How Medical Students Are Harnessing The Power Of Preventative Medicine

We all know the quote by Hippocrates well:  “Let food be your medicine, medicine be your food.” But, do we take it seriously? Do we just think of it as another ancient proverb that we recite as poetry? Or perhaps, should we understand it as Hippocrates did, as a deep-rooted meaning that would still be true today?

The rise in obesity and chronic diseases has gained our attention in recent years. Today’s environment and lifestyle affect our children; they’re the ones who will have to face the consequences of our choices. Educators are looking for solutions and it all seems to point to a plant-based diet. We’ve known that eating healthy prevents diseases, but not until recently have we paid attention to the success of lifestyle medicine.   

UCF College of Medicine’s measure to promote preventative medicine

Preventative measures are becoming more and more popular. Seeing how a poor diet caused a rise in chronic diseases among children is finally causing people to pay attention to the seriousness of diet.

The University of Central Florida (UCF) College of Medicine saw the need for lifestyle medicine classes for their medical students, so they developed an innovative culinary medicine course. The course was created to sustainably heal patients by teaching medical students how to talk about nutrition and healthy eating.

Dr. Robert Karch, a pediatrician at Nemours Children’s Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at UCF College of Medicine assisted in implementing this amazing program. He realized the need for better communication between patients. Doctors can hand a patient a paper with information, but being able to offer advice on healthy cooking and healthy eating at home was “groundbreaking.” The practical application of preventative care is seen through this program. This program was first launched six years ago and since then, it’s been implemented in 40 medical schools nationwide. With the obesity epidemic and rise in chronic diseases among children, this elective course will give medical students the tools to share practical lifestyle advice with their patients.

Diet can be deadly when abused but used correctly, it can also be a strong force for good health and long life. Food is imperative to health and wellbeing, but there have been difficulties in proper patient education. The UCF program a truly groundbreaking one, in that it is finally providing useful techniques to develop healthy eating habits within families. Giving medical students the opportunity to provide lifestyle management advice in their practice is the missing puzzle piece that will heal our children’s future. The program is one way to highlight the connection between food and health. In the modern age, we are becoming aware of how diet is crucial to our health. Instead of just providing an informational sheet or increasing medications for patients and expecting results, they have found a tangible solution.

There need to be more medical schools like this. Food is the preventative measure of lifestyle that can be addressed. It’s amazing how our healthcare providers are investing their time and research to find solutions to address the rise in obesity and chronic diseases in pediatrics.

The change can begin with our children

We need to build a better future and lifestyle for this next generation. Children are suffering because of their diets. If we got actively involved in educating parents and caretakers about the advantages that plant-based diets promote, we can create a movement towards better health and longevity. Let’s become educators of health just like these UCF medical students that want to give a practical tool that patients can take home with them. In the end, these students are not only helping patients but improving their health and reducing their mortality risk. As people who are aware of the power of a healthy lifestyle, this should also be our goal.

How can we start the process of rejuvenating the lifestyle and environment of our children? It can be as simple as promoting fresh veggies and fruits as exciting and healthy treats. Begin by teaching children to prepare their own food. They’ll feel a sense of ownership when they finish the recipe. And be consistent because, let’s be honest, sometimes kids don’t want to eat their veggies especially if we don’t have them regularly in our diet. Make this transition a positive one.

Here is a simple recipe to start off your beautiful journey of life and health.

Strawberry Banana Popsicles by FoodScape

Ingredients

  • 10 oz bag strawberries, fresh or thawed for the smoothest blend
  • 1 banana
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (or until desired sweetness)
  • up to 1/4 cup orange juice (use as little as possible, just enough for everything to blend smoothly)
  • about 1 tbsp lemon juice (for tartness)1 banana, sliced

Instructions

  1.  Pre-freeze popsicle molds so the bananas stick to the sides better
  2. Blend all the ingredients (except for the sliced banana) into the blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Take out the popsicle mold from freezer and stick your sliced bananas to the sides of your mold, about 6 banana slices per mold
  4. Pour the blended ingredients into the popsicle molds, put the sticks in, and freeze overnight

Note: If you aren’t using sticks that come with the mold, put aluminum foil or saran wrap on top of your molds and poke the sticks through the foil.

Quick nutritional information for 1 cup of avocados:

Fiber: 10 Grams
Protein: 2.9 Grams
Omega 3: 165 mg
Omega 6: 2534 mg
Vitamin C: 24%
Vitamin B-6: 20%
Vitamin E: 16%
Magnesium: 10%
Vitamin A: 4%
Iron: 4%
Calcium: 1%

Raeann Leal
Raeann Leal

Raeann is a graduate student at Loma Linda University School of Public Health pursuing her MPH in Lifestyle Medicine. In her free time, Raeann likes to cook unique and healthy dishes, read relevant and recent research articles related to diseases and their cures, and experience the outdoors.

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