Many of us have heard the famous quote by Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” or a similar version, and as this previous article illustrates, Hippocrates probably wouldn’t approve of our modern Standard American Diet or our habitual pill-popping and “need” for surgical procedures.
Although food is sometimes used to address specific illness or symptoms, similar to how we use modern Western medicine, it really should be considered holistic, preventative medicine and a way to heal the source, our inside, rather than merely the external problems. Consider our well-known proverb, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away:” the apple is a stand-in for all varieties of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables, and the wisdom of the saying is that these kinds of foods treat the whole body with a mix of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. The apple gives you a balance of these healing proponents that a pill could never give you. And it tastes infinitely better than a pill, too.
I believe that in many cases raw foods are the strongest medicine since they provide us with living enzymes and unadulterated nutrients. Although numerous studies show that cooking destroys a food’s mineral and vitamin content, this article argues that cooking can occasionally aid our body in nutrient absorption. The level of lycopene in tomatoes, for example, seems to increase with cooking. The key is to learn about when cooking has clear benefits, but in general to eat generous amounts of various whole, raw plant foods to cultivate well-being.
I know some people who generally follow the Standard American Diet that would enthusiastically nod in agreement when I talk about food as medicine, and they’ll tell me that when they have a cold, they eat tons of oranges and garlic and drink ginger tea. And there is nothing wrong with that—they know their body needs increased amounts of those certain nutrients. But what irks me is that they are making isolated changes to treat symptoms rather than committing to healthful food for the long run in order to prevent illness in the first place. If you normally live on a diet of dead animal flesh, grease, chemicals, and sugar, expect fatigue and illness to repeatedly plague you.
On the other hand, food really can be like a miracle drug. With commitment and mindfulness, we are able to not only prevent sickness, but also to reverse some conditions. Bill Clinton, for example, has turned to a vegan diet in order to reverse a variety of heart problems. As this article on his dietary journey notes, Clinton has struggled with a variety of life threatening heart problems and has made gradual dietary changes since 1993. Although he had been implementing beneficial measures such as decreasing caloric intake and overall cholesterol consumption, Dr. Dean Ornish insisted that “because of [Clinton’s] genetics, moderate changes in diet and lifestyle weren’t enough to keep his disease from progressing. However…more intensive changes could actually reverse progression of heart disease.” He took up the challenge to make intensive changes and now follows a vegan diet and enjoys clean blood tests, a healthier weight, and an increase in energy.
Venus William also began an intensive raw vegan diet since her diagnosis with the rare Sjogren’s Syndrome last summer, which is not treatable by common Western medicine. Her sister Serena supports her by joining the veggie lifestyle. Although both Clinton and Williams may have genes making them more susceptible to certain diseases, “one of the breakthrough concepts from the Human Genome Project is that ‘genes in and of themselves do not create disease. Only when they are plunged into a harmful environment unique to the individual do they create the outcome of disease,’” as explained in another source on food as medicine. The website also mentions a fascinating new area of study called Nutrigenomics, which “looks at how different foods may interact with specific genes to modify the risk of common chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.”
The key to our sustained well-being cannot be found in a pill or a surgical procedure, but instead through an increased consciousness about what we put into our bodies. Once we learn to stop wining about “bad genes” and throwing the blame for our poor health on everyone except ourselves, maybe we will see that the only way to work towards wellness is by taking responsibility for our choices. We can choose to make our bodies and spirits sick by eating decaying, chemical-laden animal flesh and other unnecessary animal products, or we can choose to seek out fresh, organic, whole, raw plant foods and nourish our bodies and spirits.