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Smart eating: Why so SAD?

By Kari Natwick, RDN, LD
Bartlett Regional Hospital

Every day we all engage in a very powerful act: eating. Any time we pick up our fork, our body views the food that we consume as information, not just calories. The information that we communicate to our bodies “talks” to our DNA, telling it to either switch on or off genes that lead to health or disease.

So why is it, then, that as a nation, it seems our health is diminishing? Much of this has to do with the fact that the majority of people consume the Standard American Diet (SAD), which lacks many of the nutrients our bodies need to be healthy. The SAD diet is chock-full of processed foods that contain chemically altered fats and sugars that communicate the wrong messages to our body. This is a good time to ask ourselves, what messages are we giving our bodies? Food is truly powerful. In fact, I would argue that it is the most powerful form of medicine on the planet.

Here are a few guidelines that can help us all eat in a way that communicates positive messages with our genes to prevent disease and keep us healthy for life.

  • Consume minimally processed foods and eat less sugar. In the SAD diet, processed foods like soda, chips or sweets are everywhere and contain high amounts of sugar, sodium and unhealthy fats.
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables from a variety of colors—dark green, red, orange, yellow, white and blue.
  • Eat whole grains, such as whole wheat, oats, brown rice, wild rice or quinoa.
  • Eat healthy fats such as olive oil; avocados; and omega-3 fatty acids from salmon, tuna or black cod.
  • Eat a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats, skinless poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and fermented soy products like tofu.
  • Include herbs and spices. Herbs like cinnamon, turmeric and garlic contain powerful phytochemicals that reduce inflammation in our bodies. Even though we only use small amounts of these foods, they provide a lot of medicine to our bodies.
At Bartlett Regional Hospital, our registered dietitians can teach you what nutritional foods to eat to help you stay healthy. Contact Kari Natwick, RDN, LD, at for more information, or call 907.796.8691 to book an appointment.
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