You are what you eat

vegby Kim McCorquodale RD,CSO,CD – North Star Lodge

We have all heard this many times. But we also know “we are what are parents gave us,” meaning the genes we inherited. Well, now scientists are investigating how these 2 factors interact. The official term is “nutrigenomics.” This is the study of how our genes and what we eat interact to impact our health. In other words, specific nutrients in foods can change how our genes work. This in turn increases, or decreases, our risk for certain diseases.

This blog has already discussed the benefits of a plant-based diet, which is a diet high in fruits, veggies, and whole grains. These foods are full of antioxidants, phytochemicals and of course, vitamins and minerals. These are some of those compounds that can impact how your genes work. Let’s look at an example.

Broccoli contains sulforaphane, a phytochemical that can reduce cancer cell growth. Some people might have a certain gene that helps sulforaphane work better, so they would benefit most from eating lots of broccoli. Thus, your cancer risk goes down if you have this gene and eat lots of broccoli. Others might lack that gene, so they would benefit more by increasing intake of other healthy foods. Is broccoli not worth eating for them? Absolutely not! Scientists are just scraping the surface of this topic and will certainly discover more reasons to eat broccoli (sorry George W!).

To recap-

What your parents gave you (your genetic make-up) impacts how nutrients affect your risk for disease.

What you eat changes how your genes work, also impacting your risk for disease.

Remember- there’s no “magic bullet” food. I doubt scientists will ever know all the compounds in foods and how they interact. For now, work towards increasing those fruits, veggies, and whole grains, and you will certainly be healthier for doing so.

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