Culinary Genomics: Conversing with Your Genes
Here is a little-known fun fact: the food we consume at each meal "talks" with our genes. Yes, as improbable as it seems - a vibrant "conversation" occurs every time you eat or drink. While it has been known for centuries that food can be healing medicine, it was not until the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 that researchers were able to fully understand this food-gene conversation called nutritional genomics.
Today, we know that genes "listen" to the dietary information in a meal, switching on or off like Christmas tree lights. They orchestrate processes including digestion, absorption and utilization of nutrients that promote health and longevity. But even more importantly, clinicians can now better understand the language of these food-gene interactions using genomic testing. In this era of genomic medicine and personalized health, the old adage "You Are What You Eat" has a new twist:
"You are the Sum of Your Food-Gene Interactions". A healthy "conversation" supports health and longevity; disrupted food-gene "conversations" can over time contribute to a chronic disease process. Genomic testing can proactively identify where there are faulty genes that need more support and enable us to develop personalized dietary strategies that can circumvent or alleviate a poor "communication" at the food-gene interface.
Centenarians from around the world are good examples who have intuitively mastered the "language" between their different food-gene interfaces to survive and thrive well beyond 100 years of age. They learned essentially by trial and error over many generations what foods and beverages support a healthy food-gene conversation. Fortunately, you don't have to wait generations to figure out what foods and beverages are best for your genes.
Genomic testing expedites that process. It matches the best foods to converse with your genes at each meal, maintaining a healthy food-gene interface and keeping your biological systems functioning optimally. Additionally, genomic testing can identify which nutrigenomic interventions are necessary to keep the food-gene conversation operational when there are gene "switches" that are malfunctioning.
Think back to that string of Christmas tree lights - if one or more bulbs malfunction, it prevents other lights on the same strand from turning on. In a similar way, if one gene is not working it can adversely affect other genes downstream in other cellular, biochemical and metabolic processes - increasing the risk of a chronic disease. We now know how to change all that. That is the power of nutrigenomics.
For the thousands of our patients who have benefited from genomic testing and nutrigenomic interventions, feeding your genes with the foods and beverages to support optimal gene function is not a slogan but a way of life. But that transition is not always easy. We understand that translating the science of nutritional genomics into practical steps that can be sustained over time can be challenging---even for the most organized person.
When trying to juggle the demands of work and home, and still finding the time to prepare and serve healthy meals for yourself and your family, simple and quick have to be the first two ingredients. Enter culinary genomics. Start with a few basic guiding principles-use organic or pesticide-free, whole, nutrient-dense foods that are fresh or frozen, as much as possible. Minimize or eliminate highly processed foods.
Try the "1/3" rule for your macronutrients- 1/3 healthy fat, 1/3 healthy carbs, and 1/3 lean protein. Recent research from Norway showed that this even distribution of calories between fat, carbs and protein was the best combination of macronutrients to "talk" to a healthy person's genes. Of course, everyone has a different genomic profile, and it is best to individualize these caloric recommendations using genomic testing whenever possible.
Nevertheless, this macronutrient information can be a good starting place to create a balanced meal. We recommend 4-6 servings of brightly colored fruits and vegetables (purple, red, yellow, green, orange) per day. Not only do they contain important vitamins and minerals, these "colors" signify higher content of key bioactives - constituents of foods that are not vitamins, minerals or other nutrients but unique molecules that "talk" to your genes.
Additional bioactives are found in many herbs and spices, including basil, cilantro, oregano, fennel, cumin and turmeric. Not only do they enhance the taste of a food or meal, they also contain these special molecules that "communicate" with important "master genes" involved in health and longevity. Maintaining a healthy food-gene interface doesn't have to be complicated.
We understand the challenge of juggling the demands of work and home, and still trying to create healthy meals. We believe many of you are already using these culinary genomic principles without even knowing that you are creating a healthy food-gene conversation.In our kitchen we love making meals that are easy to prepare, taste good, and are rich in nutrients and bioactives - and would like to share some of them with you. These recipes require only basic cooking skills and can be made in 30 minutes or less.
Many can be made ahead of time or used as leftovers for another meal. Try them out at home; see if you can come up with some of your own variations. Share with your co-workers and help each other be your healthiest to do all the things that are important in your life.
About the Authors
Dr. Veltmann is a scientist, healthcare practitioner, author, teacher and expert in genomic testing and interpretation. With over 40 years of experience as a researcher and practitioner, Dr. Veltmann has made a career of translating lab results into practical clinical applications for patients around the world. He achieved international recognition as the pioneering developer of the GENESIS Matrix holistic health model that explored the interactions between seven key variables to create better preventive health strategies.
As co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Genoma International, he brings his expertise in nutritional biochemistry and genomic science, teaching, and corporate wellness, along with clinical and genomic medicine. His previous positions include co-founder and CSO of Genomic Solutions Now and NCG Health Solutions; Chief Science Officer for Estrogen Gene Test and Medifood LLC along with a nutritional product and marketing consultant for Fortune 100 companies.
Roberta L. Kline MD is a board-certified Ob-Gyn, author, teacher, and entrepreneur with more than 20 years experience in traditional and functional medicine. Dr. Kline received her medical degree from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and completed her Ob-Gyn residency at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, earning multiple honors. After 10 years with the Air Force, she became a partner in a large Ob-Gyn practice, managing more than 40 employees.
Feeling limited by conventional medicine, she transformed her traditional practice by embracing innovative scientific advancements and holistic elements. As she incorporated genomics into her practice, she experienced first-hand the power of an integrated DNA-directed approach. She became an advocate for personalized genomic medicine, working to extend this model beyond her private practice.
As co-founder and CEO of Genoma International, she brings her expertise in practice development, education, and genomic science, along with clinical and genomic medicine. Her previous positions include co-founder and CEO of Genomic Solutions Now and NCG Health Solutions.