If you like cooking your own food, nothing beats a weekly trip down to the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market.
Admittedly, Saturday mornings can get a little crazy. But despite the rush, there’s no substitute for fresh, farm-to-table meats and veggies. The food just plain tastes better, plus you’re directly supporting local farmers and producers.
Of course, if Charlotte Regional is a bit too hectic or too far away for your tastes, there are quite literally dozens of farmers markets around the metro area. You’d be surprised at the quality and variety you can find even at the small, local market near where you live. Plus, you might not have to tackle a dozen strangers just to get to the tomatoes!
Shopping at farmers markets is great for another reason, too: healthy meal planning and prep.
Granted, not everything at the farmers market is good for you—loading up on chocolate, cheese, and baked goods is always a temptation.
But seeing all those fresh, delicious veggies at great prices is great motivation (at least for us) to make a better effort at eating right. And that decision can pay off big time.
The World Isn’t Lying to You. Healthy Eating Is Important.
You are what you eat.
What you get out is determined by what you put in.
Eating healthy today keeps the doctor away.
“Enough with the clichés already!” We can already hear you saying it. But there’s a reason they’re clichés.
The truth is your diet has a profound effect on nearly every aspect of your health—in the short term and the long term. Obviously that includes the size of your waistline and the health of your heart, which are the two most common reasons people say they want to eat better. But it also includes things you might not think about.
Like, for example, your foot health.
And why wouldn’t that be the case? Just like any other part of your body, your feet need nourishment from oxygen and nutrients. What you eat has a profound effect on both the quality of those nutrients, as well as how quickly and efficiently they can be delivered (via the circulatory system).
That’s not all. Because feet are located far from the heart and are supplied by fewer and smaller blood vessels that other parts of the body, many systemic diseases affect the extremities (feet and hands) first and hardest.
And because you need your feet to do basically everything you do—standing, walking, chores, your job, your hobbies—feet that are damaged or in poor health can lead to dramatic declines in your quality of life.
A Quick Look at How Your Diet Affects Your Feet
So let’s get into some more specifics. Here are some of the biggest links between what you eat and the health of your feet.
Diabetes. About 1 out of every 10 Americans has diabetes. By some estimates, almost half have elevated blood sugar levels consistent with at least a diagnosis of prediabetes. Bottom line: too much sugar, refined carbs, and other foods that cause your blood sugar to spike and force your body to pump out lots of insulin. Over time, your body may lose the ability to respond to that insulin—in other words, you develop type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes has some very well-established implications for foot health. Long-term diabetes sufferers are more likely to develop nerve damage and poor circulation in their feet, which greatly increases the risk of ulcers, injuries, and even infections that can lead to amputation.
Inflammation. Whether you have diabetes or not, persistent and prolonged inflammation in the body causes healthy tissues to degrade over time, and makes you more susceptible to chronic diseases.
In addition to diabetes, these conditions may include inflammatory arthritis (including rheumatoid arthritis and gout), nerve damage, or even weakened ligaments. That’s right—poor diet could even be a contributing cause of your plantar fasciitis heel pain! Wild, but true.
Generally speaking, a healthy diabetes meal plan is also a good diet in general for combating chronic inflammation. You should be avoiding sugars, refined grains, and junk food and reaching for the omega-3 fats and plant foods more often.
Osteoporosis. You’re probably aware that this disease causes progressive weakening and loss of bone tissue, and that puts the bones themselves at greater risk of cracking and snapping.
Well, which bones do you think are in the most danger? A lot of times, they’re located in the feet.
Stress fractures in the metatarsal bones of the foot are often the first obvious sign of osteoporosis; they tend to break down quickly since they’re relatively thin and have to absorb a lot of weight and stress with every step you take.
To combat this, you should focus on increasing your daily intake of Vitamin D and calcium.
Alcohol and feet. Don’t worry—we’re not saying you can’t enjoy a glass of wine once in a while. Considering how many great wineries there are in North Carolina, that’d be downright criminal.
However, chronic alcohol abuse is strongly linked with nutritional deficiencies that can affect all parts of your body, including your feet. When you’re running a high BAC, your body has to expend a lot of vital nutrients—B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, etc.—in order to metabolize the alcohol. That means fewer nutrients to go around actually, you know, nourishing your cells.
Nerve health in particular is affected, which is why those who abuse alcohol frequently develop peripheral neuropathy.
Obesity. Not much to say here—the logic is pretty obvious. Unhealthy eating habits usually cause you to gain weight. The heavier you are, the more pressure you put on your feet when you stand and walk. The more pressure you put on your feet, the more likely they are to ache and break.
So How Should I Fill My Plate?
Let’s get this out of the way first: If you have a specific medical condition or source of pain, you should chat with your doctor and/or a dietician before you really dig into comprehensive dieting and meal planning.
With many foods, you have trade-offs—for example, some dairy is high in Vitamin D but also high in saturated fats—that may be worth it or not worth it depending on your nutritional needs.
That said, there’s a lot of basic, common sense suggestions that apply to most situations where healthy eating is encouraged:
- Veggies, fruits, and plant-based foods should make up the bulk of your diet. No, we’re not saying you have to become a vegetarian (or even that you should, necessarily), but either way you should still eat plenty of veggies.
- Fresh is almost always better than canned or preserved. Another good reason to hit the farmers market!
- Stay away from sugary sweets, simple sugars and refined carbs, and junk food generally.
- Avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Instead, go for leaner meats and omega-3 fats, especially fresh fish
It’s a little more complicated than that, of course, but the basics will usually get you a good long way in most cases.
So go out there and start eating healthy for those healthy feet! As always, if you do develop any issues with your feet or ankles, give us a call today so we can help.
- Myers Park: (704) 334-8682
- South Charlotte: (704) 542-8253