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Veteran Connection: What does food have to do with this? | Lifestyles


I drive with the windows down, listening to music. When Tina Turner’s song, “What’s love got to do with it,” starts, I have to turn up the stereo and sing along. Hippocrates once said, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food. After listening to Tina Turner, I ask myself: “What does food have to do with this?”

As a dietitian, I teach veterans the importance of diet and nutrition. Each person has their own unique situations, problems they face and health issues. My goal is to show them how nutrition can provide health benefits.

There are so many benefits to changing your diet, such as lowering the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. But what about depression, your immune system, or even dental and bone health? Can food also play a role in these situations?

Here are some ways that nutrition benefits someone with depression or anxiety, boosts immunity, and can improve bone health.

• Depression / Anxiety: CDC statistics show that the percentage of people with depression or anxiety has increased over the past year. The quarantine took a toll on us with reduced activity or outings. A Harvard Health article reports that severe vitamin B-12 deficiency “can even lead to worsening levels of depression.”

Eating a diet rich in antioxidants not only helps reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack, but also helps fight depression. Dark chocolate, pecans and blueberries are among the best choices. Magnesium is another mineral that can help with depression and anxiety. Magnesium is found in foods like avocados, almonds, and bananas. Vitamin B-12 and folic acid are some good vitamins that can also help. You can get these vitamins from milk, eggs, and animal protein.

• Immunity: Eating a healthy diet is one of the easiest ways to boost your immunity. At the onset of flu season, boosting our immunity through nutrition is one way to lower our risk of getting sick or getting better faster.

Find balance and get proper nutrition. Overeating and undernutrition can damage your immunity. Improve your diet by adding color to your meals. Colorful foods add many minerals and vitamins that strengthen our immune system. Zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin C are three important nutrients for boosting immunity. Zinc is found in meat, shellfish and eggs. Vitamin A is found in tuna, carrots, spinach, and grapefruit. Peppers, strawberries, kiwis, oranges, broccoli are some examples of foods rich in vitamin C.

• Dental health / bone health. Oral health is vital for overall health. Poor oral health can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. Foods high in calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin D can have a positive impact on your teeth and bones. Calcium is found in dairy products and dark leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale. Phosphorus is found in eggs, nuts and beans.

Vitamin D is important in helping our body absorb calcium. A little daily sun gives you vitamin D – and a little goes a long way. During the winter months, you can find vitamin D in foods like salmon, egg yolks, and mushrooms.


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