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Food and Nutrition for Optimum Health

by Sandra Goodman PhD(more info)

listed in nutrition, originally published in issue 24 - January 1998

Food is so much more than merely biochemical constituents – proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals – which we often mindlessly shovel into our mouths to stave off hunger pangs or combat feelings of loneliness or depression. Since we eat food every day, every meal presents the perfect opportunity to improve our health  by choosing high quality, fresh and healthy foods rather than empty-caloried artificially flavoured rubbish. What we eat is under our personal control – preparing delicious and nutritious meals doesn’t need visits to a practitioner, the purchase of expensive equipment, or advanced qualifications or special skills. Nutritional medicine is the universal therapeutic tool available to all of us to use as we choose.

The old adage “you are what you eat” is not some old wives’ tale, but is being proven daily from research studies conducted internationally. Epidemiological research consistently demonstrates that people whose diets are rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, high in fibre, low in fat, rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and not overloaded with sugar, protein, salt, caffeine and alcohol are at significantly reduced risk of developing a wide range of diseases, including many cancers, heart disease and diabetes. This body of published research evidence has been accumulating for decades and has been replicated in the most prestigious laboratories around the world.

Furthermore, molecular research is uncovering evidence regarding the mechanisms by which many nutrients actually modulate gene expression and thereby regulate genes and proteins controlling cancer proliferation, atherosclerosis, immune and allergic response and so many other vital processes.

For example, lycopene – one of the carotenoids from tomatoes – has been shown to protect against prostate cancer, vitamins A, C and E have been shown to regulate gene expression related to cancer cellular differentiation and transformation, and selenium has been shown to disrupt DNA integrity in cancer cells, causing increased single and double-stranded breaks in DNA.

It is well-known that fresh whole foods – whole grains, vegetables, fruits, plant and animal proteins and oils, beans, seeds, and organisms from the sea, such as seaweeds and algae – are rich in vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, fibre, carotenoids, flavonoids, chlorophyll, etc. We also intuitively know that fresh whole foods are good for us and that junk, greasy, overly sweet and fatty foods make us feel bloated and depleted of energy. Yet we tend to persist in stuffing ourselves with biscuits, cakes, pies, chips, fizzy drinks, chocolate, coffee and alcohol. Why?

There is tremendous variation and controversy among international experts regarding the “optimum” diet and almost no end to the types of diets recommended by the burgeoning population of dietary experts. The conventional western medical paradigm looks at percentages of carbohydrates, protein and fat and number of calories, naturopathic practitioners recommend cleansing and detoxification regimes, often with juice or broth fasts, and Ayurvedic and Chinese medical systems consider foods according to their various qualities, such as taste, flavour, warming or cooling action and match them to the constitutional requirements of the individual.

Various anti-cancer diets are based upon quite divergent criteria – hence the Gerson diet focuses upon fresh vegetable juices, broth and raw with some cooked vegetables, the Dries diet is totally raw and focuses upon mainly tropical fruits such as pineapple, avocado and melons and the Macrobiotic diet consists of whole grains, cooked vegetables, beans and seaweed, with very little raw food.

With so many experts advocating such diverse regimes with purported success, it is evident that there is no single oracle of truth regarding the optimum diet. In my opinion, not only is there no single optimum diet right for everyone, there is also no single optimum diet right for one individual all the time. We are all changing in our tastes and requirements, according to our age, health, lifestyle and occupation. It is entirely correct that at certain times of life we may choose to eat in different ways – vegetarian, non-vegetarian, fruitarian, Macrobiotic, or the ordinary diet of where we are living. Surely we can be the judge of how we feel and adjust our diet to optimise our health.

Common sense and time-honoured wisdom dictate that different types of foods are appropriate for the changing seasons. Whereas raw food – salads, fruits – are ideal during the summer, cooked and warming foods – soups, stews, grains and vegetables – provide energy and nourishment during the winter. Of course, many experts who advocate a diet of entirely raw food would disagree, but every person is entirely free to experiment and discover which type of foods suit them best.

As every individual is biochemically and immunologically unique, so it is that foods which may be helpful for some may provoke allergic responses or sensitivities in other people. Trust your own body. There is no one magic diet, but the planet’s culinary resources are bountiful, never boring and provide endless opportunities for sumptuous, delicious and healthful meals which will be transmuted into strong, energetic and life-giving constituents within healthy bodies. Avail yourselves of the one therapy which is free to us all – food as medicine.


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About Sandra Goodman PhD

Sandra Goodman PhD, Co-founder and Editor of Positive Health, trained as a Molecular Biology scientist in Agricultural Biotechnology in Canada and the US, focusing upon health issues since the 1980s in the UK. Author of 4 books, including Nutrition and Cancer: State-of-the-Art, Vitamin C – The Master Nutrient, Germanium: The Health and Life Enhancer and numerous articles, Dr Goodman was the lead author of the Consensus Document Nutritional and LifeStyle Guidelines for People with Cancer and compiled the Cancer and Nutrition Database for the Bristol Cancer Help Centre in 1993. Dr Goodman is passionate about making available to all people, particularly those with cancer, clinical expertise in Nutrition and Complementary Therapies. Dr Goodman was recently featured as Doctor of the Fortnight in ThinkWellness360.

Dr Goodman and long-term partner Mike Howell seek individuals with vision, resources, and organization to continue and expand the Positive Health PH Online legacy beyond the first 30 years, with facilities for training, to fund alternative cancer research, and promote holistic organizations internationally. Read about Dr Goodman and purchase Nutrition and Cancer: State-of-the-Art.  She may be contacted privately for Research, Lectures and Editorial services via:   and

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