For those of us interested in healthy land, healthy food, and healthy lives, the idea that food is medicine is not a particularly new concept. However, it appears that the medical industry is now taking a more serious look at how this concept can be brought into the healthcare system and to mainstream grocery stores.
In a recent National Public Radio (NPR) story they reported on a Ralph’s market in Huntington Beach, California that actually has a doctor in white lab coat hanging out in the produce aisle dispensing nutritional advice. While some may argue if the best person to dispense nutritional advice is a doctor, the efforts of the “Shop with Your Doc” program is part of the Mary and Dick Allen Diabetes Center strategy of getting this advice out in a place where people are actually making these kinds of nutritional decisions.
To me it is exciting that conventional medicine is actually taking a more serious approach of how to help their patients make better food decisions to address the root cause of so many of our current illnesses that plague us. Not only can diet and exercise be more effective at addressing the root cause, they can almost always be cheaper than all the medications and procedures that result from these illnesses that are not being attended to properly.
For some people, it is still a radical idea that what you eat can prevent, mitigate, or reverse diseases that people have had for many years. Certainly conventional medicine has touted for years that diseases like diabetes is dramatically impacted by diet, as well as diseases like hypertension and cancer. Of course, there are divergent views of what diets are best, such as the vast disparity between the Paleo diet and the Andrew Weil anti-inflammatory diet.
While there is a lot of difference of opinions about carbs and animal fats, ultimately nobody argues that processed food and refined sugar is not medicine. Having doctors become more skilled in understanding nutrition or seeing the health care industry become a health-oriented rather than disease-oriented is a huge step. Likewise, any training or support that we can offer to people as they change habits will increase the likelihood of those individuals keeping to new behaviors that will result in less of a healthcare burden.
The new term for this focus on exercise and diet is called Lifestyle Medicine. It is considered a formal subspeciality in which food is used to treat disease. The irony of course is that it is still disease versus health focused.
As Michael Pollan in Cooked and others have noted, the big challenge is to get people more conscious about what they are eating and be able to prepare whole foods and cook for themselves.
At HMI we work hard with producers to teach them how to grow healthy food that is nutrient-dense to feed the body, supporting the healing process that the body goes through daily. Through focusing on production practices that build soil health and fertility, we grow food that in turn creates healthy animals and people.
As a conscious consumer and food advocate, you can learn more about What You Can Do to be part of this healthy food movement.