Lifestyle Medicine: How Food Impacts Your Health

Author: Huiyi Liu


"The whole food, plant-based diet (WFPB) is the gold standard."




 Food nourishes the body and feeds the soul. It plays a significant role in our lives because what we eat is closely intertwined with our culture and entertainment, and it impacts our health. 

A healthy diet of whole foods and plant-based foods can provide the nutrition needed for your body to function at its best, and it can also lower your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and risk of developing chronic diseases.

“The whole food, plant-based diet (WFPB) is the gold standard,” said Daniel Dubay, MD, a board-certified internal medicine specialist at McLaren Greater Lansing’s Multi Specialty Clinic. “Our diets should include minimally processed or unprocessed plant foods like vegetables, grains, fruits and beans (legumes). Animal products are not necessary for our diet, not to mention, they’re generally very unhealthy.” 

The standard American diet consists of a large amount of meat and processed foods. According to the USDA’s dietary guidelines, women should be getting 25 to 30 grams of fiber and men should be getting 30 to 35 grams of fiber per day from food. However, 90% of women and 97% of men in the USA do not consume the daily recommendation.

“There are many myths about food in general. People think they need to eat meat to get protein, but that is far from the truth. Vegetables, whole grains, and beans are naturally high in protein and spinach is one of the highest-protein foods out there. Only plants contain fiber,” said Dr. Dubay.

Diet plays an important role in overall health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines chronic diseases as conditions that last one year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limiting activities of daily living, or both. One of the most common chronic diseases is heart disease. One of the major forms of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which is preventable and treatable through diet and exercise. 

Another common chronic disease is type 2 diabetes. “The number-one risk factor for diabetes is obesity,” said Dr. Dubay. “We know a healthy diet can help you lose weight in a safe and long-term way without restricting calories, which lowers these risks and can sometimes cure type 2 diabetes.”

A common myth when it comes to the chronic Type 2 Diabetes is that you need to avoid sugar and carbs. It’s most important to avoid processed fat and high fat foods if you are diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. 

“Our medical system has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to educating patients and even most physicians on what healthy eating is. We have a great lifestyle medicine program here at McLaren, and physicians can get board-certified in lifestyle medicine, which includes diet,” said Dr. Dubay.  

It is important to note that food insecurity and food deserts also contribute to poor nutrition in the nation. Food insecurity is when someone doesn’t have reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food. According to the Greater Lansing Food Bank, 14% of the people living in Ingham County struggle with food insecurities. Many of these people are children or the elderly. 

To learn more about how food and diet can impact your health, talk to your primary care physician. To view a list of primary care providers accepting new patients, click here.