You are what you eat… and when you eat?
There is a lot of truth to the adage, you are what you eat. If you eat a healthy diet, this goes a long way towards a healthy body and mind.
From the moment we start to think about the food we are about to eat our digestive processes start, as the various enzymes that breakdown food are stimulated by memory, sight, smell, taste and texture. So, when you think about that butter chicken meal, your stomach, pancreas, and small intestine are already preparing protease, the enzyme needed to breakdown proteins into amino acids. By the time the end products of food breakdown reach your cells, they have travelled through the digestive tract via the stomach, intestines, and liver, through to the blood stream. This whole process is designed to convert your food into molecules that are recognized and used by the cells.
Our bodies function and operate optimally with molecules created from whole foods as the cells understand how to use these components to perform the many processes needed to support our health. Conversely, molecules that come with processed foods are often foreign to the body and therefore problematic. These molecules will, at best, be eliminated from the body, but can also create havoc with cellular membranes, enzyme processes and cause toxic byproducts. The issues that may result include weight gain, fatigue, inflammatory conditions and allergies.
When we eat processed foods, we introduce foreign chemicals into the body, and this contributes to the level of oxidative stress in our body. It is important to highlight this topic, because of the damage it causes our cells, it is a key contributor to the way we age. Our bodies are more resilient when we are younger due to detoxification pathways functionally more optimally, but over time our habits either positively or negatively impact our health.
SRW founder Greg Macpherson has published ‘Harnessing the Nine Hallmarks of Aging: To Live Your Healthiest Life’[i], which explains the latest that research tells us about the how we age at a cellular level, and what we can do from a dietary and lifestyle perspective to positively influence the ageing process.
Research has shown that our nutrition and dietary habits directly affect the way we age. Essentially, as we get older, our cellular health is a key determinant of whether we experience different age-related diseases. Part of this is attributable to genetics, but we can significantly influence our health at a cellular level through the way we live, eating a healthy diet and by restricting our calorie intake.
Our biological age can differ to our chronological age and is determined by the age our cells are acting. DNA methylation is the process by which epigenetics – environmental and behavioural factors – impact the expression of our genes. It can be used to determine our biological age and whether we switch on or off our genetic propensity towards different health conditions.
Calorie restrictive diets, such as intermittent fasting, and diets high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, dark chocolate and green tea have been shown to beneficially effect longevity. Studies show this effect to be achieved through a reduction in DNA methylation, DNA damage and the accumulation of cellular debris. Additionally, it can preserve mitochondrial function (the component of our cells that makes energy), telomere length and cellular communication.
These effects are largely thought to be achieved through the reduction of oxidative stress and inflammation and enhancing the cells’ ability to repair and manage damage.
In summary, when you eat and what you eat can greatly impact the cumulative effects of cellular ageing.
Suzy Walsh BBA (Hons)., BNat., mNMHNZ is a Registered Naturopath & Medical Herbalist
[i] Macpherson, G. (2021). Harnessing the Nine Hallmarks of Aging: To Live Your Healthiest Life’. Greg Macpherson.