Food as Medicine: Can we really eat our way to better health?
If we treated food as medicine, could we curb many modern day diseases? A lot of research implies that we could.
We spend billions of dollars a year on medicine here in the U.S. to treat diseases that are largely preventable. How? It’s all about diet, baby. There is strong evidence that low-fat, plant-based diet can help prevent or even mitigate the effects of diseases from diabetes and obesity to multiple sclerosis and cancer.
Of course, switching to a vegan diet isn’t going to cure MS or cancer, but studies are showing that eating this way can help prevent or reduce the impacts of these diseases in many people. Here’s some further reading:
- A low fat vegan diet may help curb MS symptoms.
- A plant-based diet lowers the risk of chronic disease.
- Want to live longer? Eat plants!
- Eating meat increases your risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
And check out this infographic looking at what we spend on prescription drugs. Imagine if we reduced those numbers just by eating better?
Food as Medicine: It’s Not that Easy for Everyone
Unfortunately not everyone can afford to eat a whole foods, plant-based diet. Obesity is linked to poverty because processed foods and animal-based foods cost less than healthy options.
Why? There are two major factors at play.
1. Farm subsidies. Instead of encouraging farmers to raise healthy foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, we subsidize corn and soy. Most of those crops are genetically modified. They’re either processed to make food additives like corn syrup or fed to farm animals.
2. Our industrialized food system. Meat is relatively cheap thanks to the subsidies I talk about above and to factory farming. The trouble with our industrialized food system is that it comes with hidden costs to our health and to the environment.
When we talk about food as medicine, I think there’s often an attitude that folks should change their habits overnight. If you can afford to do that, by all means do! But I think that it’s important to recognize that we can’t all afford to eat preventively. If we really want everyone to be able to eat well, we need to address poverty, our farm subsidy system, and change the way that we grow and produce food.