I am writing this blog in dedication Anne Marie Colbin, Ph.D. who was a pioneer in health education and recently passed away. I met Anne Marie in her certification course in food therapy at the Natural Gourmet Institute that focused on the healing properties of food. For most of us we eat food based on taste and the role of nutrition seems to take a back seat. What I liked about Anne Marie’s approach to is that she thought deeply about food and its impact upon our health.
She stressed the importance of whole foods and organic whenever possible, and whole to the point of reminding us that the cut-up fruits and vegetables we purchase are no longer whole and therefore diminished in nutritional content. She also reminded us that baby carrots are nothing more than cut-up carrots that most people think grow as baby carrots.
The point of consuming whole foods, she would tell us, was to take in nutrients in the ratios as they occur in nature. Anne Marie consistently observed that when we do not consume foods in these ratios, our bodies crave the missing nutrients and if we do not obtain them, illness may result. One of the real reasons why people have food cravings is that in consuming processed foods, they are not getting proper ratio of nutrients as intended in nature. Think about juicing for a moment. While juice contains a ratio of nutrients, what is missing is fiber, which is taken out in the juicing process. For myself, whenever I have juiced, it has not been uncommon to crave a fibrous food, as if my body knows the missing element to seek out.
Along with stressing the nutrient balance of whole foods, Anne Marie talked about different categorizations of foods. One that I found most helpful was the concept of acidity and alkalinity. Foods are not acid or alkaline producing in and of themselves. Rather acidity or alkalinity is the effect that they have on our body. Foods such as citrus foods can taste acidic when in reality the effect on the body is alkalizing. A healthy diet she would say is twenty percent acid-forming and eighty percent alkalizing. Unfortunately, many foods in the standard American diet are acid-forming, such as sugar and meat. Fruits and vegetables are alkalizing to the body. Too much acid in the body over time can interfere with chemical reactions and processes in the body, and lead to disease, including some serious ones, such as cancer.
Anne Marie also had a host of food remedies in the event of illness. She was not a strong believer in traditional medicine. She believed that food can continually heal our bodies. But she also believed in the law of remedies, meaning that any remedy, including food, can both cause a disorder and heal it. She stressed the importance of fevers as the body’s way of burning off pathogens and that unless a fever was unusually high, above 104 degrees, her philosophy was to let the fever do its job. Fever-reducing medications only interfered with nature’s work.
Anne Marie also had interesting thoughts on how to neutralize digestive distress with different foods. It was from Anne Marie that I learned that anti-acid medications in reducing stomach acid, reduce the very substance that works to fend off pathogens such as viruses and bacteria entering our bodies. When consuming too much many acid-forming foods, her antidote was vegetarian chicken soup, especially for excess sweets, and vegetable juice, especially for flour and animal-protein excess. Umeboshi paste and gomasio (sesame salt) were recommended when drinking alcohol in excess. Miso soup and umeboshi paste was antidotes for sugar excess. When consuming too much meat, eggs, and cheese, Anne Marie recommended neutralizing with fruit, vegetable soup or stew, or salads.
I could go on and on in the ways that Anne Marie influenced my thinking about food, especially when it comes to its medicinal qualities. It is no small coincidence that I frequently blog about the medicinal properties of food. For anyone interested in learning more about Anne Marie’s food philosophy, I highly recommend her book, Food and Healing: How what we eat determines your health, your well-being, and the quality of your life. It goes into considerable depth and has been a life-changing book for so many people.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”- Hippocrates