By Melissa Li, MD, Vegan Outreach Board Member
In 2012, I attended the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Leadership Summit in Washington, DC. There, a mixture of health professionals and concerned animal advocates gathered to hear information on plant-based health and initiatives. When the audience members were asked what they did to further promote health, a physician stood up and declared that she often cooked with her patients.
I was stunned. What kind of physician does that? She explained that it was one thing to tell a patient what to do, but another to show them how to do it. The practical application reinforced the way to better health. The combination of teaching and immersion in cooking together as physician and patient forged a better relationship, a better understanding of healthy food, and ultimately solidified the habits for healthy eating.
I was delighted to encounter this book, recognizing author Dr. Ana M. Negron as the physician who stood up and talked about her unconventional method of treating her patients. In the book, Nourishing the Body and Recovering Health, she confirmed that she has been cooking with her patients since 2003. The book is comprehensive and thorough, covering the well-known illnesses (hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia) associated with the Standard American Diet, as well as the lesser known ones, or less life-threatening illnesses, all of which would be ameliorated by a plant-based diet.
She writes with a warm, enthusiastic and kind voice, going over the basics of nutrition, what is needed in a plant-based diet, and furthermore, addresses the challenges there are when changing one’s entrenched eating habits and lifestyle. She covers how the government promotes processed foods and meat, the misguidance of the current dietary guidelines, and how this further impairs people’s health. She acknowledges the difficult situations that many people face when changing eating habits, and offers solutions to overcome them.
The health data provided is substantiated by references that include the abstracts so that the studies can be understood. There are recipes with beautiful colorful photos depicting easy-to-make dishes. Another interesting and unique aspect to the book is Dr. Negron’s inclusion of her patient case studies towards the end of the book. These are interesting to read, because it highlights that everyone is on a different path to their road to health, with their own unique environments. Readers will find these stories inspiring, and will find it humbling to see that others encounter similar roadblocks.