LET thy food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food’’ was a saying attributed to Hippocrates, a Greek philosopher and doctor from the old world who is credited for being the father of modern medicine.
Nutrition, exercise and lifestyle were central tenets to the Hippocratic philosophy of well-being, but what else was there to do in 400 B.C.? Wasn’t food more organic, locally sourced and more wholesome back then, anyway? GMO products, antibiotics and mega-farms didn’t arrive for another 2,000 years! So how “bad” could people be eating back in the B.C. era to make him propose food as therapy?
Hippocrates had a philosophy of using foods — in all likelihood, different types of foods in varying proportions — in order to produce a medicinal or therapeutic outcome. He recognized the value of macro and micronutrients that are specifically available through particular plants and animals, all of which have the potential to produce change in people — something that holds true even in the modern era.
Over the next handful of centuries, food chemistry became more standardized and ingredients became isolated to create the template for medicinal products. But it started with food, not food products.
For individuals to function properly and in general good health, what we allow into our bodies matters. There are food, and food products.
Our foods contain macro and micro nutrients in abundance and have unique properties that differentiate them from other edible products. On the other hand, edible food products are manufactured, preserved and sealed, and have their place in the food chain. In fact, even in 2019, there are micronutrients and enzymes that have yet to be named and identified, yet these micronutrients are essential in adding value to the foods we eat that are absent in manufactured food products. Here’s a breakdown of the difference between food and edible food products:
Characteristics of Foods
Grown, fished, hunted or slaughtered.
Spoil when left out, and have a short shelf life.
Naturally colorful and nutrient-dense.
Contain macro and micronutrients.
Contain naturally occurring microbiota from soil.
Characteristics of Food Products
Manufactured, preserved and sealed.
Supplemented with nutrients and vitamins.
Contain synthetic additives for flavor and appearance.
Cannot be produced on their own in nature.
Typically consist of high macronutrients without the micronutrients and enzymes.
Low in vitamins due to high heat in pasteurization.
Do not spoil easily due to sterile packaging process.
Most people will agree that we need to be eating more foods and less manufactured food products. Our bodies can and will function differently when most of the consumption comes from the source. There is a lot to discuss, though, when it comes to foods that are GMO or non-GMO, farmed or wild caught, organic or non-organic, etc. So we’ll address it in the near future.
Our bodies are energy-consuming beings, and without the basic constituents of carbohydrates, proteins and fats that come from our daily consumption, we would all cease to exist. However, macronutrients are not the only things our bodies need to live and function. Micronutrients are also necessary, like vitamins, phytochemicals like co-factors and enzymes that come from plants, minerals and animal products. Even bacterial presence in the right areas and in the right proportions of our intestinal tract produces a symbiotic network that is essential for the normal function of our body.
When I discuss eating patterns and lifestyle changes with my patients, I often advise eating foods, not food products. You might cheat at times, or be in a predicament to eat a food product, but the emphasis is to be eating whole-food sources first. Differentiating and choosing organic, non-GMO and unadulterated farming methods in food is important too, but is an acquired choice over time. Choosing foods over food products enhances therapeutic processes. Medicine and medical intervention are also important, as they help save and change lives, too. But food intake is within your individual control and choice.
Paying attention to your eating is like trying to be conscious of your breathing. It can be overwhelming! The transition from eating food products to eating real food takes time. It takes familiarity with recognizing the differences between the two, and making disciplined choices over time to cultivate a healthy eating habit.
And one more thing: Hippocrates emphasized exercise as well. He recognized the need for our bodies to be moving and eating. So take a walk after you eat. It’s good for your digestion, good for your soul!
Dr. Adrian Pujayana has been providing drug-free solutions for health and wellness to adults, athletes and youth since 2000 through his private practice at Family Chiropractic Center of South Pasadena, a place for strength training and nutrition-based health care. For comments or questions, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.