Food Is Medicine: The Practical Guide to Healing Foods

by Pierre Jean Cousin

Published by Duncan Baird Publishers

144 pages, 2001






If You Are What You Eat...

Reviewed by Monica Stark


If what mother always said is true, a lot of us could be in fairly serious trouble. "You are what you eat," begins to sound a little threatening when an increasing number of people indulge in diets fairly high on emptiness. Never mind fast and packaged foods, in Food is Medicine author Pierre Jean Cousin warns us that much of the stuff we thought was good for us isn't:

Much of the food we buy is impoverished. For example, when fresh produce is out of season in one country, it is imported from another, and much of its vitamin content is lost during transit or storage in refrigerators or on supermarket shelves.

Even the things we do to food for the sake of our safety and health might be sucking out more value than its helping to retain:

Goodness is also depleted in the process of sterilization: in order to make fresh food "safe" and prolong shelf-life by eliminating microorganisms, it is often sterilized and irradiated -- yet this procedure renders it, quite literally, lifeless.... Most milk, for example, is pasteurized, with the result that it does not contain natural ferments and is difficult for many people to break down and digest.

Fortunately, most of Food is Medicine isn't devoted to doom and gloom. If it were, Cousin is convincing enough that it might be tempting to stop eating altogether. Rather, the esteemed herbalist uses his considerable knowledge to good advantage, spending his time not only educating those of us left wanting in the midst of our plenty about what foods we should be eating, but also telling us how to prepare those foods in intelligent and appetizing ways. The resulting book is fairly groundbreaking. At first glance it is a gorgeous cookbook: A great deal of attention has been paid to the layout and structure of the recipes as well as the styling and photography of the food. It's almost impossible for a flesh-eater to pass by the photo of "Chicken Breasts with Celery Root Mash" without salivating. Likewise, the Fava Bean Soup -- a creamy crouton-topped concoction -- looks good enough to make you forget you ever liked meat.

Food Is Medicine is broken into four main parts: "Guide to Healing Foods," is a working primer on what foods are good for you and why. While many of these foods receive merely a concise description of why it is they're good for you, some of them get a recipe or two, as well. "Foods for Common Ailments," goes straight to the heart of the matter, prescribing the type of foods to eat to help relieve everything from Anemia to Raynaud's Disease and from abdominal pain through ulcerative colitis. And though recipes appear throughout Food is Medicine, part three, "Healing Recipes," is entirely devoted to actually cooking. This section includes not only entrees and soups, but salads, side dishes, accompaniments, desserts, juices, pickles, preserves and even medicinal drinks, tinctures and syrups. Part four invites you to roll everything together and put the "Diet in Practice." It includes a full detox program and a directory of "vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients."

Food Is Medicine is an interesting and informative book. Even those with little or no belief in a homeopathic approach to health will find Cousin's book rich in practical advice towards a better diet. The recipes are clear and easy-to-follow and every aspect of the book concise and straight to the point. | February 2001


Monica Stark is a freelance writer and editor.