Food is much too often associated with weight gain or loss. From the calorie-counters to the most gluttonous of eaters, oftentimes the first things someone thinks when they put a piece of food in their mouth are, "How many calories are in this?" and "What's this going to do with my waistline?"
Sure, we're seeing plenty of other ways that food is associated with our body these days — whether that's keeping our immune systems strong, fighting cancer, or even battling a hangover, just to name a few. But despite all of the recent studies and reports that have been released about foods' positive effects on the body, too many people still think of a "diet" only as a way of controlling one's weight.
At least that's what New York City nutritionist Samantha Lynch tells us. A lot of her time at work is spent convincing people that they won't solve all of their problems by just knowing what foods will help them lose weight the fastest. Of all the patients Lynch sees, about 80 percent are strictly focused on weight loss, and it can cause Lynch's ultimate vision for their nutrition plan to become blurred.
"[They] focus so much on the calories that they become preoccupied with food, and the food they feel they shouldn't be eating. This backfires and [leads] to yo-yo dieting," she explains.
Rather than focusing strictly on weight loss, Lynch looks at nutrition from the bigger picture, and works with her clients to help them make permanent changes to their diets that will improve their overall health. Instead of just focusing on the calorie and fat counts in food with her clients, Lynch stresses the importance of whole, non-processed foods that will use the domino effect to improve her clients' overall health — foods that will boost energy, which in turn will affect their mood, support their digestion, and so on. At that point, weight loss is merely a side effect of her counseling, she says.
We like her approach, which is why we asked her to work with us again when we decided to define the necessary foods for overall health. To do this, we determined eight, fundamental pillars of health, and worked with Lynch to outline the foods that are best for each of them. While at first we thought that eight was surely too few to encompass one's overall well-being, Lynch encouraged us to see that when you overwhelm yourself with things to "keep in check," you're setting yourself up for failure. By outlining eight, simple, and of course, important, pillars, we're not only creating a plan to make you healthy, but one that you'll succeed at, too.
But while there are only eight structural foundations to your health, you'll be happy to hear there are lots of foods to consume to help you stay healthy. For example, enjoying a glass of milk before bedtime doesn't have to be just for children, because it helps improve your sleep, too, and raw oysters aren't the only aphrodisiac out there — avocados can get your get you in the mood, as well. You may already know that fiber is good for your gut, and that omega-3-rich foods support your joints, but you might not know that asparagus promotes a healthy gut, too, and that there are foods, like fried food and gluten products, that can be detrimental to your joint health.
Food affects more than just your waistline, and with informed and smart choices, it can become a tool for helping you achieve your overall health. Improve your health with food by eating your way through the eight pillars of health — we're here to help you do it.
Anne Dolce is the Cook editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce