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Food as medicine: Getting a perspective

Food as medicine: Getting a perspective

by FoodMaestro | 23 May 2016

‘Food as Medicine’ - What does it really mean?

More importantly - What does it mean to you or for you?

If you are interested in food and nutrition, you are likely to already have heard the term ‘Food as Medicine’. Many attribute this idea to Hippocrates, who is quoted as saying “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. It is being used in a modern context as part of an almost global message to be more aware of the nutritional value of the food we eat and to avoid harmful additives, processing, and too many calories.

Eating yourself well

This is an introduction to the concept behind eating yourself well (treating medical problems with diet) or aiming for optimal health through eating healthily (prevention and health maintenance). We are all, as food consumers, close to information overload with confusing nutritional advice and contradictory or scientifically inadequate research studies. We are told one year to avoid fat and the next to avoid carbohydrates. Most are united in the fight against too much added sugar but it is enough to make anyone distrust nutritional advice altogether, particularly anything that claims that "food is medicine”.

Our mission should be to better understand what is in our food and to make more informed and personalised choices - whether through avoidance of harmful foods or by making positive choices for better quality food, to optimise our health. This means looking to the evidence for health harm or benefit, as well as demanding more transparency with respect to food labelling of ingredients and nutritional information.

What is the problem with our diets and why do we need to fix it?

UK and Ireland prevalence and trends data from Health Survey for England (HSE) 2014 show that 61.7% of adults (defined as people aged 16 and over) are overweight or obese (65.3% of men and 58.1% of women). In fact, The UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe, ahead of countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Sweden. With higher rates of obesity, diabetes and chronic disease than ever before in the developed world, there is a need to think about what has changed in our foods and dietary habits. We need to look at how we could eat to prevent future health issues and shift our focus on lifespan to include a quality-of-life-span or ‘health span’.

When is food a medicine?

We could talk in more detail about the specifics of medical or weight loss diets but what about a young, health-aware person who wants to eat more healthily for optimal health and well-being? In many ways, we already have a good idea of how to eat healthily with a variety of fresh foods, avoiding extra sugars, complex carbohydrates and other empty calories (including alcohol). And of course, to do some physical activity each day.

Making the right choices

With all the complicated nutritional advice, contradictory research studies, and endless health diets it can be overwhelming. So how do we choose the right foods in a world of fast, convenient, prepared food, which may be lacking in nutrients and full of additives, flavourings and chemically altered fats and sweeteners.  The FoodMaestro app can help you discover foods based on your personal food journey to make more informed nutritional choices.  Download the app to help you find the right foods.