By: Sonja N. Fung, ND

The American diet is filled with calorie-rich and nutrient-poor foods. No wonder there is an epidemic of childhood obesity, ADD/ADHD, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. People are overweight but starving! So what can we do about this crisis? The answer starts with your fork!

The first step of living a healthy, vibrant life starts with optimizing your diet and nutrition. You and your loved ones can start by taking control of your body and your health. Instead of relying on fast food and TV dinners as your staples, you can save money and more importantly, your life, by buying fresh, organic (if possible) produce and proteins and cooking them yourself. Avoid the expensive packaged and processed foods filled with sugar, sodium, dyes, and a slew of other chemicals and preservatives, and be proactive in preventing future chronic disease!

When talking about nutrition with my patients, I always tell them this: Food is medicine you put into your body 3 or more times a day. Think about it a different way: junk food is poison you put in your body 3 or more times a day. There is a simple truth behind the old adage, “you are what you eat.” The difficult part is actually eating wholesome, nutrient rich foods because you have to take time to go to the grocery store and buy the foods, and then prepare and cook the food. All on top of our already busy lives filled with work, spouses, kids, school, etc.

The great thing is, eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. Inexpensive, nutritious meals can simply be a baked chicken breast over mixed salad greens and vinaigrette, or stir-fried mixed vegetables and shrimp over brown rice. Here are some other examples of nutrient dense foods: lean, organic meat, dark green leafy vegetables (kale, chard, collard greens, bak choi), berries, wild caught salmon, beans, and quinoa.

The sad reality is that most people eat calorie-rich and nutrient poor foods. Within the past decade, pediatricians have seen a resurgence of rickets and scurvy (15th century diseases) due to the lack of vitamin D and vitamin C! Our children should not be suffering from diseases from pre-industrial revolution times. Currently, the top 10 most common nutritional deficiencies are: calcium, magnesium, Vitamin D, Folic acid, Iron, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Essential fatty acids, and antioxidants.

How can you determine if you are nutrient deficient? Specialized blood tests can determine your nutritional status and can be ordered by your naturopathic doctor or holistic medical doctor. Be sure to consult your doctor to determine if these tests are necessary for you. The results can help your doctor formulate a unique diet and supplement plan specifically for you.

Do you need supplements?

Supplements should be just that; a supplement. Ideally, you should be getting you’re your vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from your food alone. However, in this day and age, our food production is completely different from the food we ate 50 to 100 years ago. Well known physician and health advocate, Mark Hyman, states that if you live a stress-free, hunter-gather lifestyle, grow your food in nutrient rich, unpolluted soil, eat organic, nutrient-dense, toxin-free food, breath clean, unpolluted air, drink clean, unpolluted water, and sleep when the sun goes down and wake when the sun comes up, then you don’t need vitamins. Do you know anyone like that? I sure don’t.

Because of the world we live in, most people need some type of nutrient supplementation. This does not mean you should buy every supplement on the shelf that looks good to you. Remember, food = medicine. Food does not equal supplements. Taking inappropriate supplements not only is expensive, but can sometimes be harmful to your body or interfere with other medication. The best thing to do is to consult a doctor or pharmacist knowledgeable in nutrition and supplementation. You would never hire a plumber to fix your car. Why would you take a chance with the most precious thing you have; your health.

The fact is, you are the only person who can take control of your health. Let your fork pave the way to a vital, optimal life, one healthy bite at a time.

Dr. Sonja Fung is a primary care, naturopathic doctor at Live Well Clinic located at 78-900 Avenue 47, Ste 102 in La Quinta, CA. For more information you can visit Live Well Clinic’s website at www.livewellclinic.org or call at 760-771-5970.

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