COVID-19: Adhering to MOH's Advisory on Safety Measures. Click for full details.

Using Food as Lifestyle Medicine

Using Food as Lifestyle Medicine

Lifestyle Medicine is something that has been trending of late, and have been promoted by many health specialists around the word. Have you ever wondered what is it really or how different is it from traditional medicine?

According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM), Lifestyle Medicine is the therapeutic use of evidence-based lifestyle interventions to treat and prevent lifestyle-related diseases. It includes the use of whole food, plant-predominant dietary lifestyle, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances and positive social connection as a primary therapeutic modality for treatment and reversal of chronic diseases. In essence, Lifestyle Medicine is not the same as eating your tablets and pills, but rather, just eating your daily foods in the correct and moderate manner to control your diseases. Something along the lines of “An Apple a Day Keep the Doctor Away”.

So why has this become increasingly important and popular these days? In the United States alone, chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability amongst more than half of American adults. According to research, more than half of American adults have at least one condition, accounting for 90% of their healthcare spending.

Unlike traditional medicine which treats you after having gotten the disease, this modern form of medicine is intended to prevent getting these diseases, by decreasing harmful foodstuffs and increasing healthy foodstuffs in your daily diet, and also treat such diseases holistically for the long run.

With the increasing awareness amongst the public, there is also an increase in the number of differing views on the to-do’s and not-to-do’s for this on the internet.

So we have done some ground work for you, and here are some recommendations on what to stay away from or reduce, and what to increase in your daily food intake.

Foods to Reduce

Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300mg (1 teaspoon of salt)

 

Keep Trans fat consumption as low as possible.

Reduce the intake of solid fats and added sugars.

Limit consumption of foods that contain refined grains, especially those that contain added fats, added sugars, and sodium.

If alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation —up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.


Foods To Increase

Increase fruits and vegetable intake (2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables per day)

Have at least half of your carbohydrates intake  from wholegrains

Use oil (olive oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil) to replace solid fat (butter, skin and fat from meat and poultry)

Increase intake of low fat dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese

 

Choose a variety of protein food such as seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, seeds and nuts.

 


One will observe that Lifestyle Medicine is all about decreasing what is unhealthy and increasing what is healthy. When combined with regular physical activity, sufficient sleep and stress management, the chances of falling prey to chronic diseases such as heart disease, kidney disease or liver disease might be reduced by half even.

You might also observe that it is not all about the food intake alone, but also the preparation and what goes into making the foodstuffs, which is partly influenced by lifestyle in many countries and cultures around the world. For instance, in the 90s and 2000s, frying and deep frying with solid fat or trans-fat was very popular. In recent years, however, this habit or “lifestyle” has dwindled down to probably zero amongst the health conscious segment of the public. Using healthy oils to fry your food may not only help you to stay away from fat and cholesterol related chronic diseases, but also regulate your weight issues in the long run. Many consumers are seemingly respecting the old school saying of “Prevention is better than cure”, after all.

Prevention aside, Lifestyle Medicine is also meant to treat chronic diseases differently from and complement traditional medicine. Whilst pills and tablets may help to reduce and control certain conditions in your body, using food as lifestyle medicine may ensure these diseases do not recur, for you have addressed the root of the problem that is causing a particular condition or disease. For instance, over and above medications one may consume to control his diabetes and hypertension, reducing added sugar from foods or drinks and sodium intake in general may in fact reduce your reliance on the medicines. In the long run, your organs may start functioning properly again as how they once used to, negating the need to consume so many different types of medications as well.

So what’s the take home from this? It is always not too late to make changes to our lifestyle and eating habits to stay healthy and stay away from chronic diseases.  Using foods as Lifestyle Medicines is not something too difficult or challenging to adopt; you’re just simply making some positive changes and amends to your pre-existing unhealthy lifestyle. And on a lighter note, it is not going to cost you more to reduce salt and sugar from your foods!