“You are what you eat.” I remember that was a phrase for some slogan when I was in elementary. I think we were talking about the food pyramid at that time. But being maybe 8 or 9 I didn’t really understand what that meant until in my mid 20’s when I was hit with disabling symptoms that no one had any answers for. Searching for a “cure” led me to cleaning up my diet (which I thought was pretty healthy compared to most people) and removing all processed foods. And I can honestly say that even though I now have a diagnosis for those symptoms after 10 years, I am healthier in a way because of it…because it forced me to listen to my body and feed it highly nutritious foods that it would tolerate. I no longer have those blood sugar crashes that came after eating a high carb processed snack. I no longer have those low energy moments in the afternoon. Ya, I still get fatigue during flares or illness. But I can keep up with my kids on a non-flare day…actually I can now out hike them.
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, in Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, 1826: “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” This translates into “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are”. In 1863, Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach wrote in an essay titled Concerning Spiritualism and Materialism: “Der Mensch ist, was er ißt.” This translates into “man is what he eats”. But even before their time back in Classic Greek era Hippocrates believed food could be our medicine.
Somehow with modern day conveniences and a faster pace of living we have turned eating into a habit of reaching for whatever is easy. Meaning foods in packages with ingredients we can’t pronounce, stopping at a fast food restaurant or even reaching for that newest energy drink on the market. Whatever is quick and easy to satisfy our taste buds and hunger. But with this increase in autoimmune diagnosis, Attention deficit disorders, obesity, diabetes in recent years there seems to be a reawakening of the theory that “we are what we eat”.
So with that in mind, why does food matter? Well not only do we need the macro nutrients of carbohydrates, fats and protein. But we also need the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, etc. And it needs to be in a form that the body can digest. Processing of the foods decreases nutrients in many foods. And some of the things added to foods to make them shelf stable aren’t recognized by our bodies. If our bodies can’t digest it and can’t expel it, they will get stored in body fat. If you don’t have enough body fat to store it then the body makes more fat cells. It’s our body’s way of trying to protect us from these chemicals. This will be a topic we will likely see more of in the future now that the National Institute of Health has been researching obesogens,chemicals that cause a disruption to the endocrine system leading to an increase in the production of fat tissue.
On top of the above reasons for paying attention to what we eat many of us also deal with having trouble digesting foods, assimilating the nutrients in the foods, have food sensitivities or have a leaky gut. Some foods can cause more inflammation in our bodies; some can help decrease inflammation in our bodies. If our bodies are allowed to become too acidic, which high amounts of processed foods and meats can cause, we can develop even more inflammation. We can use this to our advantage and eat for health.
So food matters.