Medical professionals have known for a while now that diet impacts health in myriad ways, but there are still some frequently overlooked aspects of how wellness is influenced by nutrition. Although food choices are primarily associated with weight and cardiovascular health, it turns out what we put on our plates also affects specific parts of the body in unique ways. In particular, diet and foot health are perhaps more related than you might think.
How Diet Impacts Foot Health
Research shows certain foods produce an inflammatory response throughout the body. While temporary inflammation isn’t too much of a cause for concern, evidence suggests chronic inflammation is a risk factor for major degenerative diseases. In fact, it could be a major causative factor in coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
While inflammation is actually the body’s way of signaling the body to fight off infections, the same reaction can also cause long-term harm. When inflammation continues, it prompts the body to use different mediators to guard cells, which can actually destroy healthy tissue and cause disease over time.
This inflammation is responsible for many conditions linked to foot pain, including Rheumatoid Arthritis, gout, and psoriatic arthritis. It may also impact the plantar fascia, the tissue that runs beneath your foot, leading to a painful condition called plantar fasciitis. Diabetes, while often caused by a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors, can also be triggered in part by chronic inflammation. Complications from diabetes result in nerve damage to the foot for as much as 70% of its sufferers.
Additionally, a healthy diet helps to keep osteoporosis, or progressive bone loss, at bay. Although this condition is not isolated to the foot, it could increase the risk of stress fractures in the complex network of bones within the feet.
Fueling Up from Head to Toe
Many of the choices we can make to fuel foot health are precisely in line with the principles of eating healthy in general. Avoiding foods known to cause inflammation, while loading up on whole foods that are nutrient-rich, is one of the best options available for fighting a broad range of chronic diseases and promoting optimal health. With that in mind, here are some foods to steer clear of or consume only in moderation:
- Added sugars
- Red meat/processed meats
- White bread & pasta
- Fried food
- Alcoholic beverages
On the other hand, here are some foods that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties due to their high content of fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, or other nutrients which help to beat inflammation:
- Whole grains
- Fruits & vegetables
When it comes to dairy, there are conflicting schools of thought. On the one hand, yogurt, cheese, and milk have a high concentration of calcium and vitamin D, two nutrients that support bone health to aid in osteoporosis prevention. Yet, dairy products like whole milk, cheese, and butter are high in saturated fat, which is linked to inflammation. Your best option is to opt for low-fat dairy products instead, which are not considered inflammatory but are still packed with nutrients.