Jonathan Hanson’s excellent book, Complete Sea Kayak Touring (Ragged Mountain Press, 1998) includes a valuable chapter on provisioning your kayak with nutritious, high-energy food.
However, for overall health, vigor and injury prevention, it’s even more important for paddlers to be diligent about their everyday diet. Twenty four hundred years ago, Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” wrote, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”
What was valid then is even truer today with the typical North American diet high in processed and fast foods full of sugars and trans fatty acids that contaminate our bodies with anarchist-sounding rogues named “free radicals.” These are the leading villains in the aging process and a major cause of tissue injury in kayakers and canoeists.
A free radical is an atom with an unpaired electron. Like an overly aggressive suitor seeking a mate, a free radical waltzes through your body, grabbing electrons from cellular tissue and wreaking havoc like a philandering home-wrecker. Each free radical may exist for only a tiny fraction of a second, but the damage it leaves behind can be irreversible. Although some free radical activity is vital for immune function and hormone and enzyme production, too many will accelerate the aging process, suppress the immune system and be a major factor in age-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease and arthritis. The formation of free radicals stimulates the development of even more free radicals, snowballing their production and damaging genetic material.
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