Using Food As Medicine

david-fast-foodDavid Fast Food


I will probably get beaten over the head with one of the best-selling diet books, but I really doubt that we can eat our way to good health. I don’t want to sound opposed to the idea of food as medicine. I just don’t believe it anymore.  I made it to 80 in fine shape and what ails me now is something no food faith healer has a diet to counteract.

I have put my faith in fresh food from my own farm and garden, untouched by the factory food industry. But of course, I sin regularly by eating at fast food restaurants all over. Bob Evans was a friend of mine and when we ate at one of his establishments, it was so amusing to see how he would go through the menu and tell me what he considered to be good and what was not so good.  He lived into his 90s on all that fat pork sausage he became famous for.

Organic farming is surely the more economical and environmentally sane way to raise food. But I do not think that certified organic food is necessarily any more healthful than other food which gets me in real trouble with the members of my own choir. If Carol sprinkles insecticidal powder on the potato plants or else we won’t have any potatoes, our garden food can’t be sold as certified organic. I understand the necessity of the rules to keep everyone honest, if only they did,  but I surely doubt that our 90 percent organic vegetables are any less healthful, all things considered, than food shipped in, courtesy of fossil fuel, from a “certified organic” farm 2000 miles away. I guess I’m a food atheist.

Look at all the diet fads that have sprung up and sprung down in the last 80 years. In my teens, all of a sudden, cranberries became almost poisonous. Can’t remember the precise details. Next we learned that if we consumed lots of vinegar and honey we just might be able to steal second base at age 90. Then it was eggs that were going to kill us. Then meat and dairy products. Coffee had to take hits too. One year it was bad, another year it was good.  Strangely, the most dangerous food of all, alcoholic beverages, never seemed to get condemned much after Prohibition ended, and they are now claimed to be good for you in moderation. I have a hunch that everything that tastes good is good for you, in moderation, especially butter and steak gravy.

For awhile, cholesterol was a synonym for heart attack but then along came good cholesterol to counteract the bad and lately the cholesterol phobia is ever so slowly changing its tune. We have bigger worries it seems. If you read the new best seller, “Wheat Belly,” gluten grains and even fruit may be bad for us. I expect any day now a new headline informing us about the health risks of eating fresh green vegetables. Once a doctor told me when I was having a bout of irritable bowel syndrome that I should not eat fresh green leafy vegetables from the supermarket or in a restaurant because, he said, (I don’t know this for fact) that these leafy health providers were sprayed with something to make them glisten as if ultra-fresh on the store shelves and that dewy fresh sparkling stuff was hard on some digestive tracts. I am almost sure now that my bowel problem had little to do with what I was eating. I got rid of it by going on a strict diet of avoiding religious and political controversy.

I can however tell you a sure fire way to loose weight, lower cholesterol and maintain good blood pressure levels. Get a cancer that can be cured or put into remission by chemotherapy. The chemo will make eating an agonizing chore and that in turn will keep you thin and reduce cholesterol and blood pressure to healthy levels. In other words, if you want to solve health issues by dieting, not eating is better medicine than eating. Sure worked for me. I expect any day to see a book come out called “The Chemo Diet To Good Health.”


And the sad thing about the placebo discussion is that what those doctors were doing was tapping into the body’s ability to make itself feel better. It’s sort of along the line of if you believe it will happen, then it will happen. Best thing about it, is no side effects!

My grandmother lived to be 101. She lived in her own home until she was 99 and that’s when she quit doing her own cooking. She cooked with lard and ate chicken (she raised them), pork and beef, but the mainstay was vegetables from her garden. She always gardened and practically never ate out. Chemical fertilizers were not something she grew up with and so she did not use them in her garden. In her day, the poor ate better than the rich because they grew their own food and couldn’t afford the modern “luxuries” of readymade food.

Today the rich eat better because they can afford the kind of food she grew!?!

Grandma was a hypochondriac though and loved going to see her doctor for all kinds of imaginary ills. Fortunately for her she had a very smart doctor (but now he’d get sued for malpractice and be called unethical) who gave her bottles of variously colored “sugar pills”–placebos. So he did no harm and she was very happy with him.

    Persimmon Ridge, our old family doctor from years back did the same.The great story he liked to tell was the elderly lady who got both pink ones and blue ones and then came back and said she wanted more blue ones. “They really helped,” she told him, “but the pink ones didn’t do her a bit of good.” Gene

Gene, I am from Crawford/Richland County Ohio, and went to school (Heidelberg) in Tiffin, Ohio so have traveled through Upper Sandusky many, many times during my life. I am sorry to hear that you are battling Cancer, but I wanted to let you know that I have been influenced by your writing, from the Farm Journal in my youth, to your books including “You can go home again”. I am still hoping to come home again as I am currently living in Detroit, Michigan Metro area because of job changes. (Still traveling through Upper Sandusky regularly)

As omnivores, does our diet really influence our health so much? I ate margarine and Crisco as a teenager, switched to olive oil and butter as I grew older and learned the benefits of the “Mediterranean diet” after a trip to Spain. I’m in my 50’s, my grandmother never left Crawford County, Ohio and lived to be 96. She had arthritis and had her knees replaced, I recently had my hip replaced. How much does genetics play and how much environment? She worked hard all her life, couldn’t stand to leave a weed unpulled. I do computer system support, I could never explain my job to her. It just didn’t seem like work to her, to sit in front of a computer and think.

This weekend I spent deer and rabbit-proofing (maybe) my garden. I got too much sun, remember my grandma’s many surgeries for skin cancer, and her hats and long sleeves in later life. I have vitamin D deficiency. For sure she never experienced that.


You did not mention a good steady diet of softball games! All kidding aside one of the many things I have gleaned from your practical non-fiction and fiction books is the importance of lifestyle. Maybe being healthy has less to do with exactly what we eat but how we live our entire life. I suspect eating the ultimate unprocessed food – that is food we have worked producing and grown ourselves with a good lifestyle including physical activity (i.e. farming and softball), reduced stress (i.e. friends, family, softball), and a true community is the secret to a HEALTHY, FULFILLED, and long life. What is a long life if it is not healthy and full?

Gene –
My husband & I were just talking about you tonight a supper.
We were wondering,
“What do you think Gene Logsdon thinks about all the “prepper” and “survivalist” stuff?

I can’t figure out how a home garden, big pantry and normal country living got to be so way out and militarized.
Who would have ever thought that 21st century agrarianism could take such a bizarre turn.
Love to hear you take on it sometime.

Hope you are truly feeling much better and will enjoy the coming summer. Strawberries are just around the corner 🙂

    Granny Miller, I’m not completely sure of what you mean by “prepper”….am I missing something? Are you talking about the paranoids who are stacking their attics full of guns? Gene

      Yes Gene –
      You may not know it but you – and especially Mrs. Logsdon – are hardcore “preppers” and survivalists!

      “Preppers” are called that because they are preparing for an economic and social collapse.

      The collapse will disrupt life because there will be no drive-thru window food, no TV, no ATM’s and no electricity! They are going to have figure out how to cut up a whole chicken, hang clothes out on the line and pass an evening entertaining themselves.

      The link below may be of interest to you

    Hi Granny Miller,
    I know you weren’t asking for my opinion, but couldn’t help but agree. What is up with that? I don’t want a label like that, it’s not at all what I’m about. I just like good food and embracing the realities of nature… is there a label for that?

I made that same joke when I had lymphoma. I also got a chemo perm out of it – my hair came back curly! The curl has worn out now and I figure I will eat what I want to – I was never a bad eater to begin with and thinking too hard about it induces stress. I do notice that no one has discovered that asparagus is bad for you, or morel mushrooms, or snap peas, probably because they’re too busy scarfing them down, maybe with a side of eggs and bacon? Here’s hoping your treatment goes well so you can taste next year’s spring goodies!

I am sorry to hear about your cancer Gene.

I just received my copy of your “Practical Skills” out of print book Tuesday and am so bummed because (speaking of health issues possibly unconnected with finding the perfect way of eating) that same afternoon I got a belly ache… went to ER, had appendectomy following morning, am out now and doing fine, but…. I was so out of it when I left the office Tuesday that I left the durned book behind. It would have made a 36hr hospital stay that much more bearable. Oh well I will have it in my hands soon I hope.

Gene, I’m sorry to hear of your cancer, but delighted to hear of its remission.

There is something you don’t seem to mention: placebo effect. I choose to think of food as medicine, if for no other reason, because choosing to think that way is medicine! (Although I guess someone could talk themselves into thinking fast food was medicine, too.)

All I know is that I feel better when I eat better. That’s good enough for me to pay twice as much for local organic as for chemical-laced food from half-way across the continent. Is it placebo effect? Who cares! It works!

Gene: I recall on an earlier post you commented that one of your great joys was to connect with your readers through this blog. This blog has become one of my great joys. Look forward to each Wednesday’s installment.
Science just doesn’t have the answers that they would like us to believe. That is why we get such contrary advice (“eggs are bad for you – no eggs are good for you”) Yet we are supposed to bow down to science with the same lack of critique that in my childhood we were supposed to bow down to the priests and nuns for their answers. The scientists (and priests and nuns) were/are good folk they just can’t admit that they really don’t have the answers.
Ultimately maybe the answer is moderation in all things and use common sense. If what is put in your food isn’t part of the natural order it likely isn’t good for you (but in moderation may not do as much harm as some say). However moderation is always a challenge and common sense just isn’t that common.
Keep pricking our consciences and may God (whomever/whatever you perceive him/her to be) grant you peace and happiness.

If you are looking into how to prevent cancer with diet and lifestyle, I recommend the work of Dean Ornish. While his work is not for everyone but a strong example. I also think the role of epigenetics and cancer prevention has a lot to do with the importance of eating healthy through your life.

Dear Gene, this post is classic Contrary Farmer. Reading it I started wondering how many doctors you have outlived? I’ve told you before what a great influence you’ve been in my life and how much I enjoy this blog. I rarely read comments, but on this blog they are thoughtful even when in disagreement they are rarely disrespectful….very contrary. Blessings to you and to Carol.

I have read as many of your books as I can lay my hands on, and as a good “rock star groupie” have drug my husband to events that I knew you would be at. He’s convinced that you are my “boyfriend on the farm”. As much as I want to “fix” your problems, as that is how I am designed, I place my faith in my maker and pray that he will look after you. You are an inspiration to me and our farm and have made an impact on so much of what we do here. I only wish that you would join our family for Sunday supper someday! Trust me, my husband is a wonderful cook of food that isn’t good for anyone! I appreciate what you have contributed to our lives and thought you should know that now…

Gene, sorry to hear you’re dealing with the big C, but I seem to recall you have the genetics for longevity, so your odds should be pretty good. Keep laughing — that definitely helps.
It’s interesting how food can affect us. I have gradually developed a wheat sensitivity as I’ve gotten older. I can eat it occasionally — and more occasionally if it’s old-fashioned, home grown grain as opposed to the store-bought stuff — but there’s no question I feel better when I avoid it, and so do my aging joints. Also interesting that I don’t have to take high blood pressure medicine as long as I stay off wheat. Like James, I have long been influenced by your writings and I hope you will be around to supply us with your thoughts for many a year. Even when we can’t shovel that barnyard manure any more, us writers can sling the written version as we get well into an advanced state of decrepitude!

Well in regard to diet choices, I heard that peach pits and almonds were essentially different branches of the same tree biologically. I also heard that almonds should be heated to destroy phytates (whatever those are) and others recommend only raw foods , including almonds.

I also know of folks who go to Mexico to consume apricot pits for laetrile to cure cancer. Still others indicate only the apricot pits such as the ones developed by the Hunza people in the Himalayan mountains should be eaten (Hmm… I wonder how the Hunzas figured out how to breed apricots with non-toxic pits. )

While I was following that train of thought, I was able to obtain peach pits in bulk for free from a juice plant where I worked and I knew pigs are similar to humans in regards to digestive ability. I also knew that wild pigs forage for mast, meaning nuts fruits etc in their native state. So of course I dumped several hundred pounds of peach pits in a hog pen thinking the pigs would be in hog heaven munching on peach pits that were impersonating almonds. I anticipated no troubles because I had previously dumped big loads of cull peaches with the pits included into a hog pen and the pigs just got fat and made babies. However, this time when I dumped the load of just peach pits with no fruit included into the hog lot, even though the pits had been heated quite well by steaming, at least one pig keeled over dead shortly thereafter. I wasn’t in a position to do a certified autopsy at the time but to be safe I no longer dump peach pits into pig lots.

On a personal note, I followed the Atkins diet a few times and lost a lot of weight quickly. I also ended up in the hospital twice with diverticulitis, an experience I don’t care to repeat. I was told thereafter to include whole grains in my diet, which I did, so I gained the weight back and ended up with Type II diabetes. We are all individuals, which the diet gurus seem to forget.

My mother lived to 92 and ate just about everything she could catch or cook. Dad ate the same food and died at 70 after dealing with high blood pressure and heart attacks. My mother-in-law just made it to 99. She enjoys eggs from her backyard chickens, along with bacon for flavor, and potatoes and green beans and, of course, good gravy. She even enjoys ice cream, cake and pie and french fries when she can get them. Also she never exercised a day in her life but always worked hard taking care of a home. Let the diet gurus figure that out!

The book of Ecclesiastes encourages us (in a nutshell) to: enjoy our work , enjoy our food and drink, don’t stress out too much over small stuff, because we’ll all eventually die so enjoy the ride and be a good friend and neighbor along the journey. Seems like good advice that the diet gurus would do well to listen to.

Gene, I wish you well in your remission. I just wanted to let you know that your writing for lo these many years, going clear back to Rodale’s organic gardening and farming magazine has made a huge difference in my life, most of it good. (More difference physically than the thousands of sermons I’ve heard throughout my life)

As an example, I am even requested to provide presentations on small-scale sustainable agriculture at seminars wherein I relate to folks the ideas I learned from you and then put into practice. As an example, I still remember leaving a cover crop of rye to mature into grain, then using a scythe to cut the rye and having the whole family go through the process of turning the grain into delicious biscuits, which processes I learned from your first edition of Small-Scale Grain Raising. I even raised fish in backyard tanks after reading your book on getting food from water and then went on to obtain a degree in fisheries science.

So it’s your fault that I’m not content with store-bought eggs but prefer fresh eggs from my own hens, fish I catch myself instead of store bought, and meat from pasture fed animals from my own pastures. However, shoveling that manure pack to grow all those good vegetables and grain and fruit etc. just doesn’t seem to get any easier as time goes on. Why is that? I do claim to excel at staring off into space in between manure forking sessions. I think that is a practice we both share.

Gene, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had cancer, and happy that you’re in remission. I hope that continues.
Obviously, you have much more experience than me in all things relating to food; however I must stubbornly believe that eating natural/organic food is better for you than the othe stuff. True, it may not be scientifically quantifiable, but I’m convicted that the bacteria, nutrients, and lack of chemicals in it can only help us get more positive benefits from such food. Maybe it helps build a stronger immune system? True, commercial food is not as bad as it can portrayed, but when you compare the natural food to GMO and chemical-containing food, the benefits of the former outshine the latter anyday. Also, perhaps all the homegrown food you’ve eaten was somehow able to counteract the Bob Evans food you’ve eaten.

You made me laugh. As I tell my 12 year-old daughter when she is too happy, “life is certainly a bitter struggle full of pain and suffering and there is no reason for you and your friends to be so dadgum happy.”
My father is 94. Until the last couple months he has been really quite sharp mentally. He is a little frail these days but had always enjoyed good health, other than the quadruple bypass at age 83.
Just the same, we always get lectures from family members about his health. These lectures tend to follow whatever food trend they are currently following and always involve questions about if he is eating right.
I usually maintain that roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy have been his staple diet for years. I do add that we did cut out the lettuce wilted with hot bacon grease, some years back, but that just means he can have an extra slice of pie. No one ever figures out that Sunday dinner happens only once a week…
Now the issue is mold. A family member is allergic to mold, to the point where they do have to wear a dust mask everywhere they go.
Recently we had a discussion about Dad and his breathing problems. They were pretty sure it was the mold.
I listened patiently and only once did I start to point out the reasons for his congestion which go back a number of years and then I realized it would only prolong the discussion so I just smiled and nodded.
My Dad has made it to 94 years old. When Mom was alive she did try to eat healthy but there was a lot of beef and potatoes and gravy and never enough pie, but there is never enough pie.
I can eat anything and I never gain weight. The only time I’ve topped 200lbs, (I six foot even) was the first couple years of marriage when we had a lot of chickens and my wife decided she was going to learn to make the perfect custard pie.
I couldn’t really complain about her weight gain as I was the one who kept encouraging her to pursue perfection…
But, I seem to have strayed from the topic.
I enjoyed this blog as it is along the lines of what I’ve been thinking for a couple years. I hope you are doing well and I must add that I have heard plenty of diet tips to keep one cancer free, but I think I will put my faith in peach pie.
Look at it this way. People will drive all the way to Mexico to eat peach pits, why not just stay home and eat peach pie. It all comes from the same tree. Must be the same thing.
I shall believe what I want to believe…

nooo…Gene can’t have had cancer. You’re my hero. ( is Wendell in all fairness but I think he’d be a little too melancholy for me). You’ve inspired my life, and the life of my family. (I mean this truly.) My husband has joked for years that I’m going to super impose the picture of you (with your shirt off cutting grain with a scythe) over his. You’re immortal.

as far as food goes, I believe…everything in moderation…rigid idealism is no better than rigid pragmatism.

I wish you well and many, many more years of writing and inspiring.

I sent this article to my mom (a “youngster” in her 70’s) with the byline: Common Sense. So rare, it must be a super power. And you seem to have that super power in spades. Another excellent post.

And in fairness, all the hoopla may originate with the scientists, but if you compare the scientific literature with what gets reported in the press, you’ll find a very un-surprising disconnect between what scientists ACTUALLY say and what reporters end up claiming they said.

    As a researcher who has to look at many a paper on agriculture and agricultural practices, besides a whole myriad of other subjects vaguely related to public participation in rural decision making, I have to wholeheartedly agree with you Rick.

…and another thing, please take down that photo of me, both of them………

Yep, Gene you’ve gone round the bend, you heretic you! I guess if you’ve made it to 80 in good shape (you have haven’t you? you’re not talking about yourself with the cancer diagnosis are you?) then your diet has worked for you just fine. As for me, whatever comes up out of the ground or off the hoof, wing or fin, has not been bathed in Monsanto juice, and still looks like itself when it lands on my plate is fair game. I do believe a highly processed diet will shorten life considerably. But then I’m still a youngster, only 60, so what do I know.

    Persimmon Ridge, yes it’s me with the cancer in remission and for all I know all those 80 years of eating whatever was on the table is catching up with me. But this is a type of lymphoma that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with diet, and like the doc said, maybe it was all that careless eating that allowed me to come out of it okay. Gene

      Well, I’ll wish wish you the same luck my old bee mentor had–he had non-hodgkins lymphoma for 18 years and died of something else altogether. He, however, had an atrocious diet of mostly Little Debbies, cigarettes, whiskey, and weed. He also worked for Monsanto and loved to quote their “better living through chemistry” slogan although I suspect he meant a different kind of chemicals. I didn’t ask, and I never let him mentor me on anything but the bees! By those standards YOU should live to be 2000!


I also ask myself, however, how much we have been affected by eating badly for decades, before eating better? I grew up in the 70s and 80s and it was: margarine, processed foods, canned vegetables, feedlot animals, and sugar. Sure, now I eat good food, but for twenty-five years I ate not-so-great food. What long-term effects will it have on me, even though I eat well now? No one knows.

Even eating well, we are still exposed to toxins, carcinogens, electromagnetic waves all around us, and our bodies themselves for unknown reasons can go haywire due to combinations of these and other factors. So there is no cure-all or bulletproof way to protect yourself from all maladies. But food is something important and where we can control what we take into ourselves, so eating better is the best option.

montanawarrior2000 May 22, 2013 at 8:33 am

There is nothing that serves to wake up a sedated mind than some great sarcastic humor! Maybe the humor is the medicine and we are all our own best doctor?
The good news is that having reached 80 no one can ask you not to speak your mind – not that you ever cared and always DID anyway – just no one will bother to ask you to quiet down anymore!
Keep waking up the sheep! Eating grass all day isn’t good for anyone….

~Brian Logsdon

Marrion Newsam Banks May 22, 2013 at 8:32 am

I’m sorry to hear, Gene, that you’ve fallen victim to cancer, but I hope you are well on your way to recovery/remission. Pity that the standard cancer treatments — chemo, radiation, etc. — are all so hard on the patient! I second Steve Johnson’s comment. Keep up the good work of contrariness. We don’t need another voice singing in the choir; we need a strong solo telling us like you think it is. I may not always agree, but I always enjoy.

Gene, your contrariness, which I personally enjoy, is ever increasing, and let the chips fall where they may. Now, I am not in any way comparing you to Jesus, but when he said a few things that were difficult for some of his followers, and some began to drift away, I do not think he was in the least surprised.

Please keep telling it as it is. Some will stay, some will fade away, but you won’ t be the least bit bothered, I am sure.

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