What Food Can Do For Your Health
Food, the meaning of food, the reasons to eat food and the effects of food on our bodies and psyches is profound. Food is for nourishment and nutrition. Food can also be thought of as medicine.
A healthy diet can benefit your overall mental and physical health - and can help improve your immune system and lose weight. Knowing what the best diet is for your age, genetics, sex and metabolism is an area of research that is growing among nutritionists and physicians.
Foods That Improve Your Mind
Some foods are known as comfort foods and can help with mental health.
- Chicken Noodle Soup - Studies have shown that a hearty bowl of chicken noodle soup may help clear nasal congestion, soothe a sore throat and help reduce inflammation associated with colds and flu.
- Dark Chocolate - Sharing and eating chocolate with a loved one. Small portions of dark chocolate can help reduce high blood pressure, reduce LDL (“the bad cholesterol") and may reduce the risk of diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity.
- Warm Liquids - Warm soup, tea or coffee on a cold day can help improve your overall mood and and energy levels. Green tea is a good choice because it is rich in anti-oxidants.
- Comfort Foods - Eating your favorite food can provide your comfort when you need a pick me up.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and foods rich in B-complex can elevate the mood and can help some postpartum mood symptoms.
- Zinc – Low levels of Zinc have been associated with depression. Eating foods rich Zinc can help improve your mood.
Foods That Improve and Repair Your Body
There is quite a bit of research on food's physiologic effects on the body.
- Beets - Drink some beet juice prior to your jog and increase your endurance by five percent. Beet juice boosts your stamina by helping to make your muscles more efficient. Eating beets also appear to help lower blood pressure. (FYI - Excessive beet ingestion can color your stool red.)
- Watermelon - Bite into a juicy watermelon after your work-out to soothe your sore muscles. L-citrulline is the secret ingredient in watermelon that accelerates muscle repair.
- Pineapple - Chew on some juicy pineapple fruit and the pineapple stem to help osteo-arthritis pain. Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapples and has been used as an anti-inflammatory that helps your body fight pain and inflammation.
- Protein - The type of protein you ingest can affect your body and metabolism.
- Fermented Foods - Fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, pickles, and sauerkraut helps your gut microbiome.
- Citrus Foods – Citrus Foods are rich in citrate which may help reduce calcium oxalate kidney stones.
- Coffee/Caffeine - Caffeine in the form of coffee or tea in moderation can help reduce liver fat. And green tea is rich in anti-oxidants.
- Oatmeal, Apple Pectin, Garlic, Soy Protein - These foods are all associated with reducing cholesterol levels.
Foods That Help Your Skin
- Eating orange foods like carrots, pumpkin and peaches can give your skin a warm, natural tone since these foods are rich in natural beta-carotene. Be wary about ingesting excessive amounts of orange foods or you will develop beta-carotenemia in which the skin appears yellow and jaundiced from excessive yellow pigments.
How Protein Powder Can Help Improve Muscle Mass
Protein powder is an excellent and convenient food option that can help you improve lean muscle mass while reducing body fat when used in concert with exercise. There are several different types of protein powders available with the most common being milk and soy protein based.
The milk-derived protein shakes that feature whey and casein have been shown to be optimal for muscle growth and even tendon growth!
For women with tendonitis and tendon problems, I recommend 10-20 grams of whey protein daily as a meal substitute as long as they have NO kidney problems.
If you want the highest quality, leanest, and most growth-promoting protein powder, we recommend looking for one of the following:
- Whey protein isolate
- Hydrolysate product
Reduce Belly Fat With Protein Shakes
For midlife women concerned about midlife belly fat, hot flashes and elevated cholesterol levels, they may want to consider low glycemic soy protein shakes that contain calcium and 20 grams of soy protein.
For midlife women watching weight and calories, you can NOT just add protein supplement, you have to substitute it as otherwise you may ingest too many calories. There are several different flavors, and some protein powders come with caffeine while many do not.
Foods that Affect Medication Levels
Grapefruit is perhaps the biggest medicine offender! Grapefruit is rich in vitamin C , potassium and magnesium, but it creates a nutrient-drug interaction with more than 85 different medications. These medications are extensively metabolized by cytochrome P450 enzymes (CYP3A4) before they ever reach systemic circulation.
The primary mechanism of the grapefruit juice-drug interaction is inhibition of CYP3A4, a mechanism that reduces drug metabolism. This results in higher amounts of un-metabolized drug in the body's circulation.
What Medications are Affected by Grapefruit?
The list includes medications for:
- High blood pressure
- Cancer medications
- Crohn disease
- Hormonal Contraceptives
- Cholesterol lowering medications like “statins’
The furanocoumarins in grapefruit juice are the primary culprits in drug interaction, however this substance is found in Seville oranges and limes as well.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy veggies can affect vitamin K levels which in turn can affect Warfarin (Coumadin®) levels.
Calcium Rich Foods
Calcium-rich foods like milk and cheese which are great for your bones can interfere with antibiotics.
Pickled and Fermented Foods
Pickled/Fermented foods which contain tyramine can increase MAO inhibitor levels.
Potatoes and other foods like eggplants can slow the clearance of some medications like anesthetics and should be avoided prior to surgery that requires general anesthesia.
Read the label and be sure to talk with your physician, nutritionist and/or pharmacist about food medication interactions as well as the benefits of food as a healing therapy!
Be Strong. Be Healthy. Be in Charge!
- Holly L. Thacker, MD and Stetson T. Thacker, PhD
Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Thacker is also the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause. Her special interests and areas of research including menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health.
Stetson Thacker holds a PhD in Molecular Medicine from Case Western Reserve University. He studies PTEN mutation as an inherited risk factor for autism spectrum disorders and cancer at the Lerner Research Institute. Stetson's research can be found at his ORCID page or his Google Scholar profile. You can follow Stetson on Twitter at @stetson_thacker.
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