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Culinary Medicine: An RX that all doctors should prescribe

by Denis Faye - The Nutrition Nerd | September 19, 2013

One of my favorite parts of being a Nutrition Nerd is helping facilitate culinary lightbulb moments, those instances when someone struggling with a wellness issue makes a relatively minor shift to their diet and BAM! Everything changes.

Given my association with Beachbody, this usually means telling fitness-minded folks to eat more to break plateaus and fuel performance or telling endurance athletes to increase sodium to make up for electrolytes lost through sweat. Although it can go beyond that, such as suggesting someone reduce trigger foods like dairy, gluten, or citrus to cure a chronically runny nose or helping a produce-hater find that one, delicious fruit or vegetable that can get them excited about whole foods.

Along with increased performance/weight loss/clearer sinuses/x-ray vision/+5 charisma or whatever other enhancement the modification yields, recipients of my vast knowledge and narcissistic lecturing inevitably also learn this important factoid: food is powerful medicine.

The problem is that most people don’t know this. And by “most people,” I mean doctors. In my experience, it’s common for doctors to reach right for the prescription pad when curing a malady instead of looking to a nutrition-based solution. And when they do make a food suggestion, it often sounds like advice from the cover of this month’s issue of Men’s Health, usually because it is advice from the cover of this month’s issue of Men’s Health. Doctors are awesome and they’ve saved my stressed-out ass many times, but they aren’t nutritionists. Generally, their formal nutritional training is cursory at best.

But that could all change if programs like Tulane University’s Center for Culinary Medicine takes off. The program teams Tulane medical students up with culinary arts students from Rhode Island’s Johnson & Wales University to learn how (delicious) food can heal us from the usual rogue’s gallery of nutrition-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. And as if that weren’t cool enough, the center does all kinds of community outreach, including working with the Edible Schoolyard program, teaching Nola kids the value of good food.

To hear more about the center, here’s a great report from NPR.

There’s no such thing as a cure-all. Western medicine–and all the pills and scalpels that come with it–is an invaluable key to good health. But it’s not the only key. If you want to be your healthiest you, it’s important to have all kinds of keys on your wellness keychain. Which ones you pick are up to you.

I’ve used exercise, therapeutic yoga, acupuncture, physical therapy, massage, supplementation, active release therapy, meditation, and nutrition over the years, to name a few. Your keychain may be different. Admittedly, the more solutions you discover, the more unwieldy your key chain can get. It doesn’t fit in your pocket, it scratches your iPhone, and it gets harder to figure out which key works on which lock. That’s why it’s great to see things like the Culinary Medicine program at Tulane, because when the people being trained to be experts understand the importance of synergy, it increases their ability to help you exponentially.

And that’s good medicine.

 

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