Aging Healthfully | Natural Gourmet Institute

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Aging Healthfully

Posted August 10, 2018

I turned 39 a month ago. Today, as I write this, I’m sitting by a pond, surrounded by mountains, some of them covered by glaciers more than hundreds of thousands of years old. It’s all relative, but at the same time, things feel like they are changing.

In some ways I feel younger than my age. My legs feel stronger than they used to, for example. But at the same time, my knees hurt more often, so all of it is happening at once. It is scary sometimes because these are always these reminders of inevitable change; and while I’ve chosen some change, most of which has been chosen for me.

I know 40 is “just a number,” yet, numbers do keep us grounded, forcing us to take notice and check in with ourselves. For example, cholesterol is a number, just like BMI (Body Mass Index) and blood pressure.

In my career as a physician, I’m ever aware of how much I do not know and that institutions like healthcare both over-generalize and protect us as individuals. As a chef, I realize that cooking for others is nothing like cooking for oneself, and that all people don’t equally share a passion for creative presentations or journeys; nor do they need to.

I’m not here to answer with absolutes because I think the questions that healthcare and the food industry cannot answer for us are the ones that are the most interesting. My fascination with these questions and subsequent exploration is exactly what I want to share with you.

Turmeric root, for example, touted by both science and food professionals in recent years, has limited bioavailability in the bloodstream and questionable long-term proven results. Yet I believe in its properties, pickling, sautéing, pureeing, and baking with it.  It may not make my knees hurt less, and I can’t promise myself that it is protecting me from cancer, but I believe that the questions have been solid enough to deserve exploration, and so I find a variety of ways to incorporate it into my meals.

Faith is an element of healthcare difficult to discuss, as is experimentation, for obvious reasons. But taking knowledge, even knowledge that’s not wholly proven, and playing with the way we eat and how it makes us feel as individuals is something we can and should do.

We should chew our food; concern ourselves with body composition as much as weight; link weight training with consumption; consider cortisol levels; yet ultimately, results will be the product of exploring what each of these fundamental concepts means to us individually. One’s abdominal fat percentage may be more difficult to diminish than another’s, but being mindful of its consequence and how to mediate and balance it are instrumental to empowering action.

My hope here is to ask educated, complex questions as a physician, a chef, a patient, and a man. I add that last detail because I do believe that men are still learning to express what caring for themselves means. I think many of us still need to be told it’s ok to have IBS, to be concerned about our body fat as we age, and to worry about our sexual desire. As men, we can pay attention to what our bodies are saying, even if it means drinking less, eating smaller portions, or talking with others about how our bodies are changing.

And much of it is not masculine vs. feminine. Women are often ahead of the game as far as being open, curious, and inquisitive. There is so much for men to learn from what has already been discussed and written already, and I hope that, as men, some of the lessons we teach ourselves can be broadly applied just the same way.

We are different and unique as individuals, and while what works for one man can sometimes be applied to another, we can draw from so much more if we pay attention to genders and ethnicities outside of our own.

I believe we can create momentum by asking important questions and by beginning to dive deep as we answer them. In the coming months that will be my goal: to begin answering questions regarding food and health and thereby empowering individuals to seek their own answers, all while having a little fun doing so.

Ankur Parikh, M.D. is an emergency room physician who has his earned a certificate in Food Therapy from NGI, has studied Ayurvedic Science, and learned advanced culinary techniques at Basque Culinary Center. Ankur has had a passion for food since he was young. As a first generation Gujarati American, his family, like many others, was centered around the kitchen, the gas burners, the kitchen table, and all of the space in between. Learn more about Ankur here.