food as medicine everyday

Last month, I had to the opportunity to attend the Food as Medicine Symposium hosted by the Food as Medicine Institute and the National University for Natural Medicine here in Portland.

The information that was presented rang so true to me.

There is no one diet that works perfectly for everyone. We are all individuals.

Government guidelines may (or may not) be right/good, but it is very clear that there are conflicting interests with those who sponsor them. There is strong evidence of promoting certain types of foods over others regardless of the supporting scientific data.

Traditional wisdom and culture cannot be ignored. People knew how to feed themselves for maximum nutrition with limited resources. Over many generations, they decided what was most healthful.

Experts argue different perspectives, but across the board most everyone agrees that our dietary lifestyle should be focused on a whole foods and low-processed foods. Increase real, whole foods (not “edible food-like substances” as Michael Pollan calls them) and reduce highly processed foods. Nothing has is completely forbidden, but there is a focus on "crowding out" the processed foods with whole and low-processed foods. Bring on the good stuff!

None of this is fancy or flashy. It’s actually pretty boring. It involves some thinking, planning, and food prep. But it is a “diet” that will significantly lower your risk of all the major lifestyle diseases: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more.

The keynote speaker was Cory Szybala, ND who is a naturopathic physician and adjunct faculty member at the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM).

He has been a part of organizing the Food as Medicine Everyday (FAME) series which a 12-week hands-on cooking and nutrition program with the goal of sharing the wisdom of a whole foods diet.

"Our goal is to motivate and support communities to adopt a more whole-foods based diet by educating and providing the tools to overcome the many obstacles to eating healthy in today’s society.

"Our program is founded on the idea that it takes three months (12-weeks) to empower individuals, families, and communities to make lasting and sustainable dietary changes. Within all of the communities we have worked we have seen impressive changes take place in the lives of our participants in just three months."

The FAME Series Guiding Principles:

Promote whole foods and low-processed foods.
Real food — as close to nature as possible. Not in a package. No ingredient list. We can’t escape processed food entirely in today’s world but we can focus on whole foods being our primary food sources.

Encourage a diverse, primarily plant-based diet.
There are so many choices available to us! Explore the farmers’ market and the produce section of the grocery store.

Include food from healthy animals.
More and more important in today’s world of industrial farming. The health of what we eat is super important to our individual health.

Promote anti-inflammatory food choices.
Anti-inflammatory foods can include:

  1. Fruits & Vegetables: Green leafy vegetables, bok choy, celery, beets, broccoli, blueberries, pineapple, bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach, garlic, apples, and more…
  2. Whole grains: oatmeal, brown rice, and other unrefined whole grains tend to be high in fiber, and fiber may help with inflammation
  3. Beans: high in fiber, loaded with antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory substances.
  4. Nuts & seeds: walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds; contain healthy fats (in addition to olive oil and avocados)
  5. Fish: Wild salmon and sardines among others
  6. Bone broth
  7. Herbs & spices: including turmeric & ginger. They add antioxidants (along with flavor to your food) and cool inflammation.
  8. Dark Chocolate!
  9. Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil

Additional resources:

Recognize that individuals have unique food needs.
Each of us has unique needs. We can consider epigenetics — where your ancestors are from, how well nourished your grandparents were, etc. Consider health challenges and susceptibility.

For me, eggs cause joint pain and constipation. For others, eggs from healthy sources can be an excellent source of fat, protein and nutrients. There is no one answer for everyone.

Care about food and its sources.
Where our food comes from. The health of the soil. The well-being of the animals. The impact on the environment. The sustainability of farmers’ lifestyle — for their land and for their families.

While there are many different dietary and nutritional theories out there and many points of disagreement — these guiding principles are shared by pretty much everyone in the field and would benefit all of us.

Taking a step back and looking at our overall approach to diet and lifestyle, all of us can look to see where we can bring these principles more fully into our lives.

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