Written by Lourdes Castros, MS, RDN
In our fast-paced modern world, we often seek quick fixes for our health concerns. But what if the key to a healthier life lies not in a pill or prescription, but on our plates? The concept of “food is medicine” has gained significant attention in recent years, highlighting a crucial paradigm shift within our healthcare system: rather than relying solely on pharmaceuticals, we can significantly enhance our wellness and alleviate ailments by strategically embracing the inclusion of nourishing foods.
The Power of “Food is Medicine”:
For centuries, diverse cultures across the globe have embraced the profound healing potential of specific foods. However, in the United States, this wisdom has often been considered fringe thinking. Fortunately, a remarkable shift is underway as more healthcare professionals recognize the transformative power of integrating nutrient-dense foods into our diets and viewing these ingredients as important players in providing patient care.
This topic was the central theme in the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference I recently attended and presented at. Over the course of three days, esteemed faculty members from prestigious institutions such as Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and my own institution, New York University, shared cutting-edge research on the powerful impact that diet, nutrition, and lifestyle choices have on our health. The conference aimed to empower attendees, including myself, to become advocates and role models for healthy food and lifestyle choices, enabling us to effectively engage our patients and guide them towards improving their food choices for better health outcomes.
I had the honor of co-presenting at the conference with Dr. Robert Graham, who is board certified in both internal and integrative medicine and the founder of FRESH Medicine, an integrative health and wellness center located in NYC. When I asked him about the concept of “food is medicine,” he summed it up this way: “What we eat has a significant impact on our overall health and well-being. Unfortunately, most physicians lack the knowledge and expertise to appropriately prescribe food as medicine. That’s why I became a chef—to not only understand nutrition but also to comprehend the impact of food, how we eat, and what we eat. While many doctors simply advise you on what to avoid eating, I will provide you with a food prescription, detailing precisely what you should be eating to address your medical condition.”
Embracing the principles of Dr. Graham’s approach, the philosophy of “food is medicine” promotes a proactive approach to well-being, harnessing the power of nutrient-dense foods to support and optimize overall health. In this context, salmon emerges as a true superstar, thanks to its exceptional nutritional profile, particularly its rich abundance of omega-3 fatty acids.
Salmon: A Nutritional Powerhouse
Salmon is widely acclaimed for its rich concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats are crucial for our bodies as they play a vital role in maintaining optimal health. Omega-3 fatty acids, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties, support brain function, boost cardiovascular health, and may even aid in preventing chronic diseases. A weekly salmon prescription where you consume 4-6 ounces of Secret Island salmon may be helpful in dealing with the following conditions:
- Brain Health:
Our brains rely on omega-3 fatty acids for their structure and function. Research suggests that consuming adequate omega-3s, like those found in salmon, may help reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline and improve mental well-being.
- Heart Health:
Cardiovascular diseases are a leading cause of mortality worldwide, making heart health a top priority. The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon are renowned for their ability to support heart health by reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and improving cholesterol levels. Regular consumption of omega-3 rich foods, such as salmon, has been associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases, including arthritis, asthma, and certain cancers. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids can help counteract this damaging process. By incorporating salmon into your diet, you can harness the power of omega-3s to reduce inflammation and potentially alleviate symptoms associated with inflammatory conditions.
Whether you’re looking to support brain health, improve heart function, or reduce inflammation, a weekly salmon prescription can make a significant difference. If you’re ready to embrace the concept of “food is medicine” and explore the transformative potential of nutrient-dense foods, I invite you to try out a delicious and nutritious recipe that showcases the exceptional flavors of omega-3 rich salmon.