In Food: What the Heck Should I Eat, Dr. Mark Hyman states, “Food is medicine, and it works faster, better, and is cheaper than any drug.” This statement, combined with rising healthcare costs which employers bear the brunt of, make employee wellness programs one of the hottest trends of today.
86% of healthcare expenditure is spent on chronic disease. Contrary to popular belief, chronic disease can be prevented, reversed, and cured with proper nutrition. Teaching your employees to use food as medicine will not only keep them healthier, but it will also save a significant amount of money in healthcare costs.
Chronic Disease Statistics
If you think chronic disease does not affect your employees, think again. Chronic disease affects one out of two Americans. Chronic disease causes seven out of ten deaths in the US. It accounts for 91% of prescriptions and 76% of physician visits (NCCDPHP 2016). It is projected chronic disease will generate $47 trillion in healthcare costs globally by 2030. That’s more than the annual GDP of the six largest economies in the world (Kresser, 2018).
What is Chronic Inflammation?
You are probably wondering how food could have such a profound impact on chronic disease. First, let’s look at inflammation, it’s purpose, and it’s causes. Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to a stressor and it’s attempt to heal itself. While acute inflammation is a good thing, inflammation that persists longer than necessary and causes more harm than good is problematic.
Many chronic conditions result from chronic inflammation within the body. For example, asthma is inflammation of the airways, arthritis is inflammation of the joints, and ulcerative colitis is inflammation of the digestive tract. Chances are you probably know someone with one of the aforementioned conditions. And, sadly, the list of chronic conditions goes on and on.
Chronic inflammation stems from pro-inflammatory foods. Pro-inflammatory foods are foods that promote inflammation. All processed foods are pro-inflammatory. Processed foods contain chemicals, preservatives, added sugar, trans fat, refined carbohydrates, and vegetable oils; none of which are beneficial to our health. It should come as no surprise the top six foods in the American diet are all processed. They include grain-based desserts, bread, sugar-sweetened beverages, pizza, alcohol, and chicken – primarily fried dishes like chicken nuggets (DIAG 2010). In general, the typical American diet is pro-inflammatory, low in nutrients, and high in calories. This leads to the typical American who is overweight and has one or multiple chronic conditions.
Food as Medicine
In order to prevent, reverse, and cure chronic disease, one must use food as medicine by consuming an anti-inflammatory diet. Anti-inflammatory foods fight against inflammation. Anti-inflammatory foods are whole, real foods that contain micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Whole real foods boost the immune system. The mineral potassium, for example, helps maintain healthy blood pressure. Dietary fiber reduces cholesterol levels in the blood. The vitamin folic acid helps the body produce red blood cells. Specifically, vegetables, legumes, fiber, and certain spices have been shown to suppress chronic inflammation. Along with being high in nutrients, anti-inflammatory foods are also low in calories.
The diet and lifestyle of the typical American are out of alignment with our genes and biology. Most are simply unable to thrive in the pro-inflammatory conditions they are all too often exposed to. Eating whole real foods in the right macronutrient balance is the best thing your employees can do to thrive in the workplace. Using food as medicine will not only eliminate chronic inflammation, but it will also increase energy levels and mental clarity. Hungry for help? Click here to begin using food as medicine.
Hyman, M. (2018). Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Kresser, C. (2017). Unconventional Medicine. Lioncrest.
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/index.htm