The Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans has added an unconventional course to its curriculum. Medical students can now take cooking classes in addition to their usual training. The idea behind this ‘culinary medicine’ program -- the first of its kind in the United States -- is to improve doctors’ nutritional knowledge and encourage them to use food to prevent or cure illnesses.
According to an article in Bon Appétit, most medical students in the U.S. receive on average 20 hours of nutritional education throughout their entire education. This is an appallingly low number, especially when one considers that diet is at the core of many modern Western diseases. From Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, reflux and irritable bowel syndrome to obesity, allergies, depression, arthritis, and metabolic syndrome, eating the right foods (and eliminating the wrong foods) can go a long ways toward healing, while significantly reducing dependency on medicinal drugs.
A big part of the problem is that nutritional guidelines in North America are vague, impractical, and difficult to know how to apply. Everyone, from doctors to schoolchildren, learn about specific nutrients and percentages of recommended daily intakes, but that doesn’t translate easily to the grocery store:
“No one goes to the store with a shopping list that reads ‘three bottles monounsaturated fats, five bunches of complex carbohydrates, four bags of Vitamin A!” (Bon Appétit)
Training doctors to cook, however, takes nutritional education to a whole new level. Not only will doctors be able to explain which foods are best to eat, but they will also understand how to prepare them. Tulane medical students prepare for teaching future patients by offering free cooking classes to New Orleans residents – a mutually beneficial arrangement that just keeps on giving to everyone who shares that food.
Fortunately, the culinary medicine model seems to be catching on. Already two other medical schools have licensed the curriculum and are adding it to their courses. Tulane also offers nutritional training for health-focused chefs from a nearby cooking school, which makes a lot of sense. After all, with the frequency with which North Americans eat out, we could all benefit from chefs who know how to balance nutrition with great taste.
The more people willing to harness the intrinsic power of food to transform, improve, and strengthen human bodies, the better off everyone will be.