In this episode of Discover with Dr. Dan | Proactive Health, Dr. Dan meets with health food expert Dr. William Li who has a rich background in food research. Dr. Li brings a fresh perspective to diet culture by teaching people that a healthy lifestyle is about loving the food you eat rather than cutting out food you love. Listen to the podcast to learn just how Dr. Li has mastered this idea.
Proactive Health Beats Reactive Health Every Time
Dr. Dan’s podcast is about living a proactive lifestyle that promotes preventative factors like eating right and exercising often, so what better way to celebrate this idea than to have Dr. Li share his insights to the world of proactive health? Dr. Li’s goal with his research is to prevent diseases before they ever start to develop and to teach others that preventative medicine can be more effective than treatment for disease control.
Dr. Li finds that many health professionals shy away from traditional medicines and plant-based healing because there isn’t much research done in these fields, especially when compared to that of big pharma drug research. He mentions, “If you're talking about prevention, it's very difficult to talk about drugs and it's a lot easier to talk about food.” He hopes to diminish the stigma of plant-based nutrition through educating the masses and showing how eating right can help prevent diseases from developing.
Connecting to your Food
Food is so much more than something that fills your belly. Food connects us to our heritage. It reminds us of home, of our culture, and how we were raised. It also impacts us on so many levels beyond the feeling of being full. From a young age we’re taught to eat our fruits and veggies because they’re good for us, but what truly makes them nourishing to the human body? This is where Dr. Li’s research is mainly focused. Through his research he’s discovered how food has profound effects on our mental health. For example, “Having some dark chocolate … can actually help to uplift your mood as well,” because dark chocolates are often rich in polyphenols and other mood-boosting, bioactive compounds.
“First thing [that] I tell people is that when it comes to your mood, you should eat something that makes you happy. So you should love your food to love your health.”
Understanding your food and creating a connection to what you eat is really important when eating for health. As Dr. Li mentions, we should be enjoying our food and loving what we consume without worrying about what to cut out of our diets. To do this, we need to have an understanding of what makes certain foods good and healthy for our bodies on a molecular level. Foods rich in nutrients, often plant based, are some of the best things we can eat and it doesn’t always have to be boring. If you're tired of eating “rabbit food,” try spicing it up by adding red pepper flakes to your dressing which are metabolism boosters. Sprinkle on some olive oil and fresh berries to take it up a notch.
Why You Should Shop Organic
The war between organic and nonorganic produce is ongoing as new research uncovers benefits to both. According to Dr. Li, the best foods to eat are usually organic but if you don’t have the means to purchase such items, do what you can to get fresh produce. One of the many reasons that organic trumps nonorganic produce is the lack of pesticides left on the skin. Dr Li suggests that it’s nearly impossible to scrub pesticides off the skin of produce so when possible, we should eat organically if able. Another benefit of organically grown food is the defense mechanisms that happen naturally within the plant to give us higher amounts of nutrients. Dr. Li uses the example of strawberries and how they are so much better for us to eat when grown organically. “An organically grown strawberry has more ellagic acid per unit weight because the insects have been nibbling at the leaves and the stems. And so it responds to create more defense, which then we get to benefit from.”
As we build connections with our food and learn more about what makes certain foods better for the human body, we will be able to prevent more diseases from ever developing and will live longer, healthier lives.
To learn more about loving the food you eat and eating to beat disease, check out the Discover | Dr. Dan Proactive Health podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday.