LIFESTYLE MEDICINE: NUTRITION
Eat Healthier. Live Longer.
Nutrition science research highlights a large range of dietary habits that can support health benefits. The diversity of possible dietary options can be confusing to navigate in the midst of conflicting suggestions from various modern health trends. As a result, many individuals are faced with the complex task of sorting through numerous guidelines to determine which nutrition practices to integrate into their daily eating habits. This process can be tedious and frustrating, ultimately leading to inconsistent dietary patterns with minimal health improvements.
The True Health Initiative, a global network of lifestyle medicine advocates, states that 70% of all Americans are overweight or obese, more than 100 million are predicted to be diabetic by 2050, and over 40% of the population is affected by chronic diseases. Studies conducted by Dean Ornish, a Clinical Professor at UCSF and a pioneer in lifestyle medicine, have shown that nutritional interventions are a key contributor to reversing the progression of chronic diseases such as severe coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Research studies have also linked dietary factors to the development of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Healthy dietary guidelines advocate for a balanced eating pattern composed of a variety of nutrient-dense, minimally processed whole foods in proper portions. Key recommendations are summarized below:
- Substitute nutrient-dense foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients in place of high-calorie foods with minimal nutritional benefits
- Be mindful of caloric intake by focusing on an appropriate combination of portion size and meal frequency
- Choose a colorful diet by consuming mostly fruits and vegetables
- Maintain a balanced ratio of macronutrients including:
- Unrefined carbohydrates – whole grains, barley, brown rice, fruits and vegetables
- Lean proteins – fish, minimally processed meat and poultry, egg whites, legumes (beans, peas), soy (tofu, tempeh), non-fat dairy (yogurt, cheese), nuts and seeds
- Healthy fats – fish oils, flaxseed oils, nuts, seeds, omega-3 fatty acids
- Minimize processed foods composed of added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and excess salt
- Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day (8×8 rule: eight 8 oz glasses) while limiting alcohol use and sweetened beverages
Even subtle nutritional changes can have major positive impacts on health outcomes. While an optimized diet is ideal, implementing a few healthy habits can add years of longevity when compared to consistent unhealthy choices. Health practitioners can provide tailored information and recommendations that combine patient knowledge with the latest research for long-term health improvements and overall longevity.