Singer’s Wellness: Food as Medicine

You are what you eat.

If you really think about that, what are you today? What have you put in your body? Is it helping you move towards optimal health or away from it?

What we eat is a big factor in our physical health – food intake has been linked to high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer,  but what about our mental health?

There is plenty of research out there that shows there is a link between food and mood.  A recent study found a link between poor diet and depression. Other studies show links between other mental illnesses and the food one consumes. Taking this a step farther, studies have identified that there is a link between our immune system (up to 80% of which is located in our gut) and our mental health. Anecdotal evidence is becoming more frequent about people who have revolutionized their health and put autoimmune conditions into remission by radically altering their diet for the better,

Soooo, what is one to do with all this information? EAT BETTER!

Eating a variety of colors of vegetables is great, but you can go one step further and introduce a type of food that helps boost your immune system by helping to heal your gut and improves your digestion.

What is this food as medicine? Fermented foods.




Yogurt ( but only the plain kind the rest has so much sugar it sort of cancels out the benefits)

Pickled beets, peppers, eggplant, turnips, carrots

Fermented foods are loaded with pro-biotics, or the good bacteria that we need to keep our bodies healthy. This bacteria lives in your gut. Let’s review: there is a type of food you can eat that can strengthen your immune system, therefore improving your physical AND mental health. Yes please, sign me up.

It took me time to develop a taste for saurkraut, but it has become a regular part of my diet. I also use Kefir in smoothies where I add some frozen berries (and if my kids are drinking it, a bit of honey. I don’t mind sour tastes, but they do!) and a bit of water. You can make your own fermented foods, or you can buy them at the store. I’m not picky how you get them into your diet, just get them into your diet!


Singer’s Wellness: Eat Food

I would like to suggest to you a radical (really, it shouldn’t be radical at all, but I fear it is) suggestion that the only ‘diet’ most of us need to follow is this: Eat. Actual. Food.

If you are wondering what makes one item food or not, Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food,” gives a great answer. He says food is what you find mostly around the perimeter of the grocery store. Fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, etc.. Food products are primarily what lines the internal aisles of the grocery store. Think cereal bars, twinkies, potato chips, cereal, eggo waffles, flavored yogurt.

Here is Pollan’s advice on how to choose what to eat. He says “Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar, B) unpronounceable,  C) more than five in number or that include D) high-fructose corn syrup. None of these characteristics, not even the last one is necessarily harmful, but all of them are markers for foods that have been highly processed to the point where they may no longer be what they purport to be.” (In Defense of Food, pp 150-151).

Going a little deeper, we need plates that are filled, in descending order, with:

* Vegetables (mostly raw or lightly steamed) and fruits.

* Protein in the form of nuts and seeds whether whole, ground or in oil form, and/or meat/seafood that is not from a factory farm (free range, organic, grass-fed are good words to associate with your meat).

*Whole grains and dairy.

** In small, infrequent portions, treats of choice. Mine is dark, dark chocolate. YUM!

Here are some tips to get you started:

Sit down on a weekend day and plan out a week’s worth of meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner. I do this taking into account the schedule for a given week – kid activities, my work schedule, my husband’s travel, date nights etc.

Make a grocery list based on those meals and any snacks you will need.

Don’t go shopping when you are hungry.

Read labels on food products to see if they fulfill the list of suggestions above.

Commit to trying new foods that you might previously have not liked. You can change your taste buds that have been deadened by years of processed food intake.

Portion size still matters. Just because you are eating well doesn’t mean you have permission to eat all the things!

This isn’t about being perfect and never, ever eating something that is processed. It is about making the best choice you can in a given situation. I don’t think I’ll ever give up cookies, but I can give up pre-packaged cookies or the pre-made dough and just make my own from scratch at home, thus eliminating the ingredients that I can’t pronounce!


Let me know if there are things you do that have helped you move towards eating more actual food.

In the next post we’ll look more closely at how food can be viewed as medicine.


* I’m not a doctor, and none of this is medical advice, it is just common sense. If you’ve worked an eating plan out with a doctor or nutritionist that is working for you, stick with it!