Chef and doctor are not professions that often go hand in hand. But that’s not to say they shouldn’t. Small dietary changes have immense power to improve people’s health and wellness, yet such changes are rarely prescribed by doctors.
Linda Shiue has had an interest in cooking since she was a child but chose to pursue a career in medicine. Yet it wasn’t until she attended a medical conference called Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives sponsored by Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America, that she began to understand how knowledge of nutrition science could help patients.
Shiue embarked on a diet-based approach to medicine in 2012, and one of the first patients she helped benefitted greatly from simple dietary changes. “This included recipes written on prescriptions for kale chips and banana ‘nice’ cream, a soft serve made from frozen overripe bananas blended up,” says Shiue, whose patient went on to lose weight, lower her cholesterol and blood pressure, and reverse her prediabetes, all without medication. “Most importantly, she felt better. It shows the power of how partnering with a patient to see what they like to eat then suggesting small changes can have a greater impact than the more conventional intervention of writing yet another prescription.”
It wasn’t only the diets of her patients that changed after that conference. Shiue’s life changed too. She enrolled at San Francisco Cooking School, went on to stage at Michelin-starred Moroccan restaurant Mourad in San Francisco and earned a certificate in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University, as well as changing her own eating habits. “After learning more about nutrition, I increased the amount of leafy greens and whole grains in my diet. Currently, I eat a mainly pescatarian diet with tons of vegetables. This has improved my health through all the usual indicators – weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, but more importantly, I feel best eating this way. I still eat occasional meat, eggs and dairy, but they are small parts of my diet. The recipes in Spicebox Kitchen are a genuine reflection of how I eat.”