person consumes 160 pounds of sugar (a 40 percent increase). Food manufacturers add massive amounts of sugar, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup, to almost everything found in your local grocery store. Pay close attention to any label on a food product and you will most certainly find one, if not all, of these deadly foods listed on the nutritional information label.
According to Dr. Sean Penny, a homeopathic practitioner, a homotoxicologist and a certified personal trainer, it is healthy to follow an organic, dairy free lifestyle with a focus on “eating the colors of the rainbow as each color that we eat carries a different set of nutrients.”
“It is of the utmost importance to ensure that our food is clean and free from antibiotics, hormones, herbicides and pesticides,” he tells Newsweek Middle East.
Dr. Penny, who is also a member of the team at the Hundred Wellness Centre in Dubai, adds that “it is essential that our meals are plant strong and well chewed to safeguard our individual gastrointestinal tracts into proportionally breaking down food into nutritious fuel.”
But eating healthy is not the only key to having a clean body. There are other elements our diet which can corrupt our health without us even noticing.
Food quality is elemental to our health and well-being and in the past four decades, the human race has corrupted and mismanaged food production.
Forty years ago, milk was not homogenized or pasteurized and it was not pumped full of hormones to elongate the production cycle. Beef, chicken, fish, fruits or vegetables (and their by-products), unless produced through the process of organic or biodynamic farming practices, are genetically modified, cranked up and stimulated with hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and herbicides.
WHO defines genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as the process by which organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) have their genetic material (their DNA) altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. Since its inception into the market place in 1994, GMOs have been lining up on supermarket shelves for mass consumption globally.
“Taking on the responsibility of eliminating GMOs from our daily dietary intake requires us to create a wide variety of food choices into our meal plans,” according to Penny.
Regionally, access to organic and biodynamic farmed foods (animals, fruits and vegetables) are limited, but grassroots projects from Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt have been slowly gaining momentum and expanding their operations into the UAE.
Admittedly, an organic lifestyle can break the bank as the cost of living in Dubai is unquestionably high.
This should not discourage anyone from getting on the path to eating wisely and making the most optimal choices for oneself or the family unit.
Remember, the next time you decide to give your child a glass of GMO milk or some cookies, you could potentially be introducing chronic diseases or cancer cells in their body. Being healthy means eating healthy and this requires education and dedication.