Food As Medicine
Chronic disease and illnesses are increasing and the pharmacology industry is a multi billion dollar industry. This need for medicine and these life crippling diseases can be almost eradicated by changing our diet and using our food as medicine. It is no secret that many of the foods on the market today are toxic to our body and include very little natural nutrition. Our lifestyles have made these our normal diet resulting in the worst health possible.
Food is meant not only to fill us up and stop our hunger, but it is also meant to help us heal and prevent disease and even reverse disease. Foods that come from the ground, not from a box, contain many essential nutrients to help us stay at the epitomy of wellness. Even though the food we eat can have a powerful effect on our health, most people and doctors would not consider food as medicine. Instead, a prescription would be given, along with its many side effects. Doesn’t it make more sense to use food for preventing and treating these illnesses before they get out of hand?
The Chinese Used Food as Medicine
Dr. Mark Hyman has studied the medicinal properties of food for many years, but when he traveled to China to lecture on that very subject, he felt like the audience knew more about the subject than he did. That is because the Chinese people have been using food as medicine for centuries. They have successfully identified the healing properties of many foods, including herbs and spices. They not only use these to treat and heal directly to the illness but they also incorporate these healing foods in their every day diet. These healing molecules in food are called phytonutrients.
The Western world is somewhat ignorant of how to eat for the highest level of healing compared to Chinese cuisine. Many of the ingredients that are used in traditional Chinese food, not what you would order for takeout, have their own healing properties. A few examples are the shitake mushrooms, whose polysaccharides boost the body’s immunity, the ginkgo nuts help with brain function and increases circulation, and of course the every meal cup of tea, that detoxes the body and boosts the metabolism.
The Healing Rainbow
The healing property of plant foods are coordinated to the color they have. To get a wide variety of nutrients and healing benefits, it is important that you include foods from every color of the spectrum. The colors are broken down into seven major groups:
- Green- These deliver a healthy dose of carcinogen fighting chemicals to ward off cancer. Examples of this group include kale, broccoli, cabbage, and brussel sprouts.
- White/Green- This group of foods include the leeks, onions, celery, pears, and garlic and delivers many antioxidant flavonoids to heal the body.
- Red- These foods are rich in lycopene which help ward off many diseases including heart and lung disease and prostrate cancer. Tomatoes, watermelon, and grapefruit fall into this category.
- Red/Purple- For this group think eggplant, grapes, berries, and apples. These foods are great to combat circulation problems and slow down the aging of the cells.
- Orange- Carrots, cantaloupe, squash, and mangoes are part of this group and deliver both alpha and beta-carotein which helps to protect the DNA, protect the cells against cancer, and improve night vision.
- Orange/Yellow- This group is known for its high levels of vitamin C. Oranges, peaches, and pineapples help to aid in cell communication and protect the heart.
- Yellow/Green- This group includes many of your greens such as spinach, collard greens and mustard greens. It also includes corn, peas, and avocado. This group helps the eye, particularly against macular degeneration and cataracts through the healing power of its lutein which is a nutrient that is delivered directly to the back of the eye to begin the healing process.
If you notice that you tend to favor one color over the others, try to branch out and include a more colorful palate for your diet. Each color helps to make the others more healing so mix and match. It may be difficult to eat every color every day. Instead aim for including one food from each color group throughout the week. After you have established that habit, you can begin to make each day count.
Dangers to Our Healing Foods
It is important to note that many of the foods that we use for healing can have their healing properties stripped away from them during harvesting. The farming industry has moved from the family business to a billion dollar industry that has companies over-planting and depleting the nutrition in the soil, using chemicals to increase production, and adding preservatives. All these chemicals take away from the natural goodness these foods have. Also, foods are often grown states or even countries away from where you buy them. Every day after being picked, foods lose some of their nutrition. By the time they are packed, shipped, and placed on the shelf for you to buy, up to 40% of their nutrients are lost.
The best way to ensure that you are getting foods that stay maintain their healing properties you need to find a local old fashioned family farm that uses old fashioned techniques to raise crops and understand the need to keep food natural, even if it means losing some of the crop to pests or disease. You can even raise your own food in your backyard with just a little investment and a little time. Not only will you ensure the quality of your food but you will also save money. You can also try farmers markets, co-ops, or farm shares.
After incorporating medicinal foods into your diet, you will notice a feeling of vitality and wellness. If you persist in including a rainbow of colors in your meals you will notice less illnesses like colds and flu and as you age, you will have more vigor and age slower than your unhealthy eating neighbors.