Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

The Food that Fuels You

woman in athletic clothing standing at a kitchen counter cutting up fresh fruit for a smoothie
Many people use the start of the new year as a reminder to get back into their diet and exercise routine, but it’s important that we maintain these healthy habits throughout the entire year. In this spirit, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics deemed March as National Nutrition Month, devoted to the education and implementation of healthy living.

“I think it’s great to have a month dedicated to bringing awareness to the way we are eating, to what we are feeding our bodies and the kind of lifestyles we have that will contribute to our overall health. It’s good to take time to realize that food is fuel, nourishes our body and can greatly impact the way our body works if we feed it in a healthy way,” said Alba Osorio, M.S., R.D., L.D./N., a UF Health dietitian. “Unfortunately, we sometimes use food as comfort and for the wrong reasons.”

Food has many important roles in our bodies, such as being a modulator of inflammation and of gene expression, providing raw materials for structural support and membranes; it is also a controller of gut flora — good food and fiber feeds the good bacteria. Our gut bacteria has a huge influence on our health and studies have shown their role in vitamin synthesis, they are involved in bile acid metabolism and the production of neurotransmitters.

A key component to being healthy is listening to your body and understanding how much fuel it actually needs and what foods to eat. We can find ourselves turning to food when we’re stressed, bored or when we’re celebrating. This can create an association that has the potential to develop into an unhealthy dependency or emotional eating. One way to combat this is by monitoring what we eat through an app or a journal. This helps us visualize what we’re putting into our bodies each day and to find different and healthier ways to cope with those feelings, such as physical activity.

“Because of the type of busy lifestyles that we have there’s not a schedule for meals, so some people skip meals and choose to snack throughout the day instead,” Osorio said. “Of course, the kind of foods that they choose to snack on are fast foods and packaged foods rather than lean, nutrient-dense foods or fresh fruits and vegetables.”

By making small adjustments, like replacing cream and sugar from our morning coffee with fat free milk, we can make a long-term impact on our health. Another easy daily change is to read food labels before making purchases at the grocery store to further understand what makes up the meal.

As much as nutrition is viewed as an adult issue, our eating habits develop far earlier than we realize. As we grow up, so do our eating habits. However, it’s important to understand where these habits come from.

“Parents are the first models for kids to learn from, so they set an example by what they eat and also what they feed their kids,” Osorio said. “If they’re not being consistent by what they eat themselves and what they feed them, the kids are going to learn conflicting messages.”

Luckily, nobody is alone in their journey to a healthy lifestyle. UF Health provides a handful of programs and resources to help get patients on track and keep them there. Every third Thursday of the month, UF Health’s Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery team holds support groups for current and prospective bariatric surgery patients, promoting physical activity and healthy eating. To learn more about these resources, visit UF Health’s Bariatric Surgery Center.

About the Author

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Devin Nori

Summer/Fall Marketing Intern

Devin Nori is a fourth-year advertising major with a concentration in psychology at the University of Florida. Originally, Devin is from Orlando, Florida, where she served as a Communications Intern...Read More