What Happens When Foods Become Medicines?

Food as MecidinesHow did you spend your Food Day on October 24? As I mentioned back then, I was going to attend a local panel discussion called “Food As Medicine” here in Boston; and, as promised, here is my update!

The panel was co-hosted by Community Servings of Jamaica Plain and Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, Food Law and Policy Clinic, and Food Law. The panelists discussed heavily on the importance of food on healthcare initiatives. With those initiatives, the notion that food can naturally heal our bodies is rooted deeper in the general public; and, most importantly, people are encouraged to take actions in living a healthier lifestyle. Granted that not all the disease can be removed by having a healthy lifestyle, it is still assuring to see that current health initiatives have contributed greatly to improvement of overall health and wellness, and that more people realize foods can not only offer nutrition, but serve as “medicines” to heal ourselves as well.  Below are several health programs mentioned in the seminar:

DASH diet

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. According to Mayo Clinic, “the DASH diet is a lifelong approach to healthy eating that’s designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension)”. The DASH diet plan encourages you to reduce sodium in your meals and eat foods rich in nutrition like potassium, calcium protein and fiber. Based on WebMD, “studies have shown that patients who were on the DASH diet reduced their blood pressure within two weeks”.

“Look AHEAD” Program

Look AHEAD stands for Action for Health in Diabetes. According to the program, the key objective is ‘to examine, in overweight volunteers with type 2 diabetes, the long-term effects of an intensive lifestyle intervention program designed to achieve and maintain weight loss by decreased caloric intake and increased physical activity.” A post in Huffington Post pointed out that the program resulted in “reduced rates of kidney disease, eye disease, and depression in the intervention group. There was also improved overall quality of life, fewer hospitalizations, enhanced mobility, and reduced medication use. ”

Community Servings

This is a food and nutrition program in Massachusetts dedicated to serving individuals and families living with critical and chronic illnesses. The organization is committed to offering free, culturally appropriate (this is very interesting to me!), home-delivered meals, nutrition education and many other community programs.

Wholesome Wave

This is non-profit organization that helps people in underserved urban and rural communities make healthier food choices by increasing affordability and access to fresh and locally grown foods in local farmers’ markets. One interesting program mentioned in the seminar is Double Value Coupon Program (DVCP). According Michel Nischan, Founder of Wholesome Wave, it is the most popular program. This means that DVCP participants, when shopping at participating farm-to-retail places like farmers markets, can receive an incentive that matches the amount spent in federal nutrition benefits when they buy locally grown, healthy foods. The program not only prompts local communities to make healthier choices, but also serves as an effective economic stimulus as well. Another also interesting program is called “Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program”, where doctors write prescriptions for fruits and vegetables to fight childhood obesity and patients buy the fresh produce at local farmers markets. According the Fox News, this program is “blossoming nationwide”!

During the seminar, the moderator also mentioned that “Food As Prevention” can be as important as “Food As Medicine”.  As you can tell from its name, “Food As Prevention” aims to provide services and education on health, food and nutrition, so that we can stay away from illnesses and diseases. I feel that I am surfing on the waves of food movements. This “sport” keeps me thrilled and excited. The bits and pieces of news on food initiatives are like splashed water in the ocean landing on my skin, which keeps me alert and refreshed.

Whether it is “Food As Medicine” or “Food As Prevention”, I see that there is a unifying message hidden behind, that is, by changing the way you think about food and the way you eat in your daily life, you will improve your overall health.

If you improve overall health, you will naturally restore the glow on your face. Remember that your face is the window to your inner health. As David Wolfe, one of the world’s leading authorities, mentions in his book Eating for Beauty: “The skin should radiate exquisite freshness, thus expressing the inner truth of excellent health”. The thought is also in alignment with the teaching of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which believes that if your inner problems are addressed, your skin on the outside can heal by itself.

These days, I am more and more conscious about what I eat, as food is more than just its taste. Before I take in anything, I am starting to ask myself “does this food fuel my body and give it the nutrition it needs?” For example, knowing that having fried chips can definitely cause acne on my face, I have totally cut them out of my life now. Feeding your body is like taking care of a plant. The types of fertilizer and the amount of nutrition and water you give it directly relate to how it will grow and look in the end. The key lies in understanding your body, its nutritional needs, and what nutritional values our foods can offer us to meet its needs. It is all about balancing supply (from us) and demand (from our body)  ; )

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