In our recommendations to our guests, we always emphasis the Ayurvedic principle of eating freshly cooked, pure foods. During the last month I came across three new studies that highlight the importance of food choices in supporting health.
The first study suggests that the nutrients made available to our cells have a direct impact on the expression of our genes. The second study shows clearly that organically grown fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and grains deliver tangible nutritional benefits. The third study discovered harmful bacteria that appear in ready-chopped and processed foods.
Let’s look at the first study, recently published in the journal Nature Microbiology, that indicates that the food we eat affects us at the genetic level.
We all know that our genes determine many aspects of our life, including metabolism. Now this new information tells us that it also works the other way around; that is, the nutrients made available to our cells might be affect how our genes are expressed.
Researchers discovered that nutrients in food alter how proteins are produced in almost every gene in our body — and this can have a direct impact on our health.
Proteins are the cell’s ‘workers’ and our bodies use them for a range of biological functions. For example, some are used as the building blocks for hair and nails, while others are used by our muscles. Other kinds of proteins carry oxygen around the body and help fight infections
If the production of protein is changed, it can have a huge effect on how our bodies grow, on our immune response and even on our intelligence.
The findings in the new research suggest that the relationship between nature and nurture is far more complicated than has been previously believed. Researchers found that while our DNA governs how metabolism works, the nutrients released from food by these processes can also, in turn, change the way our genes function.
This highlights the importance of the second study, published by the British Journal of Nutrition, which disputes the accusation that organic foods are no more healthful than conventional foods.
After reviewing 343 studies on the topic, researchers in Europe and the United States concluded that organic crops and organic-crop-based foods contained higher concentrations of antioxidants on average than conventionally grown foods. They also found that organic milk and meats contain higher levels of key nutrients that support the heart, brain and immune system. The researchers also highlighted recent mother and child studies linking consumption of organic milk, other dairy products and vegetables to a reduced risk of certain conditions, such as eczema in babies.
At the same time, the researchers confirmed that conventional foods contained greater concentrations of residual pesticides and the toxic metal cadmium. When comparing organic and conventional crops, researchers found that conventionally grown fruits and vegetables were four times more likely to contain pesticide residues.
The third study is from the University of Leicester in England. Scientists found damaging bacterial molecules that are undetectable in fresh foods, but abundant in junk food and processed items. The molecules, called ‘pathogen-associated molecular patterns’ (PAMPs) may increase the risk of conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These molecules can cause our immune systems to over-react in a manner that might be damaging to health. The researchers tested volunteers on a diet low in PAMPs for one week, and discovered it had vastly beneficial effects on their health. Firstly, their white blood cell count was reduced by 11 per cent. A high white blood cell count can indicate problems such as infection, stress, inflammation, trauma, allergy, or other diseases. When the same volunteers were fed food enriched in PAMPs, the beneficial changes were reversed.
While buying organic foods may considerably increase our food budget and while cooking fresh food every day is more time consuming than reaching for leftovers or pre-made sandwiches or vegetables, the benefits are undeniable. If organic foods are not available to you, learn about the” Dirty Dozen” and at least try avoid those foods. And try to include as many fresh fruits and freshly cooked vegetables in your diet as possible. Remember that while raw foods are full of nutrients, unless you have a powerful digestion, you may not be able to pull out the nutrients that your cells — and genes — require for optimum health. You may lose a few nutrients when you cook your vegetables, but if you steam just long enough to make your food “fork friendly”, you will be able to digest and absorb the majority of nutrients.
The Dirty Dozen — has actually expanded to the Dirty 14!
These are vegetables and fruit that, when grown conventionally, have been shown to maintain high levels of pesticide residue.
Sweet bell peppers
Through the process of eating, we are recreating our bodies meal by meal. Choice by choice we can decide to move toward health or away from it. It is never too late to begin the journey toward health and vitality. If you have been making the wrong choices, a week of in-residence Panchakarma can help remove accumulated toxins and impurities and get you back on track with cooking lessons and education in Ayurvedic principles. Check out The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa website: