“You are what you eat.” You’ve probably heard that expression more than once. But how true is it? According to M.D Catherine Shanahan, what we put in our mouths has the ability to change our genes.
In medicine, diseases are believed to arise from mutations – mistakes DNA makes while generating copies of itself. Mutations were presumed to be the root cause of everything, from short stature to high blood pressure, and they were thought to be random. It’s the reason we call genetic lottery a lottery, and it was thought that there was nothing you could do about it.
However, if you have a family history of diabetes, don’t panic – you are not necessarily doomed to that fate. By changing your diet, you could potentially prevent those mutations from manifesting in your body. Dr. Shanahan, an expert in nutrition and epigenetics, has identified that the cultures with best longevity and healthy people had similar diets, all resting on Four Pillars:
Meat on the bone: When cooking meat, the more everything stays together (fat, bone, marrow, skin), the more nutrients you will get, and the better the animal has been treated (that’s why it’s very important to buy organic and humanely raised), the better for your health.
Fermented and sprouted foods: Though today we tend to think of bacteria in our food as enemies, we need some of them. For instance, yeast and other microbes contain enzymes that break down phytates in the seed, freeing zinc, calcium, magnesium and other minerals – and Kefir contains very necessary lactobacillus probiotics for our intestines.
Organs and other “nasty bits”: If you have seen one of those exotic travel shows with street vendors frying brains on a skillet in Calcutta, you probably thought “Ugh, how can they it that?” It’s all a matter of what you’ve grown up with, because brain, for instance, turns out to be a fantastic source of omega-3 and other “brain-building” fatty acids and phospholipids. Liver (when organic) is full of iron and bone marrow full of collagen. So you might want to give it a try; it might be a bit yucky at first, but some of those organs have a lot of vitamins that other parts might not.
Fresh, unadulterated plant and animal product. The less additives, pesticides and processed the food is, the healthier. As a rule of thumb, try to stay away from the frozen aisles in the supermarket. Start reading the labels. If it has ingredients you can’t recognize, don’t buy it.
Knowing that real food contains information that can direct our cellular growth in a positive way is empowering. Check our segment on ways to potentially prevent cancer below: