You Are What You Eat? Maybe! Teaching Kids the Connection Between Food and Health


The ancient and intriguing theory of the Doctrine of Signatures is based on the idea that when you look at certain whole foods you can see a pattern that resembles a specific body organ. Besides being a healthy way to approach food, it’s a very intriguing game for children, especially when introducing new foods to the plate.

The Doctrine of Signatures dates back somewhere between 130-200 AD with Galen of Pergamon, and in later writings, one from the father of modern medicine, Paracelsus (1493-1541 AD), Jakob Boehme (1575-1624 AD) who wrote two books on the subject, and William Coles (1626-1662 AD) who was an herbalist, botanist and doctor in the 17th century.

Despite it’s ancient history, not much has been written on the subject since then.

The Doctrine of Signatures of Whole Foods (aka You ARE What You Eat)

A sliced Carrot resembles the human eye. And science now shows that carrots greatly enhance blood flow to the eyes (and helps you see in the dark too).

A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart is red and has four chambers. Research indicates that tomatoes are indeed pure heart and blood food.

Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows that grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food (like the alveoli in the lungs). Listen to HBD: A Heart Pumping Adventure to learn more!

A Walnut looks like a teeny tiny little brain, complete with a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds on the nut are just like the neo-cortex. We now understand that walnuts help develop over 3 dozen neuro-transmitters for brain function. Homework tip for teens: serve them walnuts to boost their brainpower while studying!

Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like human kidneys. Join HBDs on a ride in the loops and turns of the kidney in HBD: A Heart Pumping Adventure.

Celery, Bok Choy, and Rhubarb look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don’t have enough sodium in your diet, the body pulls it from the bones, making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

Pears look remarkably like lungs and target the health and function of the lungs. In fact, baked pears are a great remedy for when a child is suffering from a cough.

What the Doctrine of Signatures teaches us is that maybe we are more like what we eat than we think. Nonetheless it makes teaching kids about the connection between the foods they eat and maintaining a healthy body a little more fun!

Want more ideas on how to teach your kids about the human body? Join Dr. Heather Manley and the Human Body Detectives for adventures inside the human body!


About Author

Dr. Heather Manley (from Toronto presently living in Hawaii), who in 2001 received her medical degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, is a practicing physician whose primary interest is preventative healthcare for families. She is the author of Human Body Detectives, her educational series of story-telling audiobooks and accompanying activity workbooks. She also promotes wellness and naturopathic healthcare on her website She lives on the Big Island of Hawaii with her husband and two daughters, and is currently at work on the next Human Body Detectives adventure.

1 Comment

  1. So true. There’s a mind, body, spirit connection that some won’t or don’t recognize. I know how I feel if I eat too much cheese. My body feels ‘weighed’ down, and I feel sluggish. I now view ‘cheese’ as a treat and will have it on a salad and or pizza. I like to make my own pizza so I can choose organic ingredients. Teaching kids how to cook is another way to show them they are what they eat.

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