Food as medicine for us and the planet


Almost 2,500 years ago, Hippocrates said, “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Was the guy nuts? Certainly he could not have known that the western medical establishment and the drug, meat, dairy and oil industries would fight hard against the spread of such a revolutionary idea. 

Because I was diagnosed with cancer nine years ago, I learned that Hippocrates was not nuts. My father died after his prostate cancer metastasized into bone cancer. I did not want the same to happen to me. Luckily, I had the support of family and friends to help me resist falling into the incredible fear surrounding a cancer diagnosis and the accepted treatment.  

I began doing some research. Before the diagnosis, I had high blood pressure and was 80 pounds overweight. I was told I would always have to take medication for the blood pressure condition, but I learned there may be other ways to deal with these problems. I watched the documentaries “Eating” and “Healing Cancer from Inside Out” and realized there were methods to treat cancer and high blood pressure that are safe and can literally reverse most chronic diseases, not just mask the symptoms. I also learned that diet has the greatest effect on our health, not genes. Genes load the gun, but diet pulls the trigger.

As a master chicken barbecuer, a lover of pepperoni pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner and a mortadella and Swiss roll-up junky, I did not want to hear this. Like most of us, I had been raised and sold on the standard American diet (the SAD diet). I found out that all processed meats—and yes, this includes bacon—are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization, as Class 1 carcinogens, just like tobacco and plutonium. (Talk about powerful industry influence—not one warning label anywhere.)  

I decided to go for a lifestyle change. Cancer treatments came with the risk of becoming incontinent or impotent and remaining on liver- and kidney-stressing drugs for the rest of my life. I wanted a better, healthier and more vibrant life, not one of debilitation.

Transitioning into a healthier lifestyle can’t be done overnight. It took about 90 days to switch from a meat- and dairy-based diet to a plant-based diet. Within that time period, I was able to stop all my medications (with the approval of my very resistant doctor) and stabilize my PSA,  the marker used for prostate cancer. Within a year and a half, I had lost that extra 80 pounds. Since then, I have continued eating an organic, whole-food, plant-based diet and have kept the cancer in check.

So what did I learn from this? That everyone, regardless of where they find themselves in life, can reverse most diseases by eating healthily. It is not easy, and you may find you can’t hang out with some of your friends or eat at the same old places, but when you feel 30 years younger and realize how bad you felt—though you thought it was normal—you will find your life wonderfully more vibrant and full.  

I have also learned that a plant-based diet does not just help me personally; it also helps the planet.  Transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based diet is probably one of the single most effective and important things you can do for our planet.

By not eating one hamburger, you save 660 gallons of water. On the other hand, if Americans were to continue eating beef at their current levels, but only ate grass-fed beef that did not use outside feed, we would have to convert half of Canada, the entire United States, Mexico, Central America and part of South America to grasslands.

The water footprint per calorie of beef is 20 times higher than that of cereals and starchy grains; the water footprint for milk, eggs and chicken is one and a half times higher. These are all things to consider the next time you are shopping for groceries. 

Please don’t believe what I am saying. Do your own research. There is tons of data, countless books and some great documentaries about the negative effects of the consumption of animal products on your health and our planet, and the positive effects of a whole-food, plant-based diet. Of course, this eye-opening and life-changing information is continually suppressed by the powerful industries whose bottom line would be impacted if people were exposed to the truth.

Change is not easy, but at this point, I would say it is required. Find your passion to help you make the change—whether it’s your health, the environment, your feelings for animals, or what you want for you, your children and grandkids, and the future of the planet. 


Dave Osborn is a co-owner of Black Mountain Ranch, which is transitioning into the future.