Nutrition & Healing: A basic guideline for healthy eating

Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an intestinal disorder. Doctors are uncertain of the causes, and even less certain of a cure. Through the years I have suffered through both the mental and physical agony of numerous relapses, but I have also felt the healing hand of God upon my life as He has worked to cure me of this debilitating disease. My first experience with healing came during college at a weekend retreat where I was ministered to. I left feeling certain God had forever healed me.

A year later, much to my dismay, the symptoms began reemerging, and within a short time I had relapsed. I was shaken because I couldn’t understand how, if God healed me, I could “lose” that healing. However, over time I began recovering and soon felt better again, and so my thoughts were less focused on my disease. Eventually, I was prayed over a second time concerning my disease, and this time I was certain that I had been healed. Yet, six months later, I experienced another relapse, although not as serious as the first one.

It was during this time that I began to realize a very important aspect of the healing process—my role! I began looking at my diet and the food I was putting into my body, and I saw that in many ways I was hindering the healing hand of God, and perhaps even working against it at times. I began to view my healing as a process, not an event. I had wanted a healing that would be miraculous and involve nothing on my part other than faith, but I have come to realize that in my case, the Lord is working to bring about my healing as I work to nurture my body in a way that is nutritionally sound.

Today, medical tests still show signs of the disease, and yet I know that the Lord is at work to keep any symptoms of my disease from resurfacing. It is my daily walk with Jesus Christ that provides me with the faith necessary to believe that he is working in my body to maintain my physical health. I firmly believe that God has brought about a tremendous amount of healing in my life, but it has not been without responsibility on my part. I believe the Lord called me to educate myself about nutrition as a vital part of my recovery and maintenance process.

My heart in writing this article is to share with you the freedom I have found in my spiritual life through taking care of my physical life. Because I cannot address the nutritional needs of everyone, this article is not intended to tell you what to eat, but it is intended to be a general guideline for your life. I am not going to propose some radical change to what you are currently doing, but I do hope that this article will lead you to begin making small incremental changes over time.

The Bible addresses food many times, ranging from which foods to eat to the preparation/sanitation of food. This is a topic I cannot address fully in this article, but needless to say, God has a lot to say about food, and we would do well to listen to His advice. What I wish to focus on, albeit briefly, is the rich history of man’s God-prescribed diet that we find in the Bible and how it pertains to our lives today.

We first see that God gives mankind “…every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it…” (Gen. 1:29b). In essence, man was created to be a vegetarian. Shortly after the Flood, God added to our diet, “Everything that lives and moves…” (Gen. 9:3a). However, He then clarified for Moses and Aaron that there are clean animals and unclean animals (Lev. 11). And of course we see a great account in Acts when the Lord revealed to Peter a vision proclaiming that God has now made all creatures “clean.”

Our bodies, although no longer perfect, were certainly designed to stand the test of time, and even in today’s fallen world they can withstand a lot of abuse. I believe that the more balanced our approach to our diet is, the more benefit we will see in our physical and spiritual lives. Relatively speaking, life is short, so we should attempt to live in such a way that will maximize the quality of our lives, for as the Bible says: “Precious [costly or weighty] in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:15). If we die before the Lord comes, our work here on earth is done, so all Christians who embrace this Hope should do as much as we can now for as long as we can. With that in mind, let us take a look at how diet can work to maximize the fruitfulness of our days here on earth.

All food can essentially be broken down into three categories: carbohydrates, lipids (fats), and proteins. Each of these categories serves critical functions necessary to maintain our physical health. The proper balance of these groups is achieved by measuring the amount of calories you consume, as well as understanding your body’s metabolism. The same amount of food will have drastically different results in two people, based upon their metabolisms. Monitoring your body’s response to the amount of food you eat is a good guideline for staying within your ideal weight. Caloric needs also change from person to person (based upon multiple factors) but generally range anywhere from 1600 (inactive female) to 2800 (active male) per day. Those calories should be consumed as follows:

  • Carbohydrates (45-65% – no more then 10% of these should come from simple carbohydrates)
  • Lipids (10-35%)
  • Protein (up to 35%)

The vast majority of people who follow these guidelines will receive significant health benefits. As I said before, my goal is to help you assess where you are in your dietary intake and help you to make small, incremental changes in your diet to increase your health. That being said, let us consider a brief summary of each category and its importance in our nutritional health.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates act as a fuel source for different cells, especially those in the brain, nervous system, and red blood cells. Your muscles also depend upon carbohydrates when you are highly active. Carbohydrates are broken down into two categories: simple carbohydrates (sugars) and complex carbohydrates (starches and fibers). Simple carbohydrates are usually found in foods high in fat or low in dietary value (sodas, candies, chocolate, etc). Excess sugar is often converted to fat (which is added to the fat we just consumed through the “junk” food), leading to an excessive amount of fat that the body cannot use and therefore must store it—not a good thing for most of us.

Complex carbohydrates are found primarily in grains, fruits, and vegetables. All of these foods provide positive health benefits when eaten. Grains should be eaten in moderation, while fruits and vegetables (for many of us) need to be consumed as much as possible. [1] Eating these foods gives you enough of the simple sugars you need to maintain your body’s energy needs without over-consuming fatty foods.

As a society, we consume more simple carbohydrates then we do complex ones. It has been estimated that each American now consumes up to 120 pounds of refined sugar every year. [2] Many experts believe that this excess consumption of sugary foods is causing our record high rates of obesity and diabetes. [3]

Lipids (Fats)

Without a doubt, one of the most hotly debated topics in regard to nutrition is our fat intake. Many of us hear the word “fat” and cringe because it is associated with high blood pressure, heart attacks, and so on. Yet, without a proper intake of fat we would very quickly cease to exist. Fat exists in three natural forms: saturated, polyunsaturated, and mono-unsaturated fats, and one unnatural form called trans-fat.

Your body needs more polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats, which come from fish, oils (i.e. olive oil and peanut oil), nuts, etc. than it does saturated fats (meats, snack foods, fast food, etc.). There are numerous reasons for this, but the main one to be concerned with is cholesterol. The body uses the fat you take in to produce cholesterol, in addition to cholesterol it naturally produces. The intake of polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats encourages the liver to remove LDL (“bad” cholesterol) from the bloodstream, and therefore prevents it from being used by scavenger cells to produce plaque. On the other hand, saturated fat reduces the liver’s ability to remove LDL and thus can lead to increased plaque in your arteries. For most people, when saturated fats are consumed in moderation, this is not a concern.

The last type of fat is a manmade fat called “trans-fat.” These fats are unusable by your body and therefore lead only to increased body fat, as well as an increase in LDL cholesterol. These fats should be avoided for those reasons alone, but research continues to show that they may cause other serious health-related problems as well. They can be easily identified on a label as “partially hydrogenated oil.” Also, don’t be fooled by packages that claim to be free of trans-fats. These products often contain just less than ½ a gram per serving, but under current regulations are allowed to claim zero grams when in fact you could be getting much more then that.

Protein

Proteins are a vital part of our overall health. They form major portions of our lean muscle tissue, which accounts for about 17% of our total body weight. Proteins also aid in blood clotting, fluid balance, hormone and enzyme production, visual processes, transportation of many substances through the bloodstream, and cell repair. However, many people consume far too much protein because the amount actually required by your body is very small (2-4 tablespoons of oils per day with two servings of fish or meat per week). Eating large amounts of protein is generally not harmful for most people.

In order to produce proteins, your body needs amino acids. There are approximately 20 amino acids, 11 of which your body naturally produces. The rest must come from your diet. They form different combinations to produce the different proteins you need. Protein-containing foods are broken down into two categories: low-quality proteins (those lacking in one or more of the nine essential amino acids), and high-quality proteins (those containing all nine essential amino acids). Generally, animal sources are considered high-quality protein, and plant sources are considered low-quality protein (with the exception of soybeans). However, this does not mean that you have to solely rely on animal sources, because you can combine plant sources together in order to obtain all nine essential amino acids. However, because animal tissue much more closely resembles our own, we are able to assimilate it much more efficiently.

Your body must contain all nine essential amino acids in order to synthesize them and create proteins. If you are lacking in even one, your body is unable to create the necessary proteins you need to complete the many processes I discussed above. If you currently eat animal sources, there is little reason to worry, but if you eat only plant sources it is a good idea to make sure you are eating a wide variety to ensure that you consume all nine essential amino acids.

Conclusion

Above all, I have learned to take a very balanced approach to nutrition. It is very easy to become obsessed about eating “perfectly,” but the Word of God tells us that our attitude toward life can be just as beneficial as the dietary actions we take. Now, even science is beginning to catch up with what God already knew when He created us.

Proverbs 17:22a
A cheerful heart is good medicine…

For years I lived under a lot of self-induced stress as I wrongly internalized many of my life events (including my illness) and consequently caused myself many unnecessary problems. The stress I created not only aggravated the symptoms of the Crohn’s disease, but also caused a lot of mental stress and physical fatigue. It was only when I gave my problems to God that I began to see His plan for my healing process. Your plan may look very different from mine, but I believe the main key is giving yourself up to God and letting Jesus be the one who shares in your burden. Give him your stress and your worries, and then begin to live your physical life in such a way that it will truly facilitate healing in your body. Picture yourself as working side-by-side with Jesus and always asking him what you can do to help bring about healing in your life.

Our bodies are incredibly complex, and they are designed to be flexible and adaptive. I believe that we must be disciplined to eat as well as we can, but I also believe that we must give ourselves grace when we do not. Creating stress in our lives will only compound any health issues we already have. Instead, let us focus on the grace we have through Christ’s sacrifice and rejoice with him in his victory so that through our joy we may find healing medicine for our body, soul, and spirit.

Endnotes

[1] Diabetics should consume “low sugar” fruits (i.e. nectarines, melons (except watermelon), blueberries, etc.)
[2] Rubin, Jordan, N.M.D., C.N.C., Patient, Heal Thyself (Freedom Press, Topanga, CA © 2003).
[3] Wardlaw, Gordon, PH.D., R.D., Smith, Anne, PH.D., R.D., L.D., Contemporary Nutrition (McGraw-Hill, New York, NY 10020 © 1991-2006).

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1 comment

  1. Thank you so much for making the article available on “Did Jesus believe that God has abandoned Him at the cross? I had come to the same conclusion using the same references, however, when trying to share with
    others I was completely shut down. Since I was not questioning their salvation and still don’ t, I was a little
    overwhelmed by the reaction. It’s as if they can talk long enough they will make me change my mind. I love finding out the truth and when something just doesn’t jive in scripture I think it is an opportunity to find out what God doing and proving how consistent He is. Again, Thank you

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