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Food As Medicine: How Some Physicians And Nutritionists Are Working To Transform Health Care

Susan Benigas (at left) and Ghaida Awwad talked about what prompted their interest in using food as medicine on Wednesday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

There is a movement growing among health advocates to better understand how more nutritious food can help combat chronic illnesses and pharmaceutical drug dependency. Susan Benigas of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine andThe Plantrician Projectand local nutritionist Ghaida Awwad of Nature’s Clinic, based in O’Fallon, Missouri, are among those advocates.

Guest host Ruth Ezell of the Nine Network talked with Benigas and Awwad about what prompted their interest in using food as medicine on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air.

“I just don’t believe that God designed us all to become chronically ill and dependent on pharmaceuticals,” Benigas said.

Awwad explained that not all food is as nutritious as it once was, due to mass consumption and normalization of consuming over-processed foods.

“Nutrition is a big, missing factor in people's health. When [patients] come in [to Nature’s Clinic], we look at underlying organs, we look at what the problem is, which organ is causing the issues,” she said. “And most commonly it is in nutrition deficiency and nutrient deficiency in that organ. And once you give that organ the nutrients it needs, or the foods that it needs, then the body starts healing and going back to its homeostasis that it likes – that normal state.”

Both Awwad and Benigas also discussed why they advocate for incorporating more plant-based foods in people’s diet and how medical students can incorporate a better understanding of food in their studies. They said nutrition courses are limited in med-school curriculums.

When it comes to the role of the country’s health-care system, Bengias said “an allopathic-only approach that's focused on disease management and not [on] truly educating, equipping and empowering patients to take control of their health is … a disservice to the providers and to the patients. And that's why there is this amazing movement underway to truly systemically transform the system.”

Listen to the full discussion:


St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The engineer is Aaron Doerr and the call screener is Charlie McDonald.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.