Posted on October 05 2015
By Elena Razmpoosh, MS, RD, CD
A common expression “It is in my genes” or “I have bad genes” suggests that your fate is sealed at your DNA. A fairly new science called epigenetics is challenging this belief and explains why your genes are not necessarily your destiny. Your DNA contains coded instructions that form your physical characteristics such as height or eye color. However, your DNA can also hold information that could increase your risk for developing diseases as for example diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression, or cancer. Nevertheless, while it matters what genes we inherit, scientists suggest that it matters more how these genes are expressed.
You can think of epigenetics as genetic switches that can be turned on or off by environmental factors. Environmental factors that can negatively affect the expression of your genes could be UV light, cigarette smoke, or different foods. Researchers have found that consumption of common red, blue, and green food colors often found in candies, cake decorating gels, or cocktail cherries can damage your DNA. Another common chemical in our environment, BPA, which is found in plastics, linings of cans, and most food wrappings, can also damage your DNA.
Not to worry, there are also many things that you can do to improve your genetics. For example, studies show that if you inherited the most lethal obesity gene, you can dampen it simply by taking a walk every day. What else can you do? So, it turns out there was a good reason why your mom said “Eat your greens!” Research shows that a wholesome diet, especially a diet rich in dark green leafy vegetables and other vitamin B rich foods can positively influence the expression of your genes. Think about how empowering it is to know that every mouthful of kale and every step that you take can change your destiny!
Therefore, you are what you eat-quite literally! However, epigenetics takes this phrase to a whole new level by suggesting that you are also what your parents ate and your grandparents ate. This information is quiet breathtaking, considering that your choice (this holds true for both male and female) between a milkshake or a wholesome smoothie cannot only affect the health of your child but also the health of her children and grandchildren!
So what are you waiting for? Eat (or drink) your greens and change your destiny!