Food Medicine

If food is medicine then I’m a first class junky. I love to eat—especially healthy, hearty, wholesome natural food—and that’s a good thing! Because according to Dr. Fuhrman eating lots of unfooled-around-with natural food is absolutely vital. From Eat to Live, here’s his rule of thumb:
The closer we eat foods to their natural state, the healthier the food.
Now, in Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman makes it pretty clear that the key to health is not relying on heavy regiments of pills and drugs, but rather a nutrient-rich vegetable-based health-promoting diet. More from the book:
When you eat mostly natural plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and beans, you get large amounts of various types of fiber. These foods are rich in complex carbohydrates and both insoluble and water-soluble fibers. The fibers slow down glucose absorption and control the rate of digestion. Plant fibers have complex physiological effects in the digestive tract that offer a variety of benefits, such as lowering cholesterol.1
So, in the spirit of all this, check out Diet-Blog’s 10 Reasons to Choose Food as Medicine. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Mother knows best
Natural wild foods are generally far more nutritious than many modern foods. These low nutrient density, high glycemic modern foods are leaving us nutritionally bankrupt and so more susceptible to disease as a result. Of course, natural doesn't necessarily mean edible or healthy. But just like any animal, humans have a natural diet and our bodies work best with the best quality human food--fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and animal foods in the right proportions.


Evidence
The scientific journals are literally heaving with evidence of the benefits of nutrition and lifestyle measures and there are countless case studies of folks regaining their health through nutrition. Clinical trials of nutritional regimes for specific diseases though, are few and far between. Trials are incredibly expensive, who would fund them? Where is the money to be made?

Unsurprisingly, most of the cutting edge ideas are coming from independent organizations outside the medical profession where necks don't have to be stuck out quite so far, livelihoods are not on the line and free-thinking is much more acceptable. If governments and science were to really get behind this idea of optimum nutrition as medicine, amazing things could be achieved.
1. Favier, M. L., C. Moundras, C. Demigne, and C. Remesy. 1995. Fermentable carbohydrates exert a more potent cholesterol-lowering effect than cholestyramine. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1258 (2); 115-21.
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Comments (3) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Bret - May 7, 2007 3:33 PM

This is actually one of the best posts I've seen on this blog, well done. I suppose it touches every so briefly on a subject that is very close to my heart - that of foraging for wild edible foods.

I strongly feel that the modern world could greatly benefit from actively seeking and consuming wild edibles. It puts us in touch with one of the oldest, most fundamental, and for most our history, most important of human activities. It allows us to enjoy the fresh air and provides ample exercise. Most importantly it provides the freshest produce one can procure.

You don't need to be a skilled survivalist or botanist to enjoy the free produce provided by nature. Anyone with a yard likely has an assortment of wild edibles, commonly known as "weeds," right outside their back door. Dandelions, garlic mustard, ground cherries, and catnip grow wild in my yard at home and I have enjoyed each. Chicory, stinging nettles, black walnuts, mulberries, acorns, blackberries, burdock, cattails, mullein, violets, crab apples, lemon balm, and others grow in the vicinity of my home and work and provide wonderful food stuffs. The neat thing is that they don't really take that much longer to gather and prepare than it would take to drive through traffic to get to the supermarket and procure produce of questionable quality.

If you would like to obtain the most natural, freshest produce available, then it doesn't get any better than foraging. But there is much you should be aware of before setting out. First and foremost, you must be certain the plant you plan to eat is in fact edible. Many, such as the dandelion and morel mushroom, are readily identifiable and have few, if any, poisonous look alikes. Others are not so clear. Some plants have many edible parts, while others have parts that are unpalatible or even toxic. For example, the leaves, yellow flower, and root of the dandelion are edible, but the flower stem should be avoided. Find a good book on field identification with color photos and do plenty of research. Perform an internet search for "Wildman Steve Brill" or "Euell Gibbons" and you should receive a wealth of information to begin with. You should also stay away from areas that are likely to be treated with pesticides or herbicides, such as public schools and city parks with baseball diamonds and playgrounds. Also, it is possible that you could have an allergic reaction to wild plants - proceed with caution and do not eat any new foods in any but the smallest quantity (a leaf or two, for example) in order to gauge you reaction. Lastly (for now), wild edibles, just like their cultivated cousins, have seasons from which they should be harvested at their peak of palatability. If it's not the right season for the wild edible, it may be unpleasant tasting at best and possibly toxic at worst.

I encourage everyone to experiment with wild foods, albeit cautiously. Although most, myself included, cannot expect to do more than supplement their diet with wild foods, it is a supplement that will provide superior, free nutrients for those that partake in nature's bounty. Good luck and good health.

Kenny - May 7, 2007 8:00 PM

Bret, I'm also a fan of foraging wild plants and edible weeds. My favorites are Lambs Quarters for the delicious taste, and Stinging Nettles because it's such an interesting plant.

A handful of chickweed and a few leaves of dandelion or plantain are great additions to smoothies and blended salads. It's amazing to consider the extra nutrients likely associated with wild plants and even some heirloom vegetables that are absent from modern day cultivated varieties.

Bret - May 8, 2007 7:10 AM

Kenny,

It really is amazing the variety of wild plants available for the taking. I find it ironic that some supermarkets in my area actually sell dandelion greens. I could gather 10 times the quantity of dandelion greens I'd be willing to purchase at the store from my own yard in less than half the time it would take me to make a trip to the supermarket. I never did try the supermarket dandelion greens, so perhaps they are bred to be less bitter, and they certainly are much larger leaves. But its a bit silly to me nonetheless.

Lamb's quarter is very good, as well as chickweed. It's like a whole new world, filled with foods that I had scarcely even heard of before. I really enjoy garlic mustard, and it is a very invasive plant in Illinois, competing with and often destroying native plants. If only everyone got a taste for it, maybe we could get it under control. There's no better way to get back at troublesome weeds than to eat them!

Bret

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