Certainly one of the greatest culinary challenges I’ve ever faced occurred last month, when my dear friend Food As Medicine Executive Chef and author (soon to publish her 4th cookbook) Rebecca Katz — aka, one of the most famous and sublime healthy chefs in the US — came to lunch at my house.
What to cook?
When I entertain friends and family, and I REALLY want things to go well, I use Rebecca’s recipes. Now what?
I recently returned from my 4th annual Food as Medicine Conference (FAM), a training program for health professionals to effectively integrate nutrition into their practices. I like to think of this community as my professional family. The 4-day program includes cutting edge presentations given by leading Functional Medicine and Integrative doctors, nutritionists, dietitians, social and environmental activists as well as incredible lunches created by Culinary Director Rebecca Katz. Two years ago Rebecca formed a team of us Cooks on Call (COC), Culinary Nutrition Educators, who help translate the science of nutrition in the kitchen. It’s one thing when doctors tell their patients to eat kale but it’s a whole other ballgame when they can tell that patient 5 different ways to prepare it.
Like a lovable yet eccentric Auntie you never know what you’re going to get with mustard greens. Sweet and spicy, potentially edgy and bitter, mustard greens can be unpredictable when it comes to flavor. As a result, many people approach the temperament of mustard greens with caution…or skip them over altogether. A member of the cruciferous family, these nutritional powerhouses can bring delight to the table and taste buds once you have insight as to how to work with them.
The other day after my workout, I headed to the sauna to savor some quiet time to detox and unwind. Shortly after I got settled in to my warm cocoon and a meditative state, another woman came in to do the same, or so I thought. Wrapped in her terry cloth robe, she immediately reached into her pocket, pulled out her smartphone and began texting away.
I’d read about the work of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, knew that he was on the board of directors of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine and even read several articles and a book that he had written. Whatever impressions or ideas I’d formed were nothing compared to the pure presence of the Archbishop himself.
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Several years ago, the Universe forced me to examine the “scar tissue” surrounding my heart, the direct result of a chronic American illness– racism. The multiple re-injuries to this wound affected every aspect of my existence, from family interactions, to childhood friendships, to personal and professional goals. Tragically, it also affected my own self-image.
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I learned to meditate over 20 years ago. It opened the doors to a lifelong practice of meditation techniques, including Vipassana and yoga, and spiritual exploration with wonderful teachers. As I practiced and practiced, I noticed that I was able to listen more deeply to both my patients and myself, and felt less stressed in my daily work as a medical doctor.
It wasn’t until 15 years ago when I began to work with The Center for Mind-Body Medicine that I learned the importance of teaching my patients these skills, too. Stress is a contributing factor for 80% of all chronic illness in our country, and numerous studies have shown the power of meditation and mind-body skills to reduce the effects of stress and even reverse illness. I talk at length about this in my book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, A Doctors 4-Step Program for Treating Autoimmune Disease. At Blum Center for Health we teach these skills in Mind-Body Groups, following the model developed by The Center for Mind-Body Medicine.
Digestive health continues to be a hot nutrition and health topic. You won’t want to miss this synopsis of a recent gut-centric study — and once you digest and absorb its rich content, share with your colleagues and health care providers!
Over the past two years I have had the privilege of working with adults living with Sickle Cell Disease in the Philadelphia area. This journey has brought many gifts with it, not the least of which has been conducting Mind Body Skills Groups.
Today we live in a fast-paced world, inundated by an abundance of activity and general craziness. This mantra meditation reminds us to breathe some peace into our lives. Beautifully narrated by The Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s Clinical Director, Amy Shinal, this 4 minute audio walks you through a deep-breathing exercise using the words “breathe” and “peace” spoken quietly to yourself. Take a moment and quiet the noise of demands, stress, sadness, or whatever else is weighing on your mind. A great mantra to maintain throughout the holiday season and always. We could all use a little more peace in this world – Wouldn’t you agree?