I was sitting at a table with a group of remarkable women.
One was a cancer survivor. Another was hypothyroid. One had fibromyalgia, and several others suffered from arthritis.
All were here at this women’s health event for one reason:
To find out how to heal.
The program for the day-long event was heavy on diet. But not “diet” as we normally think of the term. No one was here to lose weight.
Rather, we wanted to know what to eat to restore our bodies to health.
The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, knew back in 400 BC that the body could heal itself, given enough rest and proper support. He believed that food was medicine. What you ate could either restore health or promote illness.
Over 2000 years later, research is proving him right.
What you eat makes a great deal of difference to your health.
So much so that it seems faintly ridiculous to diet to cut calories when you could be dieting to fuel your body.
No one questions the fact that high performance cars need high performance fuel. Sure, it costs more at the pump, but you want your investment to be carrying you places for many years to come.
So why deny your body the fuel it needs to run at its best?
Camaraderie ran high as the women at my table shared their stories over a vegetarian lunch.
One woman was in her late 30s and had just finished her final course of chemotherapy. Her cancer survivors group was teaching her a whole new way to look after herself—and she wondered why it had taken her this long to get it.
“I was so careful with what the kids ate,” she told us. “Only the best for them, you know? I ate whatever I could grab. I was busy. I didn’t have time to think about what I was putting into my mouth, or really any reason to.”
We all nodded. Been there, done that.
“Now my whole family is on board,” she continued. “We’re buying more organic. Our food bills are higher, but compared to my medical bills it’s nothing. Better pay the money up front than pay through the nose when someone gets sick.”
But what should you eat to support your health?
Is there one particular diet that’s better than others?
Popular author and anti-aging expert Dr. Andrew Weil believes there is.
He points out that many foods contribute to inflammation in the body. Low-grade inflammation sets the stage for major diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune conditions.
Although we normally think of inflammation as a healing response—we get hurt, and the injured area turns red and hot—not all inflammation is visible or helpful. The body can even turn this immune response against itself, as in conditions like diabetes or lupus.
Our bodies need our help to keep inflammation in check, and one way to do that is through diet.
The anti-inflammatory diet puts healing foods at the foundation of every meal, while excluding inflammatory culprits such as processed foods, fast food, and foods containing high glucose corn syrup or white flour.
Its guidelines will sound familiar to most of us:
- Eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can, aiming for a variety of seasonal produce.
- Avoid bread products in favor of brown or wild rice, old-fashioned whole grains like buckwheat, and al dente pasta.
- Get your protein needs met with beans, fish, and soy.
- Make friends with fat. Snack on nuts and seeds, enjoy avocadoes, and cook exclusively with extra-virgin olive oil or expeller-pressed organic canola oil. (Store oil in the fridge to avoid oxidation.)
- Drink green tea and the occasional glass of red wine. Indulge in dark chocolate or fruit sorbet if you need a sweet treat.
- Take supplements daily, including a good quality multi-vitamin, co-enzyme Q10, fish oil, and 2,000 IU of vitamin D.
Although the anti-inflammatory diet isn’t a miracle cure, it can give your body the nutritional support it needs to fight back against illness or the effects of aging.
Ultimately, that’s all we really wanted anyway.
The women at my table knew that health challenges would continue to be part of our lives. We weren’t asking for a miracle, or even a pain-free life. We just wanted a fighting chance.
I left that day with enormous respect for the women I’d met.
Despite their health issues, they weren’t victims. They were here because they knew their health came down to them. Modern medicine could only do so much.
If we want to live a long and healthy life, we can’t rely on prescription medications and surgical intervention to save us. It’s up to us.
If we don’t take good care of ourselves, who will?