My earliest memories of food revolve around our family dinner table and my father’s garden. I remember helping my mother cook elaborate seasonal feasts, and my father teaching me about the nutrients in the vegetables he was planting. Food meant family to me, and it meant celebration and feelings of accomplishment as our garden vegetables turned into delicious meals. As a child, food was simple and innocent. I did not realize it could be grown unethically, or toxically, or that food could create disease and heal disease.
My life was forever changed at the age of nine when I received a letter in the mail. I only received mail for my birthday at that time, so a mysterious letter addressed to me was unusual and (as I believe now) the initiation of a supernatural calling. The letter was from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). How they obtained a 9-year-old’s contact information, I’ll never know, but this letter changed my life. In it was a picture of a rabbit in a cage with red, raw skin peeling off its back… a victim of animal testing. I was horrified! Up until this time, I had no idea that animals were abused and had minimal understanding of the origins of certain foods on my dinner plate. Passionately, I wrote on the return card, “Here is my allowance. Please use it to help animals.” I tucked my only money, six crumpled dollars, into the envelope and mailed it back to PETA. Someone must have been touched by my efforts, because I began receiving PETA’s magazine subscription for several years, which required a $15 dollar donation per year.
Within a few years, I became a well-educated activist and decided to become a vegetarian at age 11. My father, a pediatrician, assisted me in creating a picture book about all the vitamins and minerals I would need to eat as a vegetarian. My mother stocked up on veggie burgers and prepared vegetarian meals from The Moosewood Cookbook. I drank Spiru-Tein protein shakes before school and ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches when my family cooked meat for dinner. Little did I know that my early introduction into a vegetarian lifestyle would transform me, creating a deep interest in medicine, human health, nutrition, and the environmental impact of food.
Fast forward to 2012. I was working as an ER nurse in Glendale, California after 15 years of taking patients to hospitals in an ambulance. I was getting tired of giving medications that temporarily improved symptoms, but usually didn’t heal the illness. I also began wondering why so many of my patients had a triad of diseases: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. These patients were most likely to come into the ER with chest pain, a full-blown heart attack, or a stroke. When one patient told me that he had “cured” his diabetes through diet, exercise, and weight loss, I was fascinated. I started watching documentaries: Forks Over Knives, where I witnessed heart disease being reversed by a vegan diet; The Gerson Therapy, in which a plant-based diet and coffee enemas (yes, you read that right) were being used to cure cancer. Putting puzzle pieces together, I began researching the effect of nutrition on health. In 2014, I began an online masters program in Holistic Nutrition, determined to use my medical knowledge, empowered by dietary research, to prevent and treat these illnesses that I saw again and again in the ER. My passion for a whole foods, plant-based diet not only lined up with my medical research, but also with my ethical and environmental concerns.
I created Nurse In the Kitchen initially as a Facebook page to educate my patients and other healthcare professionals about the powerful role of nutrition on health and to provide whole-foods vegetarian recipes to encourage healthier eating. Most doctors and nurses receive very little (if any) classes on nutrition as they pursue their degrees. Since diet plays such a crucial role in health, this is a tragedy both for them and their patients. The mission of Nurse In The Kitchen, both on our website as well as in our new column for CultureHoney.com, is to revolutionize health and healthcare one plate at a time. We should remember Hippocrates, considered the father of medicine, who famously and wisely stated, “Let thy food be thy medicine.”
In future articles, I will be addressing dietary tips for specific health conditions, plant-based diets, whole-food recipes, supplements, the slow-food movement, herbal remedies, superfoods, food preparation and storage, fermentation, DIY body care and household products, and non-toxic lifestyle tips. I am excited to embark on this journey towards optimal health with you! May you be inspired, empowered, and nourished.