WASHINGTON, DC, Mar 18 – “You are what you eat” may not be as simple as it sounds. Health advocates are bound to offer that piece of advice no matter how old you are. Parents are apt to warn their kids that junk food is a definite no-no. And when you arrive at the point in your life known as “senior citizenship,” your health care providers, to be sure, will continue to remind you that your diet is a critical element of your lifestyle as we age, according to Rebecca Weber, CEO of the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC].
Says Weber, “Moms, dads, and physicians have been telling us that ever since Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote his book in 1825, ‘Physiology of Taste, or Meditations of Transcendent Gastronomy.’ As he put it back then, tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are. But don’t be put off; healthy eating does not mean you have to sacrifice your taste buds in favor of nutrition. The two need not be contradictory. In other words, you can have your cake and eat it too, as another saying goes.”
Talk about preparing tasty dishes that are good for you. Dr. Linda Shiue, like most doctors, is an advocate of healthy eating. So, when she joined a Harvard Medical School conference in 2012 attended by doctors, chefs, and dietitians, she found an unusual way of helping her patients: teach them how to cook healthy meals.
The conference prompted her to train as a chef at the San Francisco Cooking School, and now she is not only an internist, but she’s also a trained chef. In fact, Dr. Shiue wrote her own cookbook, Spicebox Kitchen. In her own words, “I like to think of a spice box as the cook’s equivalent of a doctor’s bag–containing the essential tools to use in the art of cooking. Learning to use spices is the best way to add interest and vibrancy to simple home cooking.”
In a profile that appeared in Bon Appétit, she explained, “I’d often felt like I wasn’t doing enough for my patients; that they weren’t able to make the lifestyle changes they wanted to. In that moment, I realized food could be a really great, creative way of guiding them towards healthier choices. I literally taught my first cooking class for patients a week after that and have been doing so at my clinic since.”
Dr. Shiue is not alone; medical schools are beginning to offer culinary medicine courses; they’re turning out young doctors who know their medicine and are versed in the art of offering patients appetizing healthy meals. The Association of American Medical Colleges says they are “part of an emerging trend at medical schools across the country, one that teaches students how to cook so they will be equipped not only to take better care of themselves but also to counsel patients on the role that good nutrition plays in improving health outcomes.”
No longer will doctors simply tell their patients that nutritious eating will prevent disease; he or she may be able to literally give them tasty recipes for a healthy lifestyle.