Dr. Leslie Batten
Naturopathic Physician

(p) 503.860.4338 | (f) 866.561.8033

Musings of a Portland Naturopathic Physician

Take Back Your Health

I was asked by the SE Examiner to write a series of article, so for this one, I focused on healthy eating.


You can think of the human body as a walking tube. We put food in the mouth end of the tube. The nutrients get absorbed, giving us energy and everything we need to grow and maintain our bodies. What we don't need comes out the other end. For most of us, nothing influences our health and vitality as much as what we put into our mouths. What we eat and drink can determine how much energy we have, how well we resist infections, how we respond to stress, how strong our muscles and bones are, how well we sleep, how we feel, and how happy we are.

The increasing prevalence of chronic conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, digestive problems, and depression, which are affecting people of every shape and size, has alarmed public health officials, physicians, and the general public. What can one do to avoid these increasingly common conditions? It turns out that eating well, along with staying active, can do a lot to keep you healthy.

What do I mean by eating well? Eat a variety of fresh, whole foods. Here are some steps you can take to eat more healthfully:

Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce tastes good and provides lots of vitamins and minerals. When fresh produce isn't available, frozen is better than canned. Try to avoid the foods that are most often contaminated with pesticides (peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots, and pears) by choosing organically-grown.

Eat whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Eat foods made with whole grains instead of white flour. Whole grains provide nutrients (from the germ) and fiber (from the bran) that are thrown away when the grains are made into white flour. Nuts and seeds are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals like magnesium, potassium, and selenium. They also are a good source of mono-saturated fats, which can help lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

Eat organically-grown meats. Not only are they less fatty, more flavorful, and more nutritious, but they are free of pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, and genetically-modified organisms. They are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, B-vitamins, selenium, iron, and more.

Eat less sugar. This can be hard because almost every processed food has high fructose corn syrup or other forms of sugar added. Many have five or six kinds of sugar; if they used only one kind it would appear first in the ingredient list. Eating less processed food and more home-cooked foods is the best way to reduce the amount of sugar you eat.

Drink plenty of water. Another advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables is that they contain water. You need more than what you get from food, though. Water helps move food through the digestive tract. It can help prevent constipation and urinary tract infections. It keeps the body’s electrolytes balanced and carries out the toxins and waste that have been filtered out of the blood. Coffee and many varieties of tea cause your body to get rid of water, so don't rely on them for the water you need.

Everything in moderation. Try new dishes and eat a variety of different foods over the course of the week and month. Food should be tasty and satisfying, providing pleasure and satisfaction, not guilt or bloat. Take time to enjoy eating.

In addition to eating well, be active. Walk, play outdoors, take the stairs, bike; find what is pleasurable for you so you stay with it and look forward to doing it. Activity not only keeps the good food you eat from turning into fat, it also helps your digestion and makes you fit and strong.

Take back your health.

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