Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.
– Hippocrates (460-377 BC)
Younger, stronger bodies seem to utilize every last calorie to the fullest – only now that I’m in my 30’s am I appreciating the value of incorporating nutrient rich foods into my diet. As we age, our digestion becomes less efficient at breaking down and absorbing the nutrition we need to keep strong bones, limber joints and clear vision. But if we change how we relate to food and think of every bite as a bit of medicine, we can maximize our vitality and longevity AND enjoy a delicious and nutritious diet for life!
While this may seem obvious to some – look around at our “modern” diet of convenience. Foods are so highly processed, refined and manipulated we hardly recognize their original source. Our economy is so globalized, we eat wheat from China, tomatoes from Mexico and oil from Spain. Additionally, we are bombarded with the idea of “meal replacements” and “meals in-a-box” that are supposedly “complete” nutrition – but they lack so much more than the USDA puts on a label. For some, it’s a luxury, but our bodies ultimately pay the price.
Perhaps the most incriminating hubris is our treatment of the sick with patented, laboratory-created, test-tube substitutes for real nutrition:
“One hundred years ago, doctors and dieticians were still creating hand-made formulas to meet their patient’s unique dietary needs. And it worked! It wasn’t until big pharm got ahold of this industry that we lost touch with our bodies (and our realities) and started giving people on feeding tubes generic formulas filled with unnatural ingredients and processed sugars.” – Five Reasons we believe in food as medicine, The Center for Mind-Body Medicine
The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, a non-profit run by conventional doctors, advocates incorporating medicinal foods into the diet as your best protection against disease. Scientific research concludes that no protein bar or super shake or green smoothie can substitute for the nutritional and emotional benefits of eating real food (attention dieters!!):
“Did you know that our organic broccoli contains chromium (Chromi-YUM!) and those wonderful Omega-3s, which help increase levels of serotonin? And what about the B6-packed garbanzo beans, which help our neurotransmitters? Or the sprouted quinoa and kale, which are classified as super foods for all the nutritional goodness they contain?”
These studies have focused on patients in hospitals, with eating disorders and feeding tubes. While we may not be so surprised by the fact that people are happier to have a plate of steamed veggies, fresh baked bread and farm-raised turkey garnished with home-grown rosemary – this research lends more and more credence to the old-world wisdom of healing with whole foods.
The Energy of Life
A side-effect of living close to the earth is feeling the natural rhythms of mother nature in my very bones. I can feel the sap rising in the spring, the sprouts sing to me in my dreams, I watch the squirrels hustling for the last pine cones before Autumn frost. I also notice the vital energy in my food.
When I was younger, leftovers never bothered me. Day-old bread from the bakery, even dairy that was on sale, and wilted lettuce gave me no problems. But these foods have lost their vital essence, their energy of life. It makes me sick and saps my energy – where’s the nutrition in that? If you haven’t noticed the difference, take a minute to think about how far away your food is from the source. Now compare notes with new research that confirms higher levels of free-radicals in ‘dead’ foods, and lowered nutrient absorption from canned, frozen, dried and non-organic foods.
How to use food as medicine
The University of Minnesota helps people take charge of their health starting with a healthy, balanced diet. According to U of M Center for Spirituality & Healing, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is full of empty calories and processed, lifeless foods.
“It is easy to fall into the pattern of eating fast, convenient, prepared food, especially in our often frenetic lives. But we are not nurturing ourselves by doing so. Our Standard American Diet lacks nutrients and relies heavily on processed foods that include artificial color, additives, flavorings, and chemically-altered fats and sweeteners.”
No wonder we are constantly hungry – we are craving real nutrition, vital energy and delicious, natural flavors! How can YOU start healing yourself with food NOW?
- AVOID fast food, pre-packaged, microwaveable meals
- Cook all your meals at home
- Eat more whole foods, at regular times, sitting down
- Slow, slow, slow meals
- VARIETY in color and texture is of utmost importance
At the Holistic Homestead we want to help you eat your way to health! Here are some wonderful resources to help you get started:
USDA Food Tracker helps you keep track of what you eat and limit empty calories:
The University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Health has a webpage with menu planning, shopping lists and inspiration to get you eating better and enjoying vital health!
Get proactive about health and wellness in your community and the world! Read about the Center for Mind-Body medicine and what these visionary doctors are doing to improve global health with whole foods: