What is the role of food in your health?

I am sure you have thought about food and nutrition.  However have you ever paused to think about the role food plays in your determining in other aspects of your health?

Looking for some food for thought?  Sorry could not resist the pun, I know not great, but I am a nutritionist and a health coach not a comedian. 🙂

I invite you to read on.  I promise, no more attempts at humour.

The definition of ‘food’ in health

I have had a look at a few definitions of food.  Here is what I came across.

  • “Food is any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink or that plants absorb in order to maintain life and growth.”
  • “Food is any nourishing substance that is eaten, drunk, or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth”.
  • “Food is any substance containing nutrients, such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, which can be ingested by a living organism and metabolized into energy and body tissue.”

And yes I thought it wise to look up the definition of food for thought.

  • “Food for thought is anything that provides mental nourishment or stimulus.”

Food is all around us, it is interwoven in our day-to-day life.  My experience is that many of us assume we know all there is to know about food, after all it is easy to get, we can touch it, taste and use it in any what we want in our lives.  Afterall it is just food.  Or is it?

I am writing this blog to prompt you to reflect on the role foods plays in your life.

Food is nutrition

The definitions of food are pretty consistent, essentially the key words or phrases are “nutritious substances”, “life-giving” and “energy, growth and maintenance of health”.

It fits with my philosophy that food is nutrition, it is the sustenance of life, without the nutrients that food supplies we would not be alive and/or we would not be healthy.

However if you look at current health statistics you could reach the conclusion that some of us have lost touch or our resonance with this statement.  It is hard to get through a week or month without hearing our health is getting worse and it is often attributed to our desire eat foods or eat foods in a way that undermine our health.

So what is going wrong?  Where are we losing our vision of the primary role of food.

Why do we eat foods that undermine our health?

I often make the statement that what you eat and how you live your life day-to-day contributes significantly to your long-term health.

What I mean by this is that if you eat or do something day in day out, week in week out or year in and year out it will culminate in an outcome – essentially good, moderate or poor health.  Of course genetics and health predispositions and a range of other factors play a role, however let’s focus on food.

Why do we eat foods and over time develop food habits that undermine our health?  Is it because:

  • We do not know any better?
  • They are convenient?
  • They are cheap?
  • We do not care about the consequences?
  • We do understand the consequences to our health?
  • We like their taste?
  • They make us feel better when we are sad?
  • We feel better when we eat specific foods?
  • We do not give much thought as to what we eat, it is a habit?
  • We feel rewarded when we eat food?
  • We get comfort from eating them?
  • I could go on.

I believe it is all these answers.

I think for many of us the food we eat is a habit.  Something triggers this habit and we have developed an automatic response to eat something.  And from eating something we get some sort of reward, maybe we feel less sad, maybe we experience pleasure, maybe we feel nourished or maybe we feel contentment.  Whatever we call it, we get some sort of reward for eating it.

Food as a sensual experience

What is clear is that the role food plays in our life is both simple and complex.  That its role is beyond physiology and the nutrients our body’s need to live.

I consider food and the process of eating it as sensual.  Sound a little strange?  Not if you think about it.

Food has:

  • Colour so it stimulates our sight.  It is bright and colourful.  The look of it will entice us to eat it or avoid it.
  • Smell.  Its smell can trigger feelings and even memories.  It also triggers physiological reactions when we smell it.
  • Texture on touch.  Close your eyes and pick up different foods, they can be soft, smooth, rough, wet, firm etc.
  • Taste.  It can be sour, sweet, spicy, dry, creamy, watery etc.
  • Temperature.  It can hot, cold or anywhere in-between.  Who has not enjoyed a hot drink on a cold winter night.
  • Texture in our mouths.  It can we believe “literally melt in our mouth’, or it can be chewy, grainy, stringy etc.

I could go on.  I believe that food plays a role in our physiology to give our body the nutrients we need to live day-to-day life.  I also believe it plays a role in our emotions.  We are an interconnected blend of a physical and emotional person.  Food plays a role in both these things.

It can play a positive role however unfortunately it can also play or fulfil a role that undermines our health and emotional wellbeing.  I do not think it is the food itself, rather it is the way we use food or how we have developed a habit or routine in life where we have connected food to how we feel (what is going on in our emotional life).

The role of food in your life

I would encourage you to consider how food plays a role in your life?  With time and self-reflection I believe you will discover it serves to fill your physiological needs as well as some of your emotional needs.

The important question that follows is this: in meeting your emotional needs is it helping you achieve and maintain optimal health?  What do you think?

If you would like to further explore this subject and in particular what role food plays in your life I encourage you to make contact.

Wishing you a peaceful mind, peaceful speech and a peaceful heart.

Ciao Jan