Hippocrates wisely said “let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food”. The dietary choices that you make can be just as vital as the treatments and supplements that you take. You might not realise it but each food has a unique medicinal (or detrimental) value. Each food is a complex synergy of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) and phytochemicals which work together to supply energy to our body and act as facilitators in healing illness and improving how your body works.
Using Food as medicine is achieved by being educated about each food and how it works for your body. Brisbane Natural Health’s naturopaths and nutritionists can educate you in what foods will work well for your body. Here are some of our best tips for using foods as medicines in your diet…
Our top 10 medicinal foods
Love them or hate them, sardines are one of the very best medicinal foods that you can eat! They are one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory and immune modulating, as well being great for your eyes and brain (think better memory and concentration). In addition to this they are high in cell building protein and are an excellent source of calcium which helps keep your bones strong and is great for stress. Eat them if you have any kind of pain (period, back and neck pain etc), dry eyes, poor memory or concentration, skin complaints or autoimmune conditions.
2. Probiotic Yoghurt
Real probiotic yoghurt is the sour kind – not the sweetened stuff! Aim for a plain organic yoghurt and you can reap the benefits of the good bacteria that they contain – Lactobaccili, Bifidus and Casei bacteria. We each have 2-3kg of bacteria and other organsims in our digestive tract. This bacterial army functions somewhat like an organ – helping to regulate digestion and absorption of food and modulate your immune system. Your digestive flora has even been shown to affect your moods! It goes without saying that if you have low levels of these ‘good guys’ you will suffer from digestive symptoms, poor immunity and may even get depression and anxiety. Eat yoghurt and other fermented foods (miso, sauerkraut, kimchi) if you get bloating, diarrhoea, indigestion, frequent colds and flus or moodiness. Antibiotics will kamikaze all your good bacteria so it is essential to take a probiotic and eat lot s of probiotic foods to build up your army or good guys.
A lesser known veggie, Kale is higher in minerals than any other green leafy vegetable! Kale is similar to silver beet although it has a milder flavour and is a little tougher than its counterpart. In kale you will find an abundance of calcium, iron, magnesium, silica and other trace minerals. It is also rich in chlorophyll, making it very cleansing and alkaline in the body, which helps to reduce inflammation and normalise blood pH. Eat it for a great mineral boost to your diet, to strengthen your bones and to help with conditions like endometriosis, arthritis, pain, headaches and skin disorders.
The humble oat sports some great medicinal qualities and is an easy addition to anyone’s diet. Oats are high in beta-glucan, a phytochemical which has been found to decrease cholesterol and boost immunity. Oats have also been used by herbalists for hundreds of years as a nervous system tonic, being great for stress and anxiety. A great source of soluble fibre and complex carbohydrates, oats are great to improve digestive health, are ideal for diabetics and can help with blood sugar balance. Eat them to decrease cholesterol, boost immunity, to help with stress and to balance your blood sugar levels.
5. Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are one of the richest source of selenium with a whopping 40mcg per nut! Selenium is a powerful antioxidant in the body, having roles in detoxification, reproductive health and thyroid health. Brazil nuts are not grown commercially but are wild crafted from rainforests in South America. This is perhaps how they maintain their high level of minerals, also being one of the best sources of magnesium, which helps with muscle cramps and nervous system function. Eat them to enhance fertility, boost thyroid hormones, reduce cramping and help with anxiety and stress. Eat a maximum of 4 Brazil buts per day to avoid toxicity.
Blueberries are a rich source of polyphenols – a phytonutrient which has been shown to have potent antioxidant effects. Blueberries have been shown to enhance immune system function, prevent ageing, improve brain and eye health, and even help prevent dementia! Both fresh and frozen blueberries have these properties but it best not to cook them. Eat them to stay young forever, if you wear glasses or to boost your immunity.
Garlic is touted as the miracle herb, being used by herbalists for a wide range of activities. It is a potent antioxidant, it helps to keep blood thin and prevent blood clots associated with strokes and heart attacks, helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol and also has antibacterial and immune boosting effects! To reap the benefits of garlic it is best consumed raw and crushed, so try adding to your foods last instead of at the start of cooking. Aim to buy Australian or organic garlic to prevent it being irradiated on the way into the country and destroying any of these healthy giving properties. Eat it to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, to reduce high cholesterol, to boost your immunity and to help balance digestive flora.
8. Organic Eggs
Organic eggs are one of nature’s wonder foods, being an excellent source of protein, including good levels of all of the essential amino acids. In the yolk you will find high levels of the fat soluble vitamins A, E and D, along with essential fatty acids like omega 3 and 6. Organic eggs also boast the vitamins and minerals B1, B2, B6, B12, biotin, folate, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. They also are a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, potent antioxidants that are beneficial for eyesight. All of this goodness in one convenient package! Eat them to up your protein intake, improve eye sight, reduce dry skin and hair and to increase energy. Oh, and as a convenient snack!
Kiwi fruits are a great source of vitamins, flavonoids and minerals. They have more vitamin C than oranges, a similar amount or potassium as bananas and a high amount of the antioxidant beta-carotone. Studies have shown that kiwifruit helps reduce asthmatic symptoms, protects against age related macular degeneration and also have a high antioxidant profile that helps to prevent DNA damage. Make sure that you eat the skin too – it is an excellent source of fibre which helps to prevent colon cancer, improve digestive health and help with removing toxins via the bowel. Eat them to reduce ashmtaic symptoms, protect your eyesight, to prevent ageing, improve bowel health and to ward off colds and flus.
Coconut is one of the most useful and widely consumed foods in the world. Coconut flesh and oil, made from the mature coconut has a healthy blend of saturated fats and medium chain triglycerides (62%), with 50% being are made up of Lauric Acid, the most important essential fatty acid in building and maintaining the body’s immune system. Coconut oil has been shown to have antifungal and antiviral properties, can reduce cholesterol and can improve the health of your skin and hair. Eat it to help boost immunity, improve heart health and for healthy skin and hair.
Coconut water, from the young green coconut is great to replenish electrolytes and improve cellular hydration. Coconut water is rich in magnesium, potassium and trace minerals as well as having vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, and C. It is also naturally alkalising and tastes fantastic. The compounds in coconut water which help to keep if fresh on its long sea voyages is also an anti-ageing agent! Drink it after workouts and sports, to enhance recovery and to prevent ageing.