Many of us brush off common aches and pains treating them with ibuprofen and hoping the bothersome things will go away, but such practices are becoming costlier not only financially, but health-wise as well. It is not uncommon to hear stories of someone with diabetes putting off care for an infected toe because of lack of insurance and several weeks down the road the toe needs to be amputated.
Culinary medicine does not have a single philosophy as it is not dietetics or functional medicine, nor is it culinary arts or food science. It is, rather, a new evidence-based field in medicine that blends the art of food and cooking with the science of medicine. Culinary medicine is all about making evidence based decisions about the food we choose to eat and how we eat it so that we can prevent and treat disease while restoring optimal well-being.
As food is condition specific, the theory goes, different clinical conditions require different foods, beverages and manners of cooking as well as types of herbs used in seasoning such foods. Although special attention is paid to using the foods that the patient regularly eats or drinks, modifications are by nature necessary but designed to empower the patient to care for herself or himself safely, effectively, and happily with food and beverage as a primary care technique.
Special attention is paid to how food works in the body and how such foods can be made pleasurable to the patient so that cooking and eating are both a healthy and enjoyable experience.
According to one study, culinary medicine started trending in response to five factors:
Preliminary research regarding culinary medicine is encouraging. A longitudinal study among 627 medical students showed hands-on cooking and nutrition education vs. traditional education improved diet, attitudes, and competencies. Results from a small randomized controlled trial of patients with type 2 diabetes showed improvement in HbA1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol after following a Mediterranean diet cooking and nutrition curriculum provided by a medical school-based teaching kitchen.
Culinary medicine is an evidence based approach to food and lifestyle intervention. It encourages us to think of food as medicine, nutrition with cooking and necessity with creativity. The growing body of research supports the idea of food as medicine as more and more programs make successful groundbreaking efforts at making food a critical part of patients’ medical care. Some doctor’s in communities are writing prescriptions for fresh vegetables and produce and vendors respond to the prescriptions with discounts on their products. Culinary medicine can be a beautiful community health initiative that the entire family can be involved in at all stages of the wellness/disease spectrum.