My practice is based on my approach to medicine – that there are many ways of treating health problems, and prescription drugs are just one of them. Depending on the problem – and the individual, I might recommend acupuncture, herbs, vitamins, supplements or drugs. In most cases, my prescription includes something very simple and obvious that is often overlooked by people: food.

You are what you eat. Literally. Your body is a machine that needs fuel to function properly. I have heard news stories about severe gas price problems in the Middle East, where taxi drivers who could not afford to fill their tanks with gasoline were actually buying used cooking oil from restaurants and putting it in their cars. You can bet that their engines won’t last too long on canola.

Most people choose the food they put in their mouths based on how it tastes. Junk food tastes great, but that taste lingers on the tongue for no more than a few seconds. The body then has to make the best of that junk, trying to turn it into muscle, bone and blood, fuel for the brain and heart, and the billions of cells that need to be made every day as part of the body’s routine maintenance.

Most people put food in their bodies that is worse than putting canola oil into their car. This is the first change I ask people to make – when you are choosing what to eat, don’t think of your taste buds. Think of the rest of you. Choose foods that will make you stronger, faster, smarter and healthier.

Sometimes it seems like every time you turn around there is a new fad diet promising to help you lose weight and live to be a hundred. In fact, scientists now agree on a lot of foods that are great for the body that all of us should be eating more of, no matter what our health situation is. Changing your diet to include more of these foods is the next step.
There is not enough space to explain these rules of thumb in detail, so I will just rhyme them off to give you the most bang for the buck.

• Eat smaller portions.
• Eat more fruit and vegetables.
• Chew your food.
• Use olive oil instead of butter or margarine.
• Eat more salmon.
• Don’t skip breakfast.
• Drink more water and green tea.
• Eat less red meat.
• Avoid smoked meat.
• Avoid trans fats.
• Have some protein with every meal.

These general principles are important for everyone, but many foods can also be used to treat specific problems. In some cases, they work as well as drugs – and they are good for your body. Cherries fight inflammation and are good for joint pain. Nuts prevent gallstones. Broccoli reduces the risk of breast cancer. Oat bran lowers cholesterol. Dark chocolate decreases blood pressure. Turmeric is a spice that fights prostate cancer. Eggs are good for healthy vision. Cinnamon improves diabetes.

One of my favorite reasons for prescribing food as medicine is that it gives people a sense of control and well-being that they often desperately need. We like to think that we control our own destinies, but when you are given a medical diagnosis one of the biggest shocks comes from the fact that you had no control over it. You did not choose it – it happened to you. By deciding to eat more of this or less of that, by preparing meals that are medicines, you are literally healing yourself. This makes people feel good. And that is medicine too.


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