Food for Thought and Thought for Food: Eating Correctly to Stay Healthy
Consuming food popularly known as eating is nothing more than a primitive instinctive behavior which is shared by almost all living beings. So the question of why we eat is a rather frivolous one. We all pay for our food in one way or the other but most of us don’t pay much attention to what we are gobbling down our throats as long as it tastes delectable and for our negligence our body ends up paying the real price. Food is either considered something to please the palate, curb hunger or maintain a thin figure by many if not most.
Not much consideration is given to it in terms of how food can affect health and the overall well-being. This careless attitude is putting the health of many people at risk as they don’t fully comprehend how food can potentially affect the body adversely. Today, worldwide food related ailments are on the rise and constitute a considerable burden on the health care system. Since food can influence the human health in a wide variety of ways, the ailments that arise subsequently can be multiple and diverse.
Under-nutrition is inevitable and difficult to deal with as it mostly arises due to economical strains which lead to a deficit in the available food resources but nowadays, malnutrition due to deficiency of micro-nutrients and obesity is on the rise and these problems are not necessarily resource based problems as they are most often due to people not taking the recommended diet and consuming food merely based on their personal taste preferences. Foods that are high in cholesterol and trans-fats with low nutritional value and almost no fiber like bakery products and fast foods are consumed on a daily basis. We have unwittingly adapted our taste buds to processed foods in such a way that fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains taste bland and unappealing as a result of which our eating habits are getting worst by the day which inadvertently is leading to unprecedented health risks. Lack of micro-nutrients namely vitamins and minerals can lead to not one but several deficiency diseases.
Lack of fiber in diet leads to bloating, constipation and diets that are consistently low in fiber can increase the risk of developing cancers of the large bowel. Diets high in sodium and fats lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, renal problems, diabetes mellitus and obesity. Obesity can itself lead to various problems and in women obesity has proved to, significantly, increase the risk of endometrial and breast cancer. Processed foods which are laden with artificial colors and additives are proving to be more and more hazardous with new research.
Many of these additives have been banned worldwide due to their toxicity but many of them are still being used in hefty amounts in third world countries like Pakistan where food regulations are not properly implemented. Nutrition has a great impact on health and just by incorporating healthier foods into one’s diet, we can prevent so many major diseases from coming our way. Previously, it was considered that most diseases have causative agents other than food and not much emphasis was placed on day to day diet but more and more research into this aspect has revealed how pivotal diet is for a healthy individual. An aberrant diet can lead to more ailments than anticipated before and, therefore, food has become an important tool in preventing disease.
There is an increasing need to change the eating habits of individuals from childhood as once the taste for particular types of food develops, it becomes harder to switch to healthier alternatives and change the eating habits. Simple steps can help in developing healthier eating habits for example switching to whole grain and low fat varieties of the same food and increasing the intake of homemade foods made with fresh ingredients as opposed to packaged processed ones. Canola and olive oil have a higher content of good fats and could be used in cooking as opposed to using animal derived fats. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be eaten frequently as not only do they contain essential vitamins and minerals vital for many bodily functions but also fiber and a variety of pigments and antioxidants that can protect the body against cellular injury and assist in various cellular reactions.
On the other side of obesity lie various eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. There are people who deliberately deprive themselves of nutrition in order to stay thin. Our media has played an enormous role in the development and wide scale spread of such disorders as frail and thin is portrayed as youthful, attractive and appealing when in fact it is not the case. People get greatly influenced by the celebrities and fashion models who dazzle on their TV screens daily.
In order to achieve the perfect figure of their celebrity ideals, they go to painful extremes at times like depriving themselves of basic nutrition or vomiting after every meal. This attitude is extremely dangerous and there are many who have lost their lives in their battle to become skinny. Let’s not forget the complications other than death that may ensue due to such behavior and such unhealthy attitude towards food results in much suffering.
I would like to conclude by saying that anyone can eat away their diseases or their life. The choice lies in your own hands. Food can become your best friend or your worst enemy depending on the choices you make. Maintain a healthy relationship with food for a healthier happier you.
About the Author: Nava Asad is a fourth year medical student at Dow Medical College, Pakistan and an aspiring cardiologist. She can be reached at [email protected]
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