Is there anything to the notion of healing with food? Does food really have the power to heal us beyond preventing disease? In other words, is it too late once disease sets in? This is the first of a series exploring this topic. In this first post, I’m introducing my evolution of thought about this topic in my early adult life.
I’ve been fascinated by this topic since I watched a Phil Donahue show right after graduating from high school. The guest made a comment about the cook in the family having the power of health or disease in his or her hands. He told the story of a man who had a massive heart attack and died, and how the cook in the family could have made some changes that might have mitigated the development of heart disease. That made an impression on me. At 18, I made the decision to learn about the healthiest way of eating and preparing food. One of my first decisions was to give up sugar. I really did. I stopped eating candy and using sugar for 30 years. I had so many teeth pulled by the time I was 18 that when my wisdom teeth came in, they just filled in the empty space in my mouth. But I never had another cavity for 42 years.
Cooking as Therapy and Quality Family Time
I already had a love of food preparation. I can’t begin to say how thankful I am that my mother allowed me to make messes in her kitchen starting when I was 8 years old. I think cooking gave me a relief from the trauma of our emigration. I didn’t realize it back then, but I know now that I was grieving.
For me, cooking became a creative outlet and a kind of therapy. As an adult, I always wanted my kitchen to be a healing place, both by the food prepared in it and for those who wandered in to taste, talk and enjoy the delicious smells. I wanted happy thoughts, healthful conversation and comfort to be integral in my cooking space. I devoured books on health and diet. I loved when friends stopped by on my biggest cooking day — Friday, to taste and talk!
As I raised my family, I invited my children around the island counter in our home and they helped. Even as babies, they could stir, pull things apart or chop with a butter knife. They could knead bread and make their version of a loaf. It was all beautiful. I miss those days.
Traveling to Cook
It’s a family joke that I travel with my kitchen. My sister says I travel with my refrigerator. When I visit family, I always go to the grocery store to buy food to prepare. When a friend or church member is in the hospital, I will bring them fresh juice if they want it. When my adult children have something big happening – surgery or health crisis, I come with my kitchen!
After my children left the nest, I began to fall back into bad dietary habits. And I had some scares that jolted me into going back to better eating. But I’m sorry to say that I did not stick with it. I’m presently at that juncture again.
Why does this matter to me? The health of my family mattered a lot. My twins were 10 weeks early and spent 3 months in the NICU. I was a fanatic about giving them the best, starting with my own milk. That meant my diet mattered, both when I was pregnant and when I was nursing. Abstaining from things that harm health was important too. When I’m offered a drink, I tell people I started drinking at 14 and gave it up at 20 (when I was pregnant the first time). I think of this every time someone posts that they can now begin drinking at 21!
Health Benefits and Toxins
You can google the health benefits of any food online and see that there has been a lot of research, and it is ongoing. Although in those days, my main concern was preventing disease, I’m now focusing on learning how foods can heal.
When I was nursing my twins, I took part in a research study on pesticides in breast milk by donating milk. They sent me an analysis of my milk. Although I didn’t quite understand what I was looking at, the fact that there were pesticides in my milk was concerning. Back then it was difficult to find organic produce, except what we could grow ourselves. I did the best I could. I still believed my milk was best because of all of the components of it that went way beyond the nutrients. These things can’t be replicated in a formula. Plus, I’d have to feed them fruits and vegetables anyway — the main source of pesticides.
There is no getting around the fact that we all ingest toxic substances — in our food, water, air. And, very important organs have to deal with the load of toxic substances. So the dilemma is — are healing foods healing if they are not organic? Is the balance of toxicity vs. nutrients okay? If we were able to do the math, would one balance out the other?
Changing Workplace Culture
I don’t have a medical background. I can’t speak authoritatively on this topic. However, we all should be concerned about it. We need to find ways of incorporating healthy eating habits into our work life. It was easy enough to take the time to cook things that take longer than a few minutes when I was a stay at home mom. But how does a person do this when they are working full time? I’m attempting to work this out presently. Here are some thoughts that I’d like to mention. I want to go into more detail in future posts:
- We bring cakes to share with our fellow workers. We bring candies, and pastries.
- What place of business doesn’t have a coffee pot?
So, what if we had a juicer at work and refrigerators big enough to hold produce for juicing. Instead of making cake, we could make a glass of juice for our colleagues. How about a cutting board for making fresh salads? Can you think of a way to change workplace culture that will lead to better health for all of us?
Some interesting articles: