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Prevention is better than treatment

It is always wonderful to read about advances in medicine. Especially when this involves doctors acknowledging the importance of nutrition for our health.  For decades doctors have, and many still do, claim that “you can eat what you want” or “diet makes no difference” to your health.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that their university education does not offer training in nutrition or the biochemistry involved other than identifying the three main food groups: Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats.

Dr Mark Hyman is a functional medicine doctor in Massechusetts, USA, who offers  insight into how some of his colleagues are realising the importance of good nutrition in improving health and preventing disease:

Not too long ago, a group of doctors and public health experts at Massachusetts General Hospital noticed something striking: Many of the patients who routinely showed up in the emergency room requiring the most medical services were also the patients who seemed to be the most nutritionally vulnerable.

They were patients with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other largely food-related chronic diseases. For hospitals and health insurers, these are among the highest-cost, highest-need patients. Working with a local nonprofit group called Community Services, the doctors decided to launch a study to see whether providing these patients with nutritious meals would have an impact on their healthcare outcomes.

The researchers recruited Medicaid and Medicare patients and split them into different groups. One group received regular deliveries of healthy meals that were made from scratch and designed by a registered dietitian: Each meal contained ingredients like locally caught seafood and locally grown Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, zucchini, fruit, and other fresh produce that nearby farms donated. Another group received nutritious meals, but they weren’t specifically tailored to their individual medical needs. The third group did not receive any of the nutritious meal deliveries.

What the study found in the ensuing weeks was astonishing. The two groups that had nutritious meals had fewer hospital visits, ultimately resulting in a 16 percent reduction in their healthcare costs. And that was after deducting meal expenses.

The average monthly medical costs for a patient in the nutrition group shrank to about $843—much lower than the roughly $1,413 in medical costs for each patient in the control group.



Far too many people have forgotten how to cook and prepare healthy meals. With the rapid increase in take-away and fast ‘food’ chains as well as home delivery options, nutrition has fallen by the wayside. Advertising almost vilifies preparing meals as a waste of time while promoting all the “delicious foods” that come in a packet ready for your consumption. It may take a few generations to reverse this trend, but reverse it we must.

With the increase in lifestyle/diet related chronic illnesses as well as declining fertility rates, our focus must be on consuming healthy, organic whole foods


Why are highly processed foods so bad for our health?

To answer this and help you understand, let’s start at the beginning.  Large-scale farming tends to use genetically modified seeds which are planted into over-cultivated, nutrient-deficient soils. To combat the over-farming of the soil, farmers apply lots of different fertilisers which contain chemicals that impact how the plants uptake nutrients. Then these crops are sprayed with herbicides and pesticides which enter the soil and the plants (you can’t just wash them off). Perhaps one of the most insidious of these is glyphosate. Others, like DDT, have been banned for decades but are still found in soils, plants and human beings. I could go into a lot more detail but, suffice to say, these plants are on the back foot right from the get go.

Then after these crops are harvested, the processing removes many of the nutrients only to try and replace these with synthetic forms (food fortification with synthetic forms of vitamins and minerals). To help compensate for these processes, lots of flavours are added – sugar, salt, fats (the bad ones).

The animals don’t fare much better, cramped into feedlots being fed genetically modified glyphosate-sprayed grains.  Cattle and sheep are pasture feeders and aren’t meant to eat solely grains (mostly GMO soy and corn). All animals are meant to roam, move around and seek their own feed rather spend their lives in limited space or in concrete pens (pigs). Due to the high density of animals, the producers use antibiotics to prevent cross infection as well as growth-promoting additives to speed up the process. All this enters your body when you eat the meat. Similar scenarios apply to land based seafood farming.

It is not only your health that is impaired, but also the health of your microbiome.  The good bugs in your digestive tract that are responsible for keeping your gut healthy and without which we would not be able to digest the foods we consume, are negatively impacted by the additives and sprays of processed and non-organic foods. Consuming high quantities of processed foods and beverages also affects the microbiome in your mouth leading to gum disease and tooth decay, further fuelling the bad microbes which can spread throughout your body. It is some of these bad oral microbes that are linked to heart problems. 

Hopefully this summary of how modern farming and animal husbandry, as well as food processing methods affect the nutrient content in food will help you rethink your diet and move towards a healthy, sustainable, fresh, whole foods diet.

Some tips to get you started:

  1. Find your local farmers’ market or online options for organic (or unsprayed) fresh produce
  2. Source organic butchers – either local stores or delivery
  3. Meet local fish trawlers when they return from fishing – avoid farmed seafood
  4. Join local cooking classes or go online – it’s amazing what you can Google or find on Youtube
  5. Create meal plans to make preparation and shopping easier 
  6. Gradually clean out your pantry and refrigerator, replacing “instant” meals with natural ingredients

It’s never too late to start. Start slowly or dive in – whatever suits you, just start.