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We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat.”

While we can’t blame all our problems on what we put into our bodies, the foods we consume play a crucial role in how we feel, physically and mentally.

Danielle Heard is a certified clinical and functional nutritionist and owner of Artemis in the City, a local business that offers nutrition services. She said the foundation of our health is within the foods we eat and what we put into our bodies.

“It’s important for people to eat a healthy diet to supply their body with the necessary nutrients it needs,” Heard said. “When we’re eating healthy diets, we’re helping our bodies detoxify naturally, so we’re able to reduce inflammation and excess fluids and essentially improve our moods.”

Heard has spent the past 12 years training in biochemistry and functional medicine and helps people with a wide range of health conditions. She uses diagnostic labs to treat patients with more personalized nutrition therapy, but she also provides clinical nutrition services to people across the country via telephone.

She said the key to being healthy is eating the right foods for your body, since we all react differently to certain diets and nutrition.

“We’re all bio-individually different,” Heard said. “So what’s good for one person may not necessarily be good for another person.”

According to Heard, our bodies send us messages that we often try to ignore. Headaches, fatigue, gas, diarrhea, itchiness and dandruff are a few of the ways your body might be trying to tell you it isn’t happy with what’s being put in it, Heard said.

Along with getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night, reducing stress and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, Heard has dietary suggestions for people looking to live a healthier lifestyle in 2019:

1. Select unprocessed foods in their natural forms. Eliminate processed foods (i.e. refined sugar, processed flour, junk foods, trans-fats, artificial chemicals and colorings, partially hydrogenated oils, etc.)

2. Cook and prepare your own foods so that you can control the quality and the ingredients. Heard said this is critical to leading a healthier lifestyle because “if you don’t prepare your own foods, you are giving the power to someone else to determine the quality and ingredients of your food.”

3. Eat four to six servings (1/2 cup = 1 serving) of non-starchy vegetables per day (i.e. broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, green beans, collard greens, bok choy, cabbage, radishes, onions, leeks, scallions, celery, snow peas, zucchini, etc.)

4. Drink plenty of water (preferably reverse osmosis, filtered or spring water that is free of chemicals). Heard said many underlying health issues are caused by dehydration, and when people begin to increase their intake of water, they often see those issues reverse.

5. Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids in foods such as quality fish and fish oil, hemp seeds and oil, flax seeds and oil, chia seeds, walnuts, etc. “What science actually shows is that omega-3 fatty acids actually are really important for protection and reducing inflammation in the body,” Heard said. “And they’re also healthy for our brain functioning.”

6. Choose steaming, stewing, boiling and poaching as methods of cooking to help reduce the formation of harmful advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and advanced lipoxidation end products (ALEs). These are pathogenic glycotoxins and lipotoxins that can cause oxidative damage and inflammation leading to the progression of chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease and kidney disease, Heard says.

7. Incorporate herbal teas that are rich in antioxidants and can help your body detoxify (i.e. rooibos, chamomile, milk thistle, mint, nettles, etc.) “These provide antioxidants for the body,” Heard said. “Some of them help with relaxation and they also can help with liver detoxification.”