Dr. Shivani Vakilwala

Medical officer at Global Polyclinic & Pathology Centre.

Image source- https://prue-leith.com/culinary-medicine/

Across history there have been several cultural practices that interweave food with medicine. Our ancestors have always emphasised on good food for good health and strong immunity. Many special food items have been treasured for their disease preventing properties and their knowledge have been passed down to the future generations which has now led to more research of these beliefs.

Culinary medicine is the new evidence based field in medicine which blends the art of food and cooking with the science of medicine. The objective of culinary medicine is to attempt to empower the patient to care for themselves safely and effectively with food as a primary care technique.

Image source: https://ipe.uams.edu/culinary-medicine-resources/

According to it’s functions medicinal cuisine is classified into four categories-

  1. Health – protection cuisine – refers to the consumption of correct nutritional food to maintain health. For example, pumpkin and almond can help lose weight.
  2. Prevention cuisine – is to help build immunity against ailments. For example – mung bean soup helps prevent heat stroke in summer.
  3. Healing cuisine is the food for rehabilitation after an illness for example, everyone’s favourite – the infamous khichdi.
  4. Therapeutic cuisine – this aims at a specific pathology.

Here are a few reasons why there is currently a rise interest in the field of culinary medicine –

● Dissatisfaction with the old methods of medical approach to chronic illness.

● Increased awareness of integrative medicine.

● Increasing suspicion of the health value of the processed foods available in the market.

● Rising cost of health care.

●Revived enthusiasm for chemical free organic/ home grown food.

Image source: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/11/2675/htm

This proves the common quote “If you do not eat your food as medicine, you will have to eat medicine as food in future”.

Some diets that have proved to be as or more effective than several prescription medicines for illnesses like – anti – inflammatory pattern for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Mediterranean eating pattern for heart diseases, ketogenic diet for epilepsy.

Not only do we know what food items to incorporate in the diet but we can also learn what food items can be avoided in certain diseases –cabbage which is goitrogenic should be avoided in thyroid disorders, excessive salt, papads and pickles in diet in hypertension.

One format for culinary medicine prescriptions is FOOD – Frequency ( of the food/meal), Objective  (aim/goal of the ingredients), Options (quantity, methods of preparation) and Duration (how often to consume in a week or month).

Many universities abroad have started offering culinary medicine as electives to medical students. These courses aim to teach future clinicians how to cook healthy food, so that they can effectively counsel their patients on diet and nutrition.

Culinary medicine not only helps clinicians understand nutrition better but cooking in itself is therapeutic for many and is also emotionally rewarding. So it is not only the patients that benefit from it but even the clinicians themselves. When one’s cooking they are busy following the recipe and concentrating on the ingredients so it helps keep the mind off of the unnecessary thoughts and the output is rewarding. It’s a win-win activity for both the patient and the clinician.

Image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/483362972478843117/

References :

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4739343/
  2. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/cuisine_drink/cuisine/medicine.htm#:~:text=According%20to%20its%20respective%20functions,to%20maintain%20the%20organic%20health.
  3. https://www.southernliving.com/healthy-living/mind-body/cooking-therapy-mental-health
  4. https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2022/05/27/nutrition-meets-health-through-culinary-medicine/

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