And Then…There Was Food

“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”

-Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb

Before the rise of industrialization, there were no ‘medicine cabinets’ full of little orange prescription bottles. There were herbs, potent from their recent bond to the earth, and then…there was food. Food that our ancestors grew and cultivated, born of diverse varieties that held high nutritional value. At the point where herbs were traded for pills, and nutrient-rich vegetables for processed, packaged meals, flooded with fat, cholesterol, and high caloric content, US society saw an extreme rise in obesity and chronic degenerative diseases.

The good news is, statistics back this pattern. America spends $2.2 trillion dollars a year on healthcare. According to the CDC, “More than 75% of health care costs are due to chronic conditions.” Currently, half of Americans are taking a prescription drug, as noted in the documentary, Forks Over Knives. Yet, one in four Americans will develop diabetes in their life, and the CDC reports that 2/3 of the nation is weighing in as obese or overweight. “Despite the nation’s massive healthcare bill, research shows that Americans die earlier and experience higher rates of disease than people in other countries,” states The Huffington Post. The number one cause of death in America is heart disease, which kills over 600,000 people a year (Forks Over Knives). We could potentially be facing a dreary future, and the answer is not another pill, or five. For once, the epidemic we face is avoidable, and it all starts with food.

Eat well now, avoid potential health costs later. In the film Forks Over Knives – which examines the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet – one patient with particularly dire health conditions makes a significant improvement, simply by redefining the way he eats. By eliminating meat and animal byproducts, he is able to reduce or eliminate nearly every one of his two dozen health problems. Uva Mason, a local clinical dietitian, shared similar stories of healing, through treating her patients with food. “In working as a clinical dietitian, most of treatments of these diseases include educating people on including more whole grains, fruits and vegetables in their diet, and explaining on how to eat less meat and animal products. The whole practicality of being vegan coincides with all the recommendations for preventing and treating these leading causes of mortality.”

When food becomes medicine, there are always a few in-season, nutritious staples to keep on hand. Here are three delicious spring season picks:

Chard– Referred to as a “nutritional powerhouse,” it can easily be grown in New Mexico. Chard contains 13 phytonutrients, which help regulate spikes in blood sugar after eating. It is a great source of vitamins K, A, and C, and also contains fiber, protein, calcium and magnesium. The stems and leaves can be steamed or sauteed.

Asparagus– With a great nutritional profile, asparagus contains vitamins A, C, E, and K, antioxidants, folate, and fiber. It also contains chromium, which allows insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream to cells, and glutathione, a detoxifying element that helps break down carcinogens and free radicals. Eating asparagus may help protect against and fight certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers.

Ginger– Ginger is a tonic for digestion, and a remedy for swollen joints. It has many antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory effects. Ginger can help rid a cold, as well as subside nausea. It grows in sun or shade, and year round in a window sill, and flourishes if transferred outside in the summer.

Each and every day people are making the switch. The switch to reconnecting with their food, their health, and in return, connecting with their community. Not too long ago, I decided to make the change myself. Initially, it was the difficult process of giving up meat. Since then, I have devoted my diet almost entirely to plant-based, organic, and local foods. My long journey with this diet has been a series of mistakes, and valuable lessons learned. I was the naive 15 year old junk-food vegetarian and animal rights advocate. Six years down the line, I have emerged, a health conscious and sustainability-driven individual. Plentiful culinary masterpieces make up for my many failures in the kitchen. Among my tips: choose in season produce at a local farmers’ market, for optimum quality and incomparable taste. Buying primarily produce is the cheapest way of eating I have ever come across, and being the typical broke college student, I will take what I can get. Follow the links for some phenomenal recipes that can be cooked with New Mexico grown products. In order to find what is both local and available by season, check out Local Harvest or The Seasonal Food Guide.

Try these wonderful and simple vegan recipes with a local, spring ingredient:

Barley and Swiss Chard Skillet Casserole

Spring Vegetable Stew

Carrot Ginger Cupcakes

-Posted by Kara

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