Recently I was browsing twitter and came across a curious image. The image shows a doctor (with the caption "farmacy" overhead) prescribing that a person eat a head of lettuce a day, along with some cucumbers and tomatoes (so, a salad). The claim is that this will cure your diseases and prevent illnesses. This image was posted with the caption “trust a dietitian”.
I’d say not, if that’s the kind of advice they’re pitching.
Eating a diet high in veggies and fruits, which provide you with dietary fibers, is simply a good idea. It will keep you healthy and help you be more resistant to a variety of potential health issues. This is just good advice.
To a certain extent, exercise and diet are "medicine" in the sense that they do help reduce your risk for many diseases. At the same time, pitching a salad as being able to “prevent” or “cure” anything is an intellectually dishonest, untrue statement. It’s simply not based in any objective reality.
If all it took to prevent all disease was to eat a salad, no one would ever get sick again, and the benefits of eating them would be so self-evident that no one would skip their daily government-mandated salad ration. The reality is that no matter how much salad we eat, the process of aging leaves us progressively more vulnerable, and eventually we die. This is an unarguable fact. We can do our best to slow this process, but it still happens.
Put it this way - if there was really a “superfood” that made you perfectly healthy, we’d all know about it and eat it constantly. Humans have been around for thousands of years - so if a salad were the cure to all ills, don’t you think we’d have documented that effect by now?
A friend reached out after I shared the image on instagram to tell me that once, some asshole told her that her grandfather had died of cancer because he hadn’t eaten enough organic foods. Likewise, this is in no way supported by the evidence, which suggests that organic food confers no additional benefits.
The suggestion that such a simple “fix” would have saved his life is insulting, because it blames the victim for getting cancer - something which is sometimes but not always preventable by lifestyle changes. It’s bizarrely moralizing - “you died because you didn’t eat healthy enough, which is a totally simple thing, idiot” as opposed to “you died because everyone dies of something sooner or later, and it’s a huge and complex problem that none of us can master”.
Eating healthy can and will increase your quality of life and make you optimally resistant to injury. However, it’s not a cure for anything (except lemons for scurvy, I guess) and it’s insulting to everyone involved to imply otherwise.
The entirety of human medicine evolved to counteract the fact that the human body, on its own, with or without the help of a good diet, is incapable of being completely impervious to disease. When you do get sick or break a bone, you don't try to fix it with diet - that's a mistake.
It really annoys me when anyone suggests otherwise, because the fact that this is true should be self-evident.
It’s common for nutritionists to make the claim that if you ate right, you wouldn’t have to worry about X or Y or Z disease. Sometimes (ahem, David Avocado Wolfe, anyone) they go even further to suggest that the medical establishment is actively against you, and wants you to be sick so that they can sell you expensive treatments.
The reality is that very often, people like this are just trying to convince you to believe in them over your doctors so that they can sell you expensive and useless treatments for things that aren’t even wrong. Find out where their money comes from - do they make money selling alternative treatments, diet programs, and therapies? Then, chances are, they’re just as biased (or more) as the mainstream medicine they claim to have issue with.
The medical establishment sure as hell isn’t perfect. There’s a lot of problems with health care in the United States, and in general, a lot of legitimate medical treatments will cost you a lot more than they should.
From a personal perspective, that means that staying active and eating a balanced diet will minimize the amount you need to spend on medical care. You shouldn’t blindly trust mainstream medicine, but alternative medicine is far worse and prone to a lot more bullshit.
There is no dietary cure for cancer or a host of other diseases. If there were, it would be astoundingly easy to figure this act out and astoundingly hard to actually keep it hidden. Pretending otherwise is dangerous an irresponsible.
- Exercise and diet will optimize your health but are NOT effective treatments for specific illnesses and conditions.
- Do not pretend that some secret diet or exercise program will entirely prevent disease and illness.
- When Kale Can Kill You and Fast Food Can Save Your Life
- The Dangers of Clean Eating (and Other Food Babe Related Things)
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