A New Prescription for Better Health
As a doctor of naturopathy, I’ve been aware for many years that the route to vibrant health is paved not with pills, but papayas. And kiwis, cherries, broccoli, or just about any other whole fruit or vegetable you can think of. Even better if it’s organic. The motto for this approach to good health might be: “produce, not pills”.
The point is that naturopathic doctors are trained to seek wellness in nature, not the pharmacy. We’ve never lost sight of the obvious: that eating a healthful whole foods diet—which is as free from toxins as possible—is almost certain to restore, and maintain, excellent health.
And now, I’m pleased to report, “mainstream” physicians are finally getting on board. In fact, according to a report that appeared recently in the New York Times, more and more doctors are giving up on vague advice to their patients to “lose weight and eat better.” Instead, they’re literally writing prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables.
At the very least, this sends a strong, no-nonsense message that we’re finally ready to take seriously the important role that food plays in our health. The idea, evidently, is to do more than tell a patient he or she is overweight, and then send them home. Rather, this new approach highlights the problem (which often involves obesity, high blood pressure, and/or pre-diabetes), and then provides a solution: Buy more whole produce. And eat it, rather than packaged sweets, snacks, or fast food.
It’s a deceptively simple plan, and it seems to be making a difference in the poor communities where it’s being pioneered. People in these communities often struggle with multiple challenges, not the least of which is ready access to healthful foods, like simple fresh fruits and vegetables. Places where healthful foods are unavailable, let alone affordable, are called “food deserts”.
With a participating doctor’s prescription, qualified families can make their food stamp dollars stretch twice as far, providing added incentive for these families to buy and serve healthful foods. Even farmer’s markets, which previously declined to accept food stamps, have gotten on board. And everyone benefits, from farmers to consumers. According to the New York Times, programs such as these are presently operational in 30 states, and the movement appears to be poised to grow faster than American’s waistlines. And that’s good news for all of us.