Food As Medicine with Diane Hatz, Dr. Robert Graham, and Alain Coumont

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How are the responsibilities of a chef and a doctor virtually the same? The answer is at the same time simple, yet loaded with societal and political implications. And that answer is:

“The more plants you eat, the longer you live.”

So, eat your medicine every day. If your grandmother ever told you to eat an artichoke a week for your liver, she wasn’t giving you false or unfounded advice. These traditional, home remedies for health that involve incorporating various plants into our diets often have a significant scientific backing. Like ginger ale for an upset stomach or eucalyptus for congestion, plants contain powerful healing powers that humans have used to treat ailments since the earliest civilizations began.


From left to right: Diane Hatz, Robert Graham, Alain Coumont speak at ABC’s Deepak HomeBase.

Last night, as part of ABC Home’s “Food as Medicine” Series, Change Food’s Diane Hatz moderated an insightful conversation between Dr. Robert Graham of Fare Wellness and Alain Coumont, Founder of Le Pain Quotidien and the new, 100% gluten-free, organic, and plant-based Le Botaniste located in New York City and in Ghent, Belgium. These three experts discussed the important relationships between food, health, culture, and economics with a curious and enthusiastic audience at ABC Home’s Deepak HomeBase, fielding questions and offering words of wisdom.

In the United States, we have a widespread public health crisis related to chronic diseases that develop due to lifestyle choices – diet, exercise, stress level, and other habits that combine to determine our overall health. This looks like a nation of people taking prescription medicines for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gall bladder, kidney, and liver diseases, high blood pressure, sleep apnea – and the list goes on and on.

Eighty percent of these medicines are derived from plants at some point, which begs the question – if plants have the healing power needed to address ailment related to chronic diseases, why aren’t doctors prescribing broccoli, spinach, and apples?

The response lies somewhere in between the cultural and the economic. First, these lifestyle-related illnesses are so prevalent because of our macro-level eating habits, which usually look like consuming large quantities of foods high in sugar, salt, and fat, and the idolization of these foods, with trends like sandwiches that use fried chicken as the bread or milkshakes that could stock the inventory of an entire candy store.

Photo by Francesco Tonelli

Photo by Francesco Tonelli

Then, when it comes time to treat these illnesses, we turn towards modern medicine, which in itself is not necessarily a problem. However, the pharmaceutical and medical industries are exactly that – industries, that need to turn a profit to stay afloat. Plants can’t be patented, so they can’t make money for these industries which have massive lobbying and purchasing power. If your doctor won’t admit your health is related to your food, it may be time to find a new doctor.

If you have a choice, the recommendation here seems to be to lean towards a whole-food, plant-based diet. A shift in attitudes towards eating a plant-based diet. Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are popping up all over the country and becoming more popular than ever, even amongst meat-eaters. In the food industry, there can be a happy marriage between making money and doing good, and we look forward to the exciting future of wholesome, sustainable foods.

Didn’t get a chance to attend? No worries – you can still listen to the conversation as a podcast in the weeks to come. Stay tuned for more info.

Click to tweet – Eat your medicine: A conversation about food and healing

Kelly Mertz earned her undergraduate degree in International Studies and French Language from American University, where she focused on International Development in Latin America and the Caribbean. She is fascinated by public nutritional health campaigns and the politics of food aid.

Change Food® works toward a healthier food system for people, animals & the planet.  Learn more about Plant Eat Share – planting food in public spaces. For free.