We humans sometimes want to believe that food is just to make us happy. We relish the taste and the social aspects of eating. And while these are good things, both are really just side benefits.
What is the purpose of food?
In reality, food has only two reasons to exist. First is to make energy available, energy required to sleep and wake up and get out of bed, cook breakfast, take a walk or run a marathon, have a conversation, read a book, drive the car, so on so forth throughout our life. Without energy, eating and social interactions are not joys. You who are tired all the time know that.
The second purpose of food is to provide the vitamins, minerals, proteins, and good fats necessary to keep that energy flowing and keep you well. In other words, our bodies have to do something with the energy made available in food. When the goal is heat, a stack of firewood is no value until it catches fire. Gasoline in the fuel tank is useless if the motor doesn’t run.
So what happens when you regularly get too much “energy” from food?
First you gain weight and you keep that weight firmly in place. Just so much energy is needed by your body’s daily operation and everybody’s requirement is different. Any excess energy gets stored away; you are carrying the storage around your middle (and perhaps everywhere else). That storage capability is designed to assure that in a food shortage, there is a backup supply of energy at the “ready”. Reason, therefore, would suggest it is expected that the storage will go up and down as circumstances warrant.
Circumstances these days, however, don’t often warrant the removal and use of fat storage for energy. Lots of “energy” available at the grocery store and eating it makes us happy. So we just keep accumulating.
An ugly little side effect of that accumulation is that you want to eat more, you “stay hungry” despite an obvious excess of available energy. What causes this to happen is complicated but the end result is easy. Most people who are “hungry”, eat, thus accumulating more “energy”.
Almost without exception, excess energy from the grocery store (and fast food restaurants) is high in calories and low in nutrition. Its like whether the firewood is pine or hardwood. Pine will burn up very quickly while the hardwood will smolder for a long time. The nutrition in the food keeps the energy flowing in your body. The amount of complexity in energy flowing (metabolism) is huge but, again, the end result is easy. If you don’t get enough “nutrition” you will be sick sooner or later.
So what is sick?
OMG the list is longer than just tired all the time. There is pain, indigestion, bloating, rashes, arthritis, headaches, diabetes, kidney or heat trouble, any number of autoimmune diseases – just to name a few. Anything short of “I feel great” on a regular basis suggests that sickness is on the horizon.
There can be extenuating factors impacting health. A big one is your genetics. Discarding genetic mutations which are rare, there are two big genetic factors:.
- genetic variations in how well your own body metabolizes certain nutrients.
- whether you are actually consuming the nutrients your genes need to do their job. This is where nutrient depleted food becomes important.
So how can we head this off at the pass? Overweight, hungry, and sick are not a pleasant combination.
What foods contain too much energy, keep you hungry, and lack nutrition?
Anything NOT WHOLE including
- processed (as in ground up) grains like flour, cornmeal, grits, instant ANYTHING, and sugar
- anything MADE from processed grains like pasta in any form, bread, dry cereal, ANY chips or shells, bread, and the ever popular “sweet treat”
- fast food fried
- anything fried in or containing commercial vegetable oils (which are extracted from processed grain)
What foods provide the right amount of energy, stave off hunger, AND are the sources of good nutrition?
Start with WHOLE FOODS (usually arriving in the form that nature created) including
- meat, fish, eggs, real cheese, beans, nuts
- whole grains in whole form, stuff like quinoa, brown rice, oats, etc.
- fresh (or in a pinch frozen) vegetables from the garden, particularly leafy (like spinach), anything crunchy (like cauliflower), and anything colorful (like peppers)
- fruit (not juice)
So what should we eat?
Eat mostly whole food and minimize anything “not whole”.
What if I fix my diet and I am still sick?
If you are still sick after “fixing your diet” then your genetic variations(s) are at play. and you need to seek help in uncovering and determining a course of action to overcome that (those) limitation(s).
For example, you might have a lactose intolerance for dairy and need to eliminate it. You might be allergic to eggs and need to eliminate those. You might even be reacting to whole grains or nuts (not actually uncommon). But these are dietary changes that would be made within the category of WHOLE FOODS. Eating anything in the NOT WHOLE foods category will only make things worse.
There can also be environmental factors, like how prepared your genes are to respond to chemicals and other toxins in the environment. If this seems to be an issue for you and you need help, please just click on “contact” above, type your inquiry and send it. I will respond as quickly as possible.
If you would like to understand all this better, I suggest you buy my book, It’s All about the Food.The more you understand, the better prepared you are to make yourself healthy.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All About the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry), chairman of the Tasty Acre project, and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.