Let Food Be Thy Medicine: Food Cures by Joy Bauer

Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Conduct a search for “food as preventative medicine” and you won’t yield much of a discussion, nor enlightenment. This is surprising given the harrowing facts about Americans’ addiction to bad foods and the resulting astronomical bill we have been so duly served by our health care system. One would think that discussions centered around the use of food to prevent and/or cure disease and ailments suffered by so many would be plentiful, but unfortunately this is not the case. 


The reality is that we are a swallow and swig nation where we prefer to cure ourselves with prescription pills and over the counter vitamins while still feasting on high calorie, cholesterol-laden and carbohydrate rich diets. During a 2007-2008 Center for Disease Control Prevention study, one in every five children and nine out of ten older adults reported having used one prescription drug in the last month. The overall number of people dependent on pharmaceutical drugs is rapidly increasing. More from the CDC study: over the last 10 years, the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44% to 48%. The use of two or more drugs increased from 25% to 31%. The use of five or more drugs increased from 6% to 11%. 


Food Cures by nutrition expert Joy Bauer, is a notable primer for the “how to” of utilizing food as a preventative medicine. Food Cures serves as both a reference book and a self-help manual. The book is designed in such a way that it attempts to “touch” each reader and make them believe that their individual health concerns are being addressed. The first chapter titled, “Welcome to My Office”, sets the stage for a discussion that often times leaves the reader feeling that they themselves are actually in Joy’s nutrition office seeking consultation. Joy parlays readers’ fears by stating them up front and then provides comfort by sharing colorful stories about other struggling and nutritionally challenged clients who do ultimately succeed in the battle of will.


Following a little amiable rapport-building, the 500 paged guide-book forks off into chapters specific to various common health concerns such as: skin, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, memory, depression, IBS and Celiac. Each chapter begins with a pretty thorough description of the health issue and symptoms and then moves forward to known and suspected causes and cures. Food Cures goes a layer or two beyond the surface, rather than the few standard bylines about each disease or condition, as is customary in many of today’s articles on food and health. For example, when discussing arthritis, Food Cures doesn't jump right into the symptoms and then propose a fix; the book delves further by identifying what bones are and what they are made of and the causes of autoimmune diseases and resulting inflammation. Before a “cure” is given, Joy does her job as a nurse and nutritionist and ensures that the reader understands exactly what is happening to their body. Therefore, when confronted with lifestyle change challenges, the reader is empowered and thus more likely to commit to a change in diet. 


It’s the details that separate this book from the slim versions of other nutrition based food books. We all have heard that saturated fats, trans-fats and carbohydrates are bad for us, but do we know why? Can we name the foods in our pantry which contain these ticking time-bombs? Furthermore, can we draw the link as to how white bread or other refined sugar products cause an increase in cytokines, a pro-inflammatory compound? Food Cures references a decent amount of reputable nutrition studies and then relays the information in an approachable, easy to understand manner. It looks into each disease or ailment and connects the research findings while demonstrating the breaking points and also the evidence of the nutritional deficiencies which may cause the disease. 


Thus, the premise of the book is that in order to repair or restore the damaged body, one can use food as the medicine. The remainder of each chapter details foods to avoid and then foods and spices to embrace as well as numerous helpful recipes for both meals and snacks. Notable spices for combating inflammation are raw ginger and turmeric; both have undergone numerous studies that prove that consumption of spices has the same positive effect of reducing joint inflammation as does the medicine Celebrex.


One could move through to various chapters and reference their own health issue or one could read through chapter by chapter. I read through from beginning to end and found that the book did fall short in establishing the fact that each of the health issues are more similar and that each of the issues can be related back to deficiencies of good foods. How many articles and news blurbs do we need to read or hear to learn about the super foods that are lacking in our diet and how no drug will ever provide the same restorative qualities as the nutrients in these super foods? Each and every shopping list in this book, whether curing skin problems or cardiovascular disease, has a similar group of foods that are highly nutritious and known to fix our damaged bodies. Are kale or salmon the miraculous lost holy grails? No, they are simply examples of super foods which we simply cannot afford to ignore, regardless of our health concerns. These foods contain the high-grade energy necessary to fuel our bodies. Indeed, “food cures”, but let’s also learn to eat as a means of prevention, in hope that there is never a need for a cure. 


A copy of Food Cures in your home will serve as a useful guide, providing answers as well as new recipe ideas. How do we prepare that darned kale, after all?


In the spirit of the current season, I chose to work with a food that has a high fiber content and is chock-full of vitamins A, D, C and E which are necessary for strengthening bones and eyes, reducing inflammations and for staving off cancers and autoimmune diseases. The food: pumpkin. I plucked off the two small pumpkins sitting on the front porch and prepared them for puree.


Pumpkin Sundae (adapted from Joy Bauer’s Food Cures) 


Greek yogurt (french vanilla)

Pumpkin puree (from can or homemade- see directions below for homemade)





Scoop french vanilla yogurt into a bowl

Scoop pumpkin puree on top

Drizzle honey on top

Crush walnuts and place on top

Sprinkle with cinnamon


Pumpkin Puree 

Choose a smaller cooking pumpkin (or other winter squash) rather than a carving pumpkin.

Slice the pumpkin into four quarters.

Scoop out the guts and seeds (seeds great for making roasted pepitas).

Place pumpkin face down on a cooling rack and place in roaster pan or cookie sheet with a quarter inch of water on the bottom of pan.

Cover the pumpkin and pan with aluminum foil.

Bake at 300* for about an hour (or until pumpkin skin turns dark orange and a fork goes easily in).

Let pumpkin cool and the peel off skin.

Place pumpkin in food processor and pulse until pureed or desired texture.


You can visit Joy's website by clicking here.


Leigh Ann Ahmad was dragged kicking and screaming to the Cities by her husband; having been born and bred in Cleveland, Ohio, she just could not fathom how colder could be better. Now, five years and two kids later, she cannot imagine a better place to play and thrive. She’s a reformed carb-aholic, wannabe writer, social justice advocate, book- club geek, veggie grower and local foods connoisseur. Her last article for SGT was, Lessons from the apple grower: a visit to Whistling Well Farm.