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Can we use food as medicine?

Professor Helen Truby of Monash University explains the concept of food as medicine and the importance of understanding the evidence for using foods to improve our health.

Professor Helen Truby is the lead educator on Monash University’s free online course Food as Medicine. In this post she explains the concept of food as medicine and the importance of understanding the evidence for using foods to improve our health.

Food as medicine: berries, leaves and a stethoscope

At a time when food and nutrition information is at an all-time high, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about food based recommendations for wellness.

The concept of food as medicine is not new; foods have been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years and is a feature of many cultures around the world.

However, nutrition science has evolved and developed significantly over the recent years. Our knowledge of nutrients and bioactive compounds of foods, and their relationship with disease, is significantly more advanced. Our understanding of the role of food in health continues to grow.

Despite this, there is still a lot of debate and expectations of food as medicine.

What role can food play in our health?

From all the research and information we have learnt over the years, it is well recognised that nutrition, and more specifically foods, play a crucial role in our health; from both a preventive and treatment perspective.

What is important to note is that while foods are recognised as an influencer of being well, and our daily diet plays a role in determining our health, it is essential that all nutrition and food based recommendations are based on evidence.

Many extreme nutrition messages – the ones that claim ‘cures through food’ or ‘miracle diets’ – are often non-evidenced based and provide a one-size-fits-all message to the public. These messages have the potential to do harm and are not always helpful.

How do you know what to believe?

Currently, we are seeing a rise in extreme nutrition messages and unqualified people providing nutrition and health advice through blogs, books and social media. This is creating a lot of confusion about the role of foods in health, misinformation about the science of nutrition, what we should be eating, and how much we need and consume.

In a world where there is a large amount of nutrition, food and health advice at our fingertips, it can be hard to understand what is fact and evidenced based. Understanding the warning signs for non-evidenced based advice and being able to identify key evidenced based sources is the first step to give you confidence and how you can use foods as medicine.

To learn more about the concept of food as medicine, the complexities of nutrition science and how you can apply evidenced based nutrition information to improve your diet, lifestyle and health, join the free online course Food as Medicine.

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