What is it and Why Does it Matter?
Functional Nutrition is about finding the right way for each of us as individuals to eat—using food to maximize the potential for health and reverse dysfunction or disease. There is no single “right diet” that applies to all of us. We have different genetic backgrounds, different preferences, and different lives. We all want to be healthy, but most of us haven’t figured out just how to make food and dietary patterns serve that goal. Functional Nutrition offers the concepts, strategies, and tools to make that happen!
FUNCTIONAL NUTRITION FUNDAMENTALS
For untold centuries, humans have relied on the food supply as a source of energy, health, and connection. However, in the last six or seven decades, changes in the food supply (and in how we use it) have contributed strongly to the growing epidemic of chronic disease. Functional Nutrition developed out of a desire on the part of healthcare providers to change that picture.
HOW FOOD AFFECTS OUR HEALTH
There are three basic elements in our diets:
- Macronutrients—the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that are the building blocks of all food
- Micronutrients—vitamins and minerals
- Phytonutrients—plant-derived substances that have positive effect on health
Processed foods involve alterations in the food supply that interfere with the best use of those basic elements. Practices such as hydrogenating oils, adding sugar and sweeteners, processing the life out of grains, applying toxic agricultural chemicals, or using trans fats may make the food have a longer shelf-life or look prettier or appeal to our sweet tooth, but, as a steady diet, they make us sick.
FOOD IS MORE THAN ENERGY AND INFORMATION
Food also represents connection—families preparing and eating food together, affirming cultural bonds, enjoying celebrations and ceremonies.
Emerging science is very clear that food is a powerful influence on health. Food offers not only the calories that fuel our body’s metabolism (engine), but it also contains many diverse components that play important roles in all our bodily functions. Poor-quality food can actually create disease, and high-quality food—in the right proportions and amounts—can reverse disease and sustain health. In a very real sense, food is medicine!
grains, applying toxic agricultural chemicals, or using trans fats may make the food have a longer shelf-life or look prettier or appeal to our sweet tooth, but as a steady diet, they make us sick.
Food is actually information, not just energy (calories). Food actually tells our bodies how to function by signaling exactly when and how each different type of cell should behave in every situation. So, we want the very best information to reach our cells in order to achieve optimal functioning.
The loss of the shared family meal with food prepared from scratch has been part of the transformation that is feeding the chronic disease cycle.
HOW DOES FUNCTIONAL NUTRITION WORK?
Functional Nutrition emphasizes healthful eating personalized to YOUR genetics, lifestyle, environment, and health concerns. Functional Nutrition offers effective strategies and tools to improve your health, including weekly food and shopping schedules, healthful recipes, and recommendations about cooking and food storage methods, as well as steps to achieve mindful eating.
When you work with a Functional Nutrition practitioner from your healthcare team to help you understand and implement your personalized Core Food Plan, you will have access to a wealth of additional information to educate and support you in adopting a new approach to food and nutrition. Your provider will also determine whether other interventions are needed.
Changing eating behaviors isn’t easy, even after you are well informed about what to do. There will be ups and downs. But, unlike a diet, these changes are not harsh, short-term restrictions on your eating and they do not involve counting calories or depriving yourself of delicious, satisfying food. They are scientifically sound approaches that can benefit you for a lifetime! In fact, if you begin with a few basic concepts, you will already be on your path: eat fresh, eat color, eat texture, and (from, best-selling author Michael Pollan) eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.
Interested in learning more about Functional Nutrition? Let Avalon Health and Wellness assist you in learning more about the most effective way to harness the energy, information, and connections of food to create health and reverse disease!