Here are just four quick quotes on the subject:
We’re encouraged to say that people today are searching for information on this topic in increasing numbers, with 3,600 people currently searching on the term “food as medicine” every single month in Google. That’s more than 43,000 searches per year – and people are also entering in many other related terms in their online searches. So, the interest is significant.
In response, we decided to offer a presentation on this subject at Roots 2017, bringing together some of today’s best culinary minds to discuss what the concept of food as medicine really means. The moderator was Jane Esselstyn, someone who has graciously provided her valuable insights at the Culinary Vegetable Institute more than once.
And, before we provide highlights of this panel discussion, we’d like to say that the entire presentation about healing yourself one bite at a time is worth watching – and available here:
The panel included Chef Andrea Beaman, an internationally recognized natural foods chef and holistic health coach who focuses on alternative healing along with sustainable eating strategies and sustainable living, overall. She became interested in this way of life when she was diagnosed with thyroid disease. Without the use of traditional medical help, she was able to shrink her goiter within four months by changing her diet and lifestyle. Within two years, her thyroid disease was gone. Ancient people, she told attendees at the Roots culinary conference, knew that food was something more than mere pleasure. It was also medicine. This includes the notion of food as preventive medicine.
And, even though quotes provided above are from men, Beaman shares how it has been women, over the ages, who have served as keepers of wisdom, who knew the recipes – time tested over thousands of years – to help keep their families healthy. How did that change, at least in the United States? When American women went to work during the World War II era, she reminds us, they often stayed in the workforce after the war ended. With less time spent at home, they focused less on the medicinal elements of eating, and this helped to create subsequent generations of people who don’t even know the medicinal qualities of their own food.
Beaman wholeheartedly agrees with Farmer Lee Jones about the importance of seasonal eating. When enthusiastically eating fresh asparagus in the spring, as Lee advocates, you’re taking advantage of this vegetable’s ability to clear excess salt from the body, she says, which helps our kidneys and bladder. The planet, she adds, is supporting us in our quest to be healthy.
As another example, the pungently delicious cauliflower clears our lungs in the fall, helping to prevent winter congestion. Other examples of fresh vegetables that perform the same function include broccoli, leeks, kale and cabbage. It’s all about staying in harmony, Beaman says, with cycles and seasons. Here, you can see Beaman in action as she shares her reasoning process about addressing specific health conditions.
And for high blood pressure:
Here is more information about Andrea Beaman and her vibrant approach to cooking and eating – and to living life to the fullest!
Also on the panel was Chef Maneet Chauhan, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who has worked in some of India’s and America’s finest hotels and restaurants. She is currently the owner of three restaurants and a partner in two breweries – and, while growing up in India, the concept of food as medicine was simply a way of life. As a child, if she’d tell her mother she had a stomach ache, she’d be prescribed a bit of fennel to chew. In the summer time, to keep the family cool during hot summers, her mother would make a rose syrup juice, a poppy seed juice, a raw mango juice – all with properties to cool down the body.
Each winter, red carrots were available in India, but only for one week. So, her mother would make a fresh carrot pudding and then cut the remaining red carrots into small pieces, preserving them so her family could each eat one piece every morning. Although, at the time, Chauhan dreaded that morning carrot routine, finding the taste to be exceptionally sweet, she now remembers this preventive measure fondly.
Her family also ate one gooseberry each morning to boost their immune systems through the antioxidants provided. If they had a cold? Turmeric in warm milk. Instead of ice cream for dessert, they might have a bowl of freshly made yogurt with its healthful probiotics.
You can get more of Chauhan’s advice from the Roots 2017 culinary conference, as she shares her food remedies for diabetes:
And here is her advice for addressing high blood pressure:
It was a farm tour given by Farmer Lee Jones to Chauhan, by the way, that served as the impetus of the carrot beer, brewed from ugly vegetables, served at Roots. You can find more information about Chauhan here and here.
Also on this illustrious panel: Chef Jehangir Mehta. If you haven’t yet watched the full video of this presentation, it’s worth pausing for a moment to see how Mehta creatively joined the panel:
(And, to discover how Mehta found the inspiration for his unique entrance, here is information about the creativity workshop that served as the keynote talk at Roots 2017 just the day before.)
Like Chauhan, Mehta grew up in India, and he is well known for juxtaposing textures, tastes and ingredients from his native land with those from around the globe. At his restaurant, Me and You, he tailors menus specifically targeted to the memories of that day’s diners, sharing stories about the ingredients used and, sometimes, their connection to his childhood in India. At his East Village restaurant, Graffiti, he also creatively shares flavors from India and elsewhere around the planet.
At Roots, Mehta explained how a mixture of honey, cinnamon, black pepper and turmeric can help to delay Alzheimer’s disease and prevent arthritis. As a child, he was given the “bitter thing” found inside a mango to eat regularly to help cool his body – and then he was also allowed to enjoy the actual mango. He emphasizes the importance of balance in life, encouraging people to enjoy their first world life while incorporating elements of the third world diet – referring to eating healthy fruits, vegetables and grains. Here are more of his specific thoughts about food as medicine.
For high blood pressure:
As part of the wrap-up of this presentation, attendees of the culinary conference were encouraged to be patient as they incorporated the notion of food being used as medicine, both preventively and curatively, into their menus, diets and everyday thinking. Diseases don’t form instantly, panelists pointed out, so the concept of patience and time must also be part of the therapeutic process.
According to a website that focuses on the concept of food as medicine, foods we consume can play a “critical role in controlling inflammation levels, balancing blood sugar, regulating cardiovascular health (including blood pressure and cholesterol levels), helping the digestive organs to process and eliminate waste, and much, much more.”
Inflammation, the article continues, serves as the roots of most diseases, a response when a person’s immune system believes the body is being threatened. It can “affect nearly every tissue, hormone and cell in the body.” Eating medicinally helps to balance hormones, crucial because “Abnormal hormonal changes contribute to accelerated aging, diabetes, obesity, fatigue, depression, low mental capacity, reproductive problems and an array of autoimmune diseases.”
Processed foods can make the body more acidic, which will “allow diseases to thrive more easily.” So, eating foods with a medicinal frame of mind will allow you to manage your internal pH level, along with balancing your blood sugar, detoxifying your body, and improving nutrient absorption.
The article lists seven of the world’s best medicinal categories of food – and we’ll focus on the first one listed: fresh vegetables. Vegetables specifically called out in this article as “some of the healthiest foods on earth” include kale, wheat grass and spinach, along with other green vegetables. They are “super low in calories, yet beaming with antioxidants, phytonutrients and vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, iodine and fiber.”
The reality is that experts can somewhat differ in their specific advice about healthy eating, but it’s hard to find one who doesn’t agree that deliciously fresh vegetables deserve a non-negotiable spot on the plate. Farmer Lee Jones loves that, of course, and likes to share a saying passed down through the generations: that you can pay the farmer or pay the doctor. And, because eating vegetables can and should be a flavorful, enjoyable experience, choosing the farmer is a lot more pleasurable.
This fact is a key foundation of the concept of farmacy: that eating fresh vegetables means you can enjoy incredibly flavorful foods that are visually appealing and bursting with nutrition. Healthy eating can – and should – be a treat for the palate.
All of this, though, must start with healthy soil. That sounds simple, but it involves multiple challenges, which include creating healthy soil from a:
The physical makeup of the soil composition matters. The four types are clay, sand, silt and loam. The proportion of each component will determine how well soil will hold water and nutrients, and how well soil particles can bind to one another. At The Chef’s Garden, we’re blessed to have rich, ancient-lake-bottom loamy soil. Here is more information about our soil philosophy and overall sustainable farming philosophy.
This refers to the amount and types of biological activities taking place within the soil. Diversity of species is critical to healthy soil, along with the appropriate numerical counts of the living and non-living organic matter available. As Cathy Seaman from our research lab so succinctly says about rich, healthy soil, “A wide range of life can be found, and everything has a purpose.” Here is more information about the biological structure of soil.
How much mineral health is in the soil? How are the minerals in relationship with one another? These are huge factors in soil health – and key precursors to good plant health. We use a technique called soil balancing to maximize the mineral content available to plants in the appropriate amounts.
While each of these three elements – physical, biological and chemical – is important to growing healthy produce, an exponential improvement occurs when all three are in balance. To make that happen, we use a high-quality cover crop regime, conduct soil testing, adjust our processes as needed, and more. You can find more information about soil testing as well as how we test emerging plants – and older produce – to analyze crops for nutrient content to determine how plants are flourishing at a molecular level.
At The Chef’s Garden, we always plant our crops in healthy soil in harmony with nature. “We never, ever, ever,” Lee says, “try to outsmart Mother Nature.” The bottom line: healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy food for people.
Jane Esselstyn, who moderated our Roots 2017 panel on food as medicine, calls fresh vegetables, fruits, greens, grains and legumes the “life jackets of your family’s health,” and she advises every to “be daring, be bold with how you use them – and, whatever you do, get them on your table.” You can read more about Esselstyn and her celebration of heart-healthy vegetables. And, here is more about why you don’t need to choose between flavor and healthy eating, courtesy of Jane Esselstyn and family.
We watch for research that is being published about vegetables, and here are two studies we’d like to highlight. First, a 2017 study from The Journal of Nutrition found that insufficient levels of vitamin K can affect the heart’s structure, even at a young age. This is crucial information because cardiac issues in young people are a predictor of adult cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, vitamin K is readily available in leafy green vegetables. Choices range from spinach and kale to lettuce and cabbage, along with broccoli, parsley, turnip greens, collards, mustard greens, Swiss chard, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
The second study may have produced even more marvelous results. Published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in February 2017, life-changing results were found to take place when people ate extra portions of produce. Researchers involved estimate that 7.8 million premature deaths, worldwide, could potential be prevented if people ate ten portions of fruit and vegetables each day. More specifically, this intake is associated with a:
At The Chef’s Garden, we’ve made it quick and easy to see which fresh vegetables are currently available for your menus. Plus, our product specialists are here to help you get exactly what you need, right when you need it – in the precise sizes you need. Contact us online today!