Three Essentials for a Wonderful Life: Health, Food and Community By Kathie Swift

Twice a year, usually in late June and September, I have the privilege of communing with some of the most brilliant dietitians, nutritionists, physicians, health care practitioners and everyday people at Food As Medicine (FAM), a four-day exchange of the latest nutrition research, ideas and mind-body wisdom on the healing power of food.

Each time we present the course, it never fails to inspire and surprise me, renewing my enthusiasm for spreading the word about the priceless benefits of beautiful, healing, plant-based, whole foods. In both my personal and professional experiences, I’ve seen these foods save lives. I’ve witnessed their power of reversing chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.  Yes, I swear by them. Foods like berries, kale, spinach, cilantro, turmeric, ancient grains like quinoa and amaranth, black beans, walnuts, sunflower seeds and high quality animal foods -- they’re the ones that returned me to health after years of struggle and they’ve done the same for thousands of patients in my practice. I can’t help but be awed by the power of food.

For those who haven’t experienced the life-changing effects of the right foods, it may be a difficult idea to relate to – and I get that. Until you run into trouble and your body starts to misbehave, eating for a lot of people, is just something they do mindlessly, three times a day. Once things start to go off the rails, that’s when a lot of people’s hearts and minds become more open to my message that food really is medicine.

When I was reflecting on some of the highlights of our June gathering, one idea that really struck me was of food as one of the drivers behind the creation of community. It was food that helped bring language into being and inspired communication between our prehistoric forbearers. It was food – stalked, hunted and shared – that helped first create communities. Later, agriculture – growing, tending, harvesting, preparing – brought groups of people together and bound them to each other, creating that life-sustaining relationship with nature which enabled them to survive. It’s kind of amazing when you think of it – food not only as medicine but also as a major player in the creation of civilization!

So what does this all mean for us in 2015? For me, it’s a reminder. A reminder to use and enjoy food as a way to bring people together, not only friends and family around the dinner table but through food-based community experiences like farmer’s markets. It’s also for me a reminder to grow more of my own food – be it something as simple as herbs in a window box or as ambitious as a full-scale garden of greens. (The scale is to be determined!) But most of all it’s a reminder to appreciate the gifts of Mother Earth, to protect her at every turn, preserving her health, our health and the health of our communities.

I hope you’ll consider joining us at the next Food As Medicine experience, when we meet at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health for our East Coast Food As Medicine: A Feast of Science and Wisdom in September. It would be a joy to share it with you! Click here for information or to register

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