HEALTHY LIFESTYLE – In Australia and New Zealand, the average person fills 7 medication prescriptions each year, for a wide range of health conditions. However, how many are using the healing powers of food to the same end?

Medication may seem the most straightforward, reliable and scientific way to manage health problems, and in some cases it is. Nevertheless, many ailments can be managed as effectively – simply by making small lifestyle changes, and the advantages of this approach are many.

Lifestyle changes can be much more enjoyable than taking regular medication … you have the opportunity to share these changes with friends and family.

Firstly, drugs can be dangerous or have undesirable side effects, while the side effects of lifestyle modification are more likely to involve increased fitness and higher energy levels. Secondly, drugs are usually prescribed only after you develop a health problem and have a single role in managing that problem.

Lifestyle changes, on the other hand, can prevent problems, and their resultant effects are, on balance, much more wide-ranging and longer lasting. Exercise, for example, burns energy (which helps control body weight), but it can also improve cardiac efficiency and blood circulation, brain function and mood, and increase insulin sensitivity and bone strength, just for starters. Food, similarly, provides hundreds of health-promoting substances that cutting-edge research is only beginning to explore and understand.


If ‘you are what you eat’, food is influencing your health every minute of the day, and can profoundly affect your chances of developing, or avoiding, serious conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and many cancers. Finally, lifestyle changes can be much more enjoyable than taking regular medication, and you have the opportunity to share these changes with friends and family. Sitting down to enjoy a well-balanced, healthy meal together is one of the life’s greatest pleasures, as well as a chance to acquire good habits that will stay with you for life.

Lifestyle changes may seem more complicated than just taking a tablet – and they are. You might wonder why there seems to be so much conflicting information about healthy eating and exercise, which can be confusing at times. However, the basics of a healthy lifestyle are actually fairly straightforward, with a few key principles that apply no matter what kind of health issues you have or what kind of food you like. You don’t even have to be a great cook.


Food is not the only lifestyle factor that has an influence on your health. Your wellbeing is profoundly affected by such everyday considerations as whether you smoke, how much sleep you get and how active you are. Increasing your activity level, however you measure it, improves physical and psychological wellbeing in a variety of ways. Aim for at least 30 minutes of planned exercise (such as walking, dancing or swimming) every day, and try to increase your activity level in ordinary everyday ways, too.

A good level of activity is 10,000 steps on a , but you can build up to this – use your car less often and take the stairs instead of the lift. For most people, weight loss requires more exercise than this – an hour a day or more – but again, if you build up gradually you will see the benefits kicking in long before the scales have moved significantly. If you do need to lose weight, it may be helpful to consult your family doctor or a dietitian for personalized advice.

Your weight is a very important determinant of your wellbeing, and it’s worth effort to get it under control. Apart from affecting how you look and feel, being overweight can put stress on your cardiovascular system and joints. An extra fat tissue can have its own metabolic effects, increasing inflammation and altering hormone levels, which introduce further health complications.

Controlling your weight is one of the most powerful actions you can take to reduce your risk of high blood pressure, liver disease, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some gynecological problems, muscle and joint conditions, and many cancers.


Eating a wide variety of foods is the first principle of a healthy diet. A more varied diet can reduce the risk of many cancers and cardiovascular disease, but it may seem strange to accept that variety can make such a significant difference: surely it would be better to find out which is the best kind of oil and use only that one, and to find out which fruit has the most vitamins and stick to eating that?

But in fact, people who choose only the ‘best’ foods still end up missing out on the full benefit of what healthy eating has to offer. For example, one type of fruit may have the most vitamins, but another is higher in , and a third may have more fiber than either of the other two. All fruits offer their own unique combination of nutritional assets and the best way to benefit from these while avoiding imbalances, is to enjoy a wide variety. The same applies to the rest of your diet.

One measure of variety is simply to add up how many different types of food you eat in a day. Nutrition Australia encourages an intake of 20 to 30 different foods on most days, after find that most Australians are eating perhaps 15 different foods. Moreover, this is true of many New Zealanders and South Africans, too.


Regularly consuming less processed foods is the key towards ‘Nude’ foods because processing often means that many of the beneficial components of foods are reduced or even lost altogether. Sometimes processing also means dressing up healthy food with the addition of ingredients that are not beneficial to health, and may even be harmful (trans fat is a good example). Food that has not been processed in this way – ‘nude’ food – is generally a better choice for good health. For example, salt is something that most of us consume in amounts that, with ageing, lead to high blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular problems.

Many health authorities recommend reducing sodium intake. However, it is difficult to reduce sodium intake significantly just by throwing away the saltshaker because most of the sodium you eat is added to processed foods during manufacturing. Sometimes you would never guess it was there. Foods that don’t taste particularly salty – bread, margarine, cheese and many breakfast kinds of cereal – are some of the foods that contribute to a large proportion of our daily sodium intake, and some commercial soup mixes, bought soup stock and condiments (such as soy sauce, for instance) contain more salt than seawater.

 ‘Nude’ foods are usually much lower in salt and contain extra nutrients that are missing in processed foods.


foods are usually much lower in salt and contain extra nutrients that are missing in processed foods. For example, a commercial apple muffin may provide 640 kilojoules and more than 200 mg of sodium from ingredients that include about 15 gm of white flour, 4 gm of sunflower oil and 6 gm of apple. Converting these to equivalent amounts of ‘nude’ foods (the flour as whole wheat, the sunflower oil as whole sunflower seeds and the apple as whole, raw apple with peel), you would be eating less sodium, as well as more than twice as much protein; 4 times as much calcium, folate and iron; 10 times as much zinc and magnesium; an extra 6 gm of fibre. And you’d feel much more fun!

However, for most people, there is nothing wrong with enjoying small amounts of processed foods occasionally, but ideally, most of your dietary intake should come from foods that undergo minimal processing, such as fresh fruit and vegetables; legumes, nuts and seeds; whole grain cereal foods; fresh lean red meat, poultry and fish and eggs. These foods contain the nutritional benefits of healing, treating and preventing a wide range of health problems.

 Let food be thy medicine and medicine can be thy food.


The idea of food as a cure is not a new one. More than 2000 years ago, in Ancient Greece, Hippocrates became famous for introducing the idea that lifestyle could affect health. He prescribed a range of recipes for particular ailments and is believed to have said ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine can be thy food’. So why are we are often more inclined to choose drugs over everyday foods to treat health problems?

Article written above is mainly derived from FOOD CURES from Reader’s Digest