I am still in a food as medicine kick. Currently, I don’t see any other way to look at either food or medicine…they are interconnected! Food at its simplest nurtures your body and cells, provides the energy needed to meet life’s demands, positively contributes to the whole being, and supports a balanced state of mind. Is that too much to ask of our medicine, too?
Give thanks. The first layer of using food as medicine is simply giving thanks for the food and the enjoyment of eating. I thank the food for giving its’ life for nourishing me. None of that “I shouldn’t be eating this” BS. If you are eating something, enjoy it, don’t deny it! I never understood why people say this. Go ahead, say, “this is the best latte, I am so glad I drank it.”
Giving thanks for our meals transforms food from things we consume three times a day to an honored life-giving force.
Blessings and thanks for the food that nourishes:
Blessings for the flower, blessing for the shoot, blessings for the leaf and stem, blessings on the root.
Thank you for the farmer, thank you for the cook, thank you for the sun and rain, thank you for the earth.
Take time. Here are some ways to employ slowing down and savoring the sensual joy of eating:
- Get into a meal planning ritual with your family. I spend Sunday afternoons browsing my favorite cookbooks and food magazines to get meal ideas for the week.
- Enjoy food that is slow cooked (or cultivated). Chinese medicine says that food cooked long on low heat is more yin promoting. Crock pots, baking, sprouting, soaking beans, cooking whole grains, steaming greens, pickling, cultivating yogurt, kim chee and kombucha. Slow preparation easily slides over to the medicine category, as homemade, herbal medicines take some sweet time to make, from steeping nettle tea overnight to making tinctures.
- Eat slower, chew slower. I asked the elementary school kids I work with if they knew where their digestion started, and they all shouted out “the mouth! teeth!”. We are talking about carbohydrate digestion here, the more you chew carbs the more our saliva can start the process (protein digestion starts in the stomach/small intestine, which is why carnivores can scarf down their food without chewing).
- Not only is eating slower good for appreciating our food, it also reduces overeating, acid reflux, It takes 20 minuets for your brain to realize your stomach is full, so eating slow allows your brain to catch up to your stomach.
From Bio-Medicine.org, “Researchers had given large plates of pasta to 30 college-aged-women asking them to eat as much as they wanted. It was found that 646 calories in nine minutes is being consumed by the participants when they were asked to eat quickly wherein only 579 calories in 29 minutes could only be consumed when they slowed it down to 15 to 20 times of mouthful.”
- Take a full hour (or half hour!) to sit at the table, eat, and begin to digest. At the Indian restaurant where I used to wait tables, the cooks would take at least an hour break after each meal, put their feet up, and sip on a cup of chai, which they stated that this helped their digestion and energy level.
Use your senses. Listen to the clues from your body, taste buds, the season, your environment, and your imagination to direct your food choices. Often when people become more conscious about eating, they find their tastes change. Suddenly carrots and celery are bursting with flavor and Wonder Bread doesn’t cut it any more. Or their organs will give them a big-time clue to cut it out on the meat and eat some fiber, dammit!
Speaking of seasons, fall is upon us and as the temperature outside decreases, we need to increase our intake of warming foods, in temperature and spicy-ness. At the same time, cool it on the cool drinks. Ever since I stopped drinking cold water, my hands and feet are less cold in the winter. Now is also the time to roast root veggies like beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, as well as squash, and cut back on raw, cold salads.
How does imagination relate to food? Food as art is as old as, well, art I suppose. Here are some cute pics. My friends served their three-year-old snacks based on color, letter of the alphabet (my favorite was “P” day: pears, pumpkin, popcorn, peanuts, peas…), shape, ethnic foods, wild and local foods, ect… It was so much fun. We are all kids at heart; we all love trying new foods and having food presented to us in an appealing, creative way.
Celebrate abundance. Share your food with people you love as well as your community, through picnics, pot lucks, weddings, holidays as well as for no reason at all. Grow a garden, invest in a CSA or a local farm, and count the seeds in a watermelon or tomato. Each of those seeds carry the potential for new life and lots more fruit.
I can’t leave without sharing a recipe. Here is an old favorite: Blended Paprika and Corn from a 2006 lecture from Bill Mitchell. The recipe is so simple: take one package frozen corn (or two cups fresh corn), heat, and place in a food processes with a heaping teaspoon of paprika.
The orange-ish mush is delicious, eat it as a dip with veggies or tortilla chips, as a condiment or spread. I like it on huevous rancheros; spread it on a toasted corn tortilla with re-fried beans, salsa and top with fried eggs and cheese. Mitchell describes it as such, “It is probable that the corn acts as an emulsifier and allows absorption of the carotenoid-rich paprika into the body”.