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Culinary Medicine Empowers People to Eat Healthier for Life

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Physicians like Sabrina Falquier, MD, founder of Sensations Salud, a culinary medicine consulting and education company, empower people to make healthier food choices by bridging gaps between enjoyment, nourishment, and cultural relevancy. She also teaches graduate-level culinary medicine and integrative medicine courses at Bastyr University, San Diego, a natural medicine university with campuses in Washington, California, and now Oregon with the announcement to merge with NUNM in 2024). Dr. Falquier recently spoke at the Food as Medicine Global online conference about how and why our food choices and how culinary medicine can reduce chronic illness by bringing people back to enjoying, preparing, and eating food in its whole forms. “It’s about making colorful, fresh whole foods the centerpiece of the kitchen and one’s plate,” says Dr. Falquier. 

One goal here at the Institute for Natural Medicine (INM) is to work more closely with physicians like Dr. Falquier. Our work in culinary nutrition is spreading across the country through INM’s Naturally Well youth programs, our partnership with the Food as Medicine Institute, and our ongoing Food as Medicine research project.  We aim to bring the message to more communities and encourage physicians to embrace the practice of culinary medicine and culinary nutrition for their patients. 

Culinary Medicine and the Trust Factor 

It makes perfect sense for healthcare professionals to take a more vital patient-facing role in helping people learn to prepare food to improve their health.

What is Culinary Medicine?

Culinary medicine is a relatively new field that combines the art of cooking with the science of medicine. Experts in culinary medicine teach people, usually in group settings, about food and nutrition with online or hands-on culinary classes. Classes are generally tailored to specific health needs and stress the importance of lifestyle medicine. Lessons can include knife skills, cooking techniques, and the benefits of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, well-thought-out proteins, and healthy fats. 

The information taught in culinary medicine classes is designed to complement, not replace, the advice given by one’s primary care physician or specialist. “Culinary medicine is where evidence-based nutritional information meets the culinary arts. It’s really learning about nutrition and the why,” says Dr. Falquier. 

Building Trust in Nutrition

Survey after survey says doctors are the most trusted profession, with an impressive 92% trust factor. Yet, as many as 78% of people surveyed say they encounter conflicting nutrition information, and 56% say this casts doubt on their food choices. Competing information on Dr. Google and elsewhere leads many astray, especially regarding the question of what healthy eating is. 

One-size-fits-all food fads can be damaging to health, especially with the growing number of food and lifestyle-related chronic illnesses. And as is often the case, many healthcare providers need more training in nutrition, lifestyle medicine, and culinary nutrition during medical school to provide any clarity and advice to cut through the chaotic messaging that is so prevalent. It’s not hard to see why people are so confused and resort to falling back on poor choices. 

An Empowering Path Towards Healthy Eating

Culinary medicine is a way to bridge the knowledge gap, reduce confusion and help people make meaningful changes to prevent disease and reverse chronic health conditions. “Culinary medicine is not meant to vilify in any way, shape, or form,” says Dr. Falquier. “It’s meant to empower and help people understand that nutrition is knowledge and power. Once they have that information, what they learn in teaching kitchens allows them to look at food in many positive ways that they’ve never considered.”  

Dr. Falquier explains that much of what she does is lifestyle medicine, which may be new in the medical community, but much of what she teaches goes back to how cultures have lived for thousands of years. Lifestyle medicine is based on the six pillars of exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management, social connections, and avoiding or being cautious about risky substances, such as alcohol,  tobacco, and other drugs. “Recently, we’ve lost that ability to be more connected to our community, our culture, and the foundations of lifestyle medicine,” Dr. Falquier says. 

Forward Momentum for Culinary Medicine and Culinary Nutrition  

Dr. Falquier spent 16 years in primary care before her Aha moment came at a conference, Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives, at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Napa Valley. The conference, co-hosted by Harvard T. H Chan School of Public Health and the CIA, teaches healthcare professionals how to integrate their medical knowledge into culinary life skills for better patient health. Dr. Falquier recounts how being there for the first time brought tears because it represented the missing piece – the bridge between medicine and illness and health and wellness. “It’s about moving away from a pill for every ill and moving more toward the kitchen for solutions to reducing the risk of common chronic illnesses,” she says. 

She recounts a landmark New England Journal of Medicine 2003 study of more than 25,000 participants because it shows just how strong this field of medicine can be in changing the health landscape of the country. It outlines the importance of the Mediterranean diet and a nine-point scale of how eating habits can reduce mortality by as much as 25%. The study supported the following dietary changes: 

Eating More: 

Vegetables

Fruits and Nuts

Legumes

Whole Grains

Fish

Olive Oil 

Consuming Less: 

Meat

Dairy

Alcohol 

This study became the medical community’s beacon to understand better the power of eating plant-forward meals with whole and less processed foods. The power of this message is spreading. The work within communities worldwide creates a grassroots movement to move the message forward. People like Dr. Falquier influence physicians and medical students to learn more about nutrition and help their patients change their eating habits for a better life. The Institute for Natural Medicine looks forward to working with Dr. Falquier in our partnerships in the San Diego community. 

To learn more about her work and the power of culinary medicine, we encourage you to watch the online documentary The Kitchenistas, which takes place at the Olivewood Gardens in National City, San Diego.  Click here for instructions on how to watch the movie. 


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This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of natural medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of evidence-based natural medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

About The Author(s)

Author INM Team

Kimberly Lord Stewart

Kimberly Lord Stewart is the director of youth programming for Naturally Well, the Institute for Natural Medicine’s youth culinary nutrition education program. Stewart is also an advocate, author, and writer in support of the adoption of healthy eating and helping youth overcome food social-justice barriers.

Author

Institute for Natural Medicine Staff

Our dedicated content team of professional staff writers represents decades of experience covering essential natural health topics in an accessible, evidence-based, and engaging way. Guided by a shared passion for holistic well-being, each and every one of our writers strives to empower our readers to take charge of their health.

Supported by a rigorous fact-checking and medical editing process from licensed naturopathic doctors that examines the latest in peer-reviewed research, our team brings their in-depth knowledge of natural health practices into every piece of content we produce. We strive to be the gold standard for evidence-based natural medicine, providing trustworthy information and inspiring narratives to help you live your best health, naturally.

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