“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates
We have journeyed so far off the path to natural and traditional remedies that many of us rely on a diet of processed foods and pharmaceutical medications. Seriously, there’s so much trash in processed foods that it’s scary. Also, I am not fully opposed to pharmaceuticals, particularly antibiotics for bacterial infections or synthetic drugs for chronic illnesses, but manufactured drugs often come with side effects, contribute to toxic build-up in our bodies, and can be the cause of additional illnesses. Consequently, the rates of disease and obesity in people of all ages, ethnicities, and nationalities have increased significantly.
According to Dr. Daniel Nadeau who’s based in California, “In America, over 50 percent of our food is processed food, and only 5 percent of our food is plant-based food.” Perhaps these statistics will change because plenty of scientific studies confirm the therapeutic power of whole foods and how they can help prevent chronic illness, build strong defenses, dampen symptoms, or heal and restore the body at a cellular level. Real, organic, unprocessed, nutrient-rich foods give the body a break from using vital energy to process artificial additives and preservatives, chemicals, and toxins. Maybe, just maybe, physicians and medical institutions in their entirety will begin to implement food as a part of treatment on a larger scale.
The late healer Dr. Sebi and a number of other modern-day holistic practitioners (and let’s not forget ancient medicine men/women and herbalists) believe that nutrient deficiencies and toxicity from a poor diet are the greatest causes of nearly all modern health conditions, including declines in mental health. Everything we put into our living body temples influence the way we feel in mind, body, and spirit. Increased stress levels can take our bodies out of homeostasis, and inhibit how well our systems function and process nutrients. The best diet is a diet of whole, plant-based foods with as little processed food, dairy, and added sugar as possible. Dr. Sebi promoted optimal health based on a simple dietary theory – natural organic fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens; raw nuts and nut butters; and grains like quinoa and rye are alkaline for the body and encourage natural healing properties. A body in an alkaline state does not support infection and disease, and helps with cellular renewal and promote longevity. He stressed that people should avoid toxic, dead foods, such as red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, as they kill your body’s natural ability to heal and regenerate healing. Other threats to natural healing are processed or synthetic items – sugar, alcohol, iodized salt, and fried foods. Our bodies strive to maintain a pH of 7.36, and studies show that processed foods make the body more acidic and allow diseases to thrive more easily.
Food provides information to our cells and genetic expression that can trigger optimal health or disease, and since each individual’s needs are different, it is imperative to eat a variety of pure foods to ensure that nutritional needs are met. Just like our fingerprints, we all have unique genetic coding when it comes to how our bodies process nutrients including protein, vitamins, and minerals. Our demographics can be the same, but our nutritional needs may be very different. We can learn a great deal about our bodies if we listen and pay attention.
Proper nutrition plays a critical role in, but not limited to, improving our energy levels, decreasing or eliminating inflammation, balancing blood sugar, controlling the cardiovascular system (heart disease is the number one medical-related killer in America), and helping the digestive system process and eliminate waste from the body. Obesity has a strong inflammatory component, and although obesity can be caused by factors other than poor diet, weight management is crucial. Inflammation is a response from the immune system when the body perceives that it is being threatened. It can affect nearly every tissue, hormone and cell in the body, and is the root of many diseases. Keeping your heart rate up can reduce inflammation and help keep your body happy and healthy. Diabetes and weight gain can be due to poorly managed blood sugar levels due to consuming high amounts of sugar and processed carbohydrates, so it is best to eat low-glycemic and non-processed carbohydrates instead of refined sugar.
“Nature provides everything for man.” – Hugh Mundell
Eating a balanced diet filled with medicinal foods isn’t always a walk on the beach. We have been programmed for so long to crave the bad stuff that we almost have to reprogram our minds and bodies to live a healthier lifestyle. Each person’s needs are a bit different in terms of how our genes react to certain foods, so for some people even if they eat a perfect diet they might still develop an illness. The key to increasing prevention of illness is to balance our eating. With the help of Dr. Axe and Healthline, I put together a list of foods you should eat for their medicinal benefits:
Fresh/Raw Organic Vegetables
Vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables (like kale, spinach, and watercress) are known to be some of the healthiest foods. Leafy greens are jam-packed with antioxidants and help detoxify the blood, balance the body’s pH levels, and prevent nutrient deficiencies because they are loaded with vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, iodine, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals. I swear, every time I eat a hefty amount of spinach, my skin glows for days after. Fiber is imperative for proper digestion, protection against cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, digestive disorders and immune system function, strengthens the colon walls, aids in regulating blood sugar levels and prevents insulin resistance, and promotes the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria in your gut that influence immunity. It is recommended that adults get 25–30 grams of fiber daily. Garlic is another famous vegetable for increasing good health. Garlic is known to boost the immune system, reduce hypertension, improve cholesterol levels, detoxify the body of heavy metals, and contains antioxidants that may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
High amounts of antioxidants found in a number of vegetables develop within plants to protect the plant from its damaging environment including ultraviolet radiation, toxins and pollution. They also protect our bodies from free radical damage and controls inflammation. Phytonutrients, a natural chemical that helps protect plants from germs, fungi, bugs and other threats, have the purpose of shielding plants from predators (and also provide their color, flavor and smell), and we get the same benefits when we eat them. Nearly all diseases including infections, osteoporosis and even cancer thrive in an acidic environment, but by alkalizing your body naturally through eating more plant foods, you help prevent cellular damage.
Higher levels of fruit consumption have been linked to lower risks of cardiovascular disease, and lower blood pressure, body weight and blood glucose levels. Whole fruits contain an abundance of antioxidants and healthful nutrients, and offer several metabolic benefits. The fiber in apples and pears help slow the absorption of fructose, the main sugar in most fruits, which can help reduce diabetes. Berries, citrus and melon are great sources of antioxidants, particularly blueberries which are believed to contain the highest antioxidant content of the most commonly consumed fruits. Blueberries may cut the risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, and viral infections. They have an impressive nutrition profile, being particularly high in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. Cherries are rich in nutrients, contain antioxidants which reduce inflammation, and contain a high level of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that signals your brain when it’s time to sleep. It may help treat insomnia and other sleep disorders. Cranberries are very unique because their juices and extracts help prevent urinary tract infections by preventing bacteria from attaching to the lining of the bladder and urinary tract. Grapefruit is one of the healthiest citrus fruits. Besides being a good source of vitamins and minerals, grapefruit is known for its ability to aid weight loss and reduce insulin resistance. Lemons are another healthy citrus fruit. They are rich in vitamin C and other plant compounds that may promote heart health, boost weight loss and help prevent kidney stones.
Are you a good fat or a bad fat? That is the question to ask when consuming foods high in fat content. Avocado, coconut and olive oil, nuts and seeds are all examples of healthy fat. They actually help lower bad cholesterol and shed excess weight. A diet high in “good fat” is essential for controlling inflammation, hormone production, cancer prevention, weight loss and cellular healing. Omega-3 fats are naturally anti-inflammatory and help counteract the effects of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats. If you’re a carnivore, the best sources of omega-3s include wild-caught fish like salmon, halibut, tuna and mackerel. Plant sources for omega-3s include walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds. Try to avoid hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats, soybean oil, canola oil and other vegetable oils which are very high in omega-6s.
Low Glycemic Foods
Low glycemic foods are those that cause only minor changes in the body’s blood sugar levels, and makes it easier to lose weight loss, and reduces the risk of diabetes. This means that these foods have either low carbohydrates or no carbs at all. Foods with little to no carbohydrates are usually made up of mostly proteins and fats. Low glycemic foods include lentils, quinoa, all types of beans, chickpeas, oatmeal, and rice noodles.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices have shown evidence that they are power houses when it comes to optimizing health. Turmeric may help fight inflammation and inhibit tumors from growing. Turmeric can be applied as a paste to help heal wounds, and when used as a tea, help relieve cold symptoms and respiratory issues. Sage is known to calm upset stomach and sore throat, and is aroma-therapeutic (the smell enhances mood). Rosemary is also used in aroma-therapy, and may help fight bacteria. Cinnamon has shown to help stabilize blood sugar. Ginger has a great reputations for helps soothing upset stomach and battling arthritis.
Although nutritional foods encourage optimal health, it is still best to seek professional care from a medical provider. Also, if you are on medications, please do not stop or alter any use without being monitored or instructed by your doctor because you could end up worse than you are now. As we already know, the majority of diseases can potentially be prevented through a healthy diet, exercise, and positive state-of-mind. Even though our genetics can predispose us to certain diseases like cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune conditions, we should still be proactive in living the healthiest life possible. With that being said, I encourage you to eat to live, don’t live to eat, but remember that while you’re doing the best you can, you may make a few mistakes along the way. It’s OK. Learn from it, grow from it, and keep pushing toward of life of good health and longevity.